Jelte Wicherts is Full Professor & Head of the Methodology & Statistics Department at Tilburg University (TU). He is specialized in research methods & research integrity, founder of the Metaresearch Center, TU (www.metaresearch.nl), and an affiliate member of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS). Jelte is one of the NSRI core team members.
We asked him to share some of his thoughts on the NSRI:
Jelte, you have been very involved with the NSRI. Can you tell us about your role in the team?
I have been part of the project since the beginning. In the last four years, I have helped set up the design of the survey and shaped its main research questions. In the last year, I was primarily responsible for selecting, adapting, creating, and pilot testing the questionnaires we use to explain the responsible and questionable research practices and misconduct. These pilot studies already showed intriguing results and I am eager to see how well work pressure, organisational justice, competitiveness, scientific norms, and peer reviewers highlighting improper conduct predict both desirable and questionable research practices.
You were particularly involved in the methodology used by the NSRI, is that correct? Can you tell us a little more about what makes the NSRI unique in this regard?
We are using a state of the art survey technique that guarantees that no one will ever know whether the respondent actually perpetrated misconduct, while allowing us to estimate the prevalence of misconduct and its relation with variables that might help explain why some researchers take a wrong turn in their research. We also implemented an advanced planned missingness design that allows us to study many potential underlying factors for desirable and undesirable research behaviours using a survey that busy academics can complete in relatively short time. The NSRI is also unique in that it involved many stakeholders since the beginning and incorporated comments from academics in focus groups, advice from a steering committee of experts from several fields, emails I received from respondents of the pilot studies, and extensive reviews from a group of methodological experts from the participating universities. It wasn’t easy to incorporate all these comments, but I am really proud of how the design turned out.
What do you hope for when it comes to this project?
That we will obtain insights into why researchers not always do the right thing and that these insights will help us as academics and academic institutions to promote good research practices that ultimately improve research and the many good things that it can yield for our society.
You are a researcher yourself - What is your background and how did this bring you to getting involved with the NSRI?
I’m a methodologist and meta-researcher with a background in psychology. My studies of data sharing and errors and biases in how researchers use statistical tools got me involved in the NSRI, and I am eager to help improve research by studying researchers' conduct and the pressures they are under.
What is your personal vision when it comes to research integrity?
Researchers are only human and hence not immune to biases and pressures in in the contemporary systems of research. But they overwhelmingly want to do well. By studying the factors related to misconduct and responsible and questionable research practices in the NSRI, my hope is that we can better understand how we can nudge researchers to make their research more trustworthy and relevant.