• NSRI

An interview with Gerben ter Riet

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Gerben ter Riet is senior scientific adviser at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Urban Vitality Centre of Expertise) and associate professor of epidemiology at the Amsterdam University Medical Center (Dept. Cardiology). Dr. ter Riet is specialized in research on research integrity and served on the committee that drafted the Research Program ‘Fostering Responsible Research Practices’ for ZonMw in 2015. Gerben is one of the NSRI core team members.

We asked him to share some of his thoughts on the NSRI:

Gerben, you have been very involved with the NSRI. Can you tell us about your role in the team?

Together with Lex Bouter, I conceived the idea of a national survey while we were designing the ZonMw program Fostering Responsible Research Practices of which NSRI is an important pillar. In the NSRI project team I serve as a generalist-methodologist, giving my opinion on all issues of the project. I support our extraordinary postdoc, Gowri Gopalakrishna, wherever I can.

How did you get involved in the NSRI, and with research integrity in general?

I approach research integrity much from a research waste prevention perspective. Also, as a young PhD student, I was inspired by Bruno Latour’s book ‘Science in action’, the idea of constructivism and the option of deconstructing research findings, including my own. I sensed much enthusiasm in the audience when I deconstructed my own PhD research at an international conference on wound healing in Paris back in 1995. We also published paper that focused solely on what had gone wrong in my project. I was encouraged that fellow researchers seemed to be inspired by an apparently unexpected act of honesty. I was a co-author of the ZonMw program Fostering Responsible Research Practices of which NSRI is one important pillar.

What do you hope for when it comes to this project?

First of all: a decent response rate (of 25% or more)! Building on that, we can analyse the data with some confidence and start discussions with our fellow researchers, research administrators and funders on what these findings mean and what actions to improve the way we do science they may justify. So, instead of Latour’s ‘Science in action’, we’d be in for some Action in science.

You are a researcher yourself - What is your background?

I am a medical doctor and an epidemiologist. I started with work on randomized trials and systematic reviews, and later spent much time on prediction models and medical diagnosis.

What is your personal vision when it comes to research integrity?

My view is that neoliberal capitalist philosophies have infected academic research over the last three decades. This has led to an over-emphasis on competition, playing the winner, the tendency to overpromise in grant applications, overstating the meaning of one’s findings combined with an unwillingness to acknowledge important limitations of one’s work, a pressure to implement findings very quickly and confusing innovation with improvement.

Anything else you would like to tell us that we haven’t asked?

I am much inspired by the Research Waste Prevention and Open Science movements. At the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences I’d like to pass on that inspiration to as many fellow researchers as possible and set up structures that facilitate utter honesty in our research. I should add that much research waste is not a result of dishonesty but of not knowing that things should have been done differently. That brings me back to my beloved profession, methodology and debunking: How do we know what isn’t so?

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