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On the right path

Reliable results instead of fake news, plagiarism, and data manipulation are the declared goals of science. In their EU project "Path2Integrity", Nicolaus Wilder and Julia Prieß-Buchheit are developing innovative teaching and learning methods to turn knowledge-hungry students into diligent researchers.

Nicolaus Wilder and Julia Prieß-Buchheit in conversation
© Olaf Bathke

Nicolaus Wilder and Julia Prieß-Buchheit in conversation at a project workshop.

"Research is the search for knowledge by systematic investigation and discovery, observation, and experimentation," according to the European Code of Conduct (ECoC) for integrity in research. It says that "all disciplines have the common goal of expanding our knowledge of ourselves and the world in which we live." The cardinal rule is: research must be honest, so that it does not lose credibility. The ECoC is not a law, however, that everyone must follow. The code is an appeal to the conscientiousness of researchers. But is this enough in the face of rising competitive pressures? How can everyone play by the rules while globalization is inevitably driving scientific fields closer and closer together, despite cultural differences?

"Standardized and globally applicable scientific teaching and learning methods simply do not exist," says Nicolaus Wilder from the Institute of Educational Sciences at Kiel University. "They still need to be developed." This is due to the fact, for example, that even within Europe there are completely different sets of values in people's heads." The certified pedagogue finds that the greatest challenge lies in the question of how the principle of honest scientific work can be conveyed.

Professor of Educational Science and Didactics at Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Julia Prieß-Buchheit, recognized this problem while completing her post-doctoral lecture qualification at the Kiel Institute of Educational Sciences. Together with Wilder, she launched the project Path2Integrity. This cooperative project, sponsored by the EU, intends to pave the way for uniformly honest scientific work. Nine educational institutions from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Spain and Bulgarian are involved.

Path2Integrity starts at the roots: it is intentionally aimed at upper secondary school pupils, university students and graduates across all scientific disciplines equally. “We all need to work as one for reliable science. We are therefore focused on young researchers, sensitizing them to the topic. When they learn right from the start how to work honestly as a scientist, excellent science can be produced," explains Prieß-Buchheit.

"In order to reach this lofty goal, we have been developing and evaluating a total of 20 innovative didactic units since January for an English-language manual," says Wilder. This manual is intended, along with flash cards, for use in a train-the-trainer programme and a supporting campaign in various European educational institutions. "With our Path2Integrity campaign, we hope to bring awareness to the topic in schools, colleges and universities in at least 15 European countries. We will use flyers, infographics, flash cards, posters and brochures," says Prieß-Buchheit.

To illustrate the material, the units follow along the plotline of a fictitious story about Emma, a school pupil, who participates with her classmates Rebecca and David in study at the "LONA Science Centre". She sends her mother a text about how one researcher pressured another to falsify the results of the study. Emma doesn't approve, and is astonished that this institution has advertisements on a bus with words like respect, honesty and trustworthiness. The project team has produced the first flash cards about academic writing processes and correct citation, using Emma's story as an example. They are currently undergoing sample checks. The team will follow up with a re-evaluation and revise the material if necessary. Wilder and Prieß-Buchheit hope that the continuous evaluation of the project will provide answers to questions like: where do cultural difficulties arise? How can the material be adapted accordingly? And can morals be better taught using innovative formulas than in traditional lectures, for example?

Author: Farah Claußen

Many cooperative efforts – one common path

Nine partner institutions are involved in "Path2Integrity". Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Arts is handling the didactic component and project coordination, and the Kiel Institute covers evaluation.

The University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Charité Berlin are providing expertise from the healthcare field. Ethical compliance is being checked by the EUREC Office gUG network, consisting of experts from European ethics commissions, with bundled expertise. The Polish Educational Research Institute (IBE) is corresponding with Wilder about pedagogical aspects. The Spanish partner 3C Compliance is implementing the training centre. The Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca i la Innovació and the Bulgarian public works company Pensoft Publishers are designing the campaign materials together. The EU is sponsoring the project from January 2019 through to December 2021 as a Horizon 2020 joint project, with about two and a half million euros.  Further Information

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