A research integrity issue: Who are you going to call?

Guest article

Lauran Qualkenbush - President of ARIO and Director, Office for Research Integrity, Northwestern University

Correcting the published scientific record in cases of research misconduct can be tricky to say the least. One thing that shouldn’t be so tricky is identifying the right person to contact at the involved institutions. The recently incorporated Association of Research Integrity Officers (ARIO) in the United States is working to ensure that finding the right institutional contact is the easy part of this often challenging process of dealing with potential research misconduct or research integrity concerns.

ARIO was founded in 2013 by a small group of Research Integrity Officers (RIOs) who shared the common goal and desire for networking, building relationships among peers, and establishing best practices in handling allegations of research misconduct. After a few short years, six annual meetings, and more than 100 institutions as members, ARIO is quickly becoming a resource for institutional officials, including RIOs, their support staff and institutional counsel, to obtain information for all things related to research misconduct (www.ariohq.org).

In the early days, even RIOs couldn’t find each other, which presented a unique challenge in trying to establish a RIO association. However, with lots of networking, digging through websites, and word of mouth, the network grew and finally RIOs began to find each other and come together. Regional groups, as well as national and regional meetings took off, and now ARIO has formal institutional memberships with designated RIOs and affiliated staff. In light of this formal structure, ARIO is in a unique position to respond to pressing issues in research integrity, including the need for journal editors as well as other RIOs to find the right person to speak with at an institution when research integrity or potential misconduct concerns arise. As a result, ARIO is beginning to draft plans to create a public-facing directory of institutional contacts. Knowing the right person to contact will enable more efficient communications between journal editors and institutions, and can also facilitate informal or “hypothetical” discussions, allowing institutions and journals to work together to determine the best way to tackle the myriad of complicated issues that accompany cases of potential research misconduct.

ARIO is leading the way to professionalize the role of institutional Research Integrity Officers (RIOs) and through the creation of a searchable repository for U.S. research integrity officers and institutional contacts, our goal is to foster a collaborative relationship, with institutions and journals working together to ensure the highest quality and integrity of the published research record.

Stay tuned for more information as ARIO creates the directory. We look forward to working with COPE and sharing best practices to tackle our common goals, most importantly working in partnership to protect research integrity.