Improving scientific integrity through statistics education
Marijtje van Duijn
University of Groningen, Department of Sociology, Groningen, The
Some years ago, the Dutch academic world was confronted
with several cases of fraud, revealing that the prevailing research culture
allowed questionable research practice. As a consequence, finding means to
prevent this kind of misconduct has received a lot of attention. Stricter
rules and procedures have been established for researchers to improve
transparency and verifiability, with increased interest in replication
studies. This seems to have sparked the discussion about the use and
usefulness of p-values.
Moreover, awareness about the need to teach
scientific integrity at all levels of the academic curriculum has increased.
Discussing principles of scientific integrity like reliability,
verifiability, and impartiality, will provide fruitful outcomes in terms of
awareness of ethical norms, but will not necessarily make students aware of
the consequences of misconduct and their implications for advancing
scientific insights. They should also learn that questionable research
practice will threat the validity of the results.
In a small team of
statisticians working in a faculty of social and behavioral sciences as
statistics lecturers and statistical consultants/collaborators, we have been
teaching an intensive course called Applied Statistics for first-year
Research Master students over the past ten years, increasing statistical
awareness and applied skills in a first research project.
response to the fraud case, we have developed lectures and workshops for
teaching scientific integrity through statistics, for Bachelor, (Research)
Master students, and PhD students. Well-known methodological and statistical
concepts are connected to principles of good scientific research, focusing
on statistical conclusion validity and external validity. For PhD students
attention is given to study design and reporting of results, and the
checking of results (e.g. by peers/reviewers).
An outline of the
lectures/workshop and our experiences with the various audiences will be