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Responsibility and Integrity in Research and Advice

Short summary: If you have the idea that being a good scientist is more than being a methodologically trained researcher, but are wondering what exactly being a good scientist might entail, this is your course. What, if anything, is the social responsibility of the social scientist? By together studying some classical texts on this question and by debating experiences with a set of exemplary senior colleagues in our field, we will try to develop and sharpen your ideas on issues of scientific responsibility, engagement in politics, dealing with controversial issues, and academic integrity. 

June 3-5, 2024

Apply for this course here

Patrick Overeem (VU University Amsterdam) 
Berry Tholen
(Radboud University Nijmegen) 

Course fees

  • Free for NIG members
  • 500,- for non-members from an NIG member institution
  • 750,- for third parties

Note: this information is from the course guide 2023

Aims and structure of this course

When, exactly, is the integrity of a researcher at stake? Are there rules for proper conduct among researchers? Can an investigator of political phenomena be politically neutral? Are the criteria a researcher applies to evaluate policies objective? Is a study of phenomena that are politically or morally controversial inevitably controversial itself? If scientific research on politics and administration involves value-choices, should such choices in a society like ours be made (or at least controlled) democratically?

As different as these questions may be, they do have something in common. They all are questions that empirical researchers face (indeed, have to face) but that cannot be answered by reference to the body of theories and methodology, let alone the data, in their field. The reason, of course, is that these are questions of a normative kind.

Research, like any more or less complex social activity, is a practice that contains its own typical values and ethical concerns. In fact two sorts of issues might be distinguished: internal and external ones. Internal issues concern integrity and ethics in doing research. For example: is one obliged to share one’s data with other scientists? What is the difference between being pragmatic about research design choices and doing sloppy research? External issues concern the scientist’s societal responsibility. For instance: Is research and scientific advice on policy and politics better to the extent that is more value-free? Do social scientists have a special responsibility for ‘speaking truth to power’? (A further question arises: are these two types of issues related? Does our answers to the former have implications for our answer to the latter?)

This course does not deal with empirical theories or methodology of Political Science and Public Administration – nor with philosophy of science and epistemology – but with the values of the practice of research.

After this course, the PhD-student

  • Is familiar with existing codes of conduct and current debates on scientific integrity and responsibility;
  • Is familiar with the most important theoretical positions on the fact-value distinction in (social) research and those on the scientific autonomy and responsibility of the scientist;
  • Is able to recognize the (implicit) value choices in existing research and advice and to discuss and evaluate these choices;
  • Is able to reflect on the normative issues at stake in his/her own research project.