The trinity of good research: distinguishing between research integrity, ethics, and governance

Simon E Kolstoe, Jonathan Pugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The words integrity, ethics, and governance are used interchangeably in relation to research. This masks important differences that must be understood when trying to address concerns regarding research culture. While progress has been made in identifying negative aspects of research culture (such as inequalities in hiring/promotion, perverse incentives, etc.) and practical issues that lead to research waste (outcome reporting bias, reproducibility, etc.), the responsibility for addressing these problems can be unclear due to the complexity of the research environment. One solution is to provide a clearer distinction between the perspectives of "Research Integrity," "Research Ethics," and "Research Governance." Here, it is proposed that Research Integrity should be understood as focused on the character of researchers, and consequently the responsibility for promoting it lies primarily with researchers themselves. This is a different perspective from Research Ethics, which is focused on judgments on the ethical acceptability of research, and should primarily be the responsibility of research ethics committees, often including input from the public as well as the research community. Finally, Research Governance focuses on legal and policy requirements, and although complementary to research integrity and ethics, is primarily the responsibility of expert research support officers with the skills and experience to address technical compliance.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalAccountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 25 Jul 2023


  • ethics
  • integrity
  • governance
  • research culture
  • research waste

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