Scientists live in a rather confusing era. On the one hand they are embraced by society and on the other hand they are detested. It is just whether the research results fit in specific opinions, or not. In addition, the integrity of science is discussed. But, what is integrity? The answer depends on whether you ask a junior scientist, or a senior. Pose it in China, or in The Netherlands. Ask a physicist, or a historian. It is a challenge to define integrity, say good science, universally and rather simple.
The Dutch professor Titus Brandsma (1881-1942) faced a similar challenge defining good journalism in an era of upcoming Nazism. He stated in 1936 that “Freedom of speech, orientation in such a plethora of information, and love of truth defines the triangle, in which good journalism is operating”. We may easily adopt and adapt this triangle to good science as we will explain here (see also Figure).
Scientists need to express the results of their research freely. It seems obvious, but it is not a common practice. Scientists are facing all kinds of restrictions set by, governmental policies, commercial interests, and public opinions. Unrestricted research is rather the exception than the role nowadays. The restrictions are that common that we do no more see the overwhelming bias caused by these in science.
Scientists need to provide an orientation in the tsunami of publications and data. It is rather impossible for an individual scientist even focusing on her, or his, subject of interest and reading the whole day. Scientists cannot cope individually with all information nowadays.
We may consider love of truth as an attitude to explore subjects in depth, like a language, a biological phenomenon, social behaviour, and so on. We do, however, see the opposite. Scientists are delivering quick and dirty results forced by constraints of, career, financial support, and time. The statement in the Lancet, that 80-90% of the investment in biomedical research is waste of money, is shocking (Chalmers & Glasziou, 2014. Lancet 374: 86-89). It, however, is reality and not in biomedical sciences only.
We have a feasible definition of good science at hand now, we see the obstructions of good science, and we may, therefore, outline a way ahead to enable good science among scientists worldwide. We see, in short, three major tasks:
- Promoting the triangle of good science to provide scientists, and other stakeholders, a framework.
- Providing sufficient, unrestricted, research funding by governments, and multi-national organisations, like the EU, e.g. 1% of the Gross National Product.
- Facilitating Open Science in such a way that scientists can collaborate and share tasks as required for good science in the 21st century.
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