An Introduction to Integrity Sciences

close up view of plasma

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I recently came across the term “integrity sciences”, which as it applies to the field of academic integrity, appears to have been coined by Dr. Michelle Bergadaà, Professor Emerita of the Université de Genève and founder and President of the Institute for Research and Action on Fraud and Plagiarism in Academia / Institut de Recherche et d’Action sur la Fraude et le Plagiat Académiques (IRAFPA).

Dr. Bergadaà hosted a conference in 2020 on the topic of integrity sciences and in 2021, published an edited volume, together with Dr. Paulo Peixoto, titled “L’urgence de l’intégrité académique” (“The urgency of academic integrity”) . Written in French, this book includes 32 by authors from across Europe.

The notion of “integrity sciences” stuck with me. Those of you who know me will no doubt remember a story I share often in my presentations. In 2017, after applying for an internal research grant at my university, I was informed that the application was rejected on the basis that academic integrity is an administrative matter not a research topic. This was just one grant application and I am, of course, grateful to the University of Calgary, for the tremendous support they have provided for my work, including research funding that, since 2016, now exceeds $100,000 CAD across various projects. But that one grant application rejection has stuck with me because of the reasons provided for why the project did not receive funding. Since then, I have dedicated part of my work to showing that not only is academic integrity a topic, it is a field of research, policy, and professional practice.

When I first read the term “integrity sciences” it piqued my interest. I began contemplating the various areas of the field of integrity sciences: systematic and scientific inquiry investigating academic integrity; research integrity; research ethics; publication ethics; plagiarism; fraud and corruption in education and science; and so on. Similar to the way in which learning sciences studies the “an interdisciplinary field that studies teaching and learning” (Sawyer, p. 1), integrity sciences studies is a multi-, inter-, and transdiciplinary field that studies ethics and integrity.

I pointed out during my keynote speech at the 2021 European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism (ECAIP), hosted by the European Network for Academic Integrity (ENAI), that academic integrity research is transdisciplinary and multi-faceted. The idea of approaching the investigations we conduct under the umbrella of integrity sciences fits in with this notion. The term “integrity sciences” provides us with language to describe the transdisciplinary nature of academic integrity research.

I am still very much learning what Dr. Bergadaà’s conceptualization of integrity sciences might include, and I think this notion is worth discussing with colleagues not only in Europe, but also beyond, to include scholars and scientists across the world.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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