Growing Momentum for Research Integrity Initiative

Five Institutes Push 16 Principles of Research Integrity for Commissioned Studies – AIT, JR and wiiw join IHS and WIFO
"Not least the political headlines about problematic and questionable practices of individual survey institutes have revealed that a transparent and comprehensible set of rules is needed for the commissioning, preparation and use of commissioned studies," explained the non-university research institutions AIT, IHS, JR, WIFO and wiiw during a joint media chat on 28 January 2022.

As early as 2020, the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) and the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) paved the way with a joint initiative to consolidate good scientific practice in the Austrian research landscape. "The more institutions support this path, the more likely we are to succeed in creating a lasting awareness among public funders of research. Transparency and scientific standards are central building blocks to enable evidence-based economic and social policy", say WIFO Director Gabriel Felbermayr and IHS Head of Strategy Thomas König.

The "Memorandum of Understanding" of WIFO and IHS has now been extended and signed by the Head of the Center for Innovation Systems & Policy at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) Matthias Weber, the Director of the JOANNEUM RESEARCH Institute POLICIES (JR) Wolfgang Polt and the Scientific Director of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw) Robert Stehrer: "We will continue to accept only assignments where our institutes bear sole responsibility for the results of the scientific work. As soon as completed research and analysis results are actively communicated to the public, the underlying publications must also be presented to the public in full to ensure the traceability of the results."

Above all, the question of publishing studies financed by public funds has been discussed again and again in Austria and is currently the subject of particularly intense debate. "Studies that are produced with public funds should be published as a matter of principle. The undersigned institutes represent these principles vis-à-vis the contracting authorities when awarding the respective contracts. Exceptions are to be justified by the client and are documented by the institutes", the institute representatives quoted their updated memorandum.

The five signatories AIT, IHS, JR, WIFO and wiiw are pleased about every further non-university institute that joins their initiative. The prerequisite is membership in the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity (ÖAWI) and documentation of the implementation of the principles in the practical work of the institutes. The ÖAWI continues to support the initiative with individual consultations, prevention workshops and awareness training. In the event of suspected violations of good scientific practice, an independent commission of the ÖAWI can be appointed to investigate cases of doubt.

Overall, the memorandum comprises 16 principles, which are divided into the three areas of accepting and commissioning studies (1), producing studies (2) and using the results of commissioned studies for policy advice and public debate (3).

Ensuring the traceability of research results is a key issue in study production. The institutes implement this through the long-term storage of all documents relevant to the study and the clear labelling of all ideas and work originating from others. In addition, conflicts of interest and all funders of the study are disclosed. All persons who have made their own contribution are named as co-authors of the publication. Responsibility for compliance with the standards of good scientific practice is not only a fundamental duty of every scientist, but is also clearly anchored and institutionalised at the institutes.

Economic and socio-political relevant results and recommendations are based on a critical review of the available evidence, which in particular examines the robustness of the underlying methodological approach. Limits of validity as well as any assumptions behind the available evidence are made transparent without being asked. The researchers of the institutes are aware, as are the clients, that the statements of a single commissioned paper are only one building block in the development of political measures, since the latter require a broad evidence base as well as further discussion processes in which, for example, those potentially affected by the measure also participate.

With this initiative, the research institutions not only want to call for high standards on the researchers' side, but also understand it as a call for politicians to respect these standards.

The full text of the Memorandum of Understanding is available at wifo.ac.at, ihs.ac.at, ait.ac.at, joanneum.at and wiiw.ac.at.

Further information on the ÖAWI is available at oeawi.at/.

Press release
Fünf Institute forcieren 16 Prinzipien bei Auftragsstudien – AIT, JR und wiiw schließen sich Memorandum von IHS und WIFO an
Finalization: January 2022