Behaviour that crosses boundaries often starts very subtle. It happens in an unguarded moment, but can quickly lead to a slippery slope. This is why it’s important to stay alert, recognise pitfalls and learn how to deal with them.
What kind of integrity questions could be an issue in your job? We’d like to illustrate this by sketching a number of very concrete situations, because having an eye for these challenges is the first step. Naturally, all the cases mentioned here are purely hypothetical. Any link with any real-life situation is purely coincidental.
HOW DO YOU TREAT YOUR COLLEAGUES WITH INTEGRITY?
Shana, a staff member at the Education Office, will shortly be having a meeting with her head of department and the Vice Rector of Education. She has an innovative idea and would like to discuss it with them. Implementing the idea would involve one of her colleagues, whom she also invites to the meeting. Just before the meeting, Shana bumps into her colleague at the coffee machine. She tells her about her idea and her plans. They enter the meeting room together, and Shana’s colleague speaks first. She talks about the innovative idea that she and Shana have come up with. Shana isn’t happy about her colleague taking the credit.
WHAT IS SENSITIVE DATA?
Professor Petra Van Esch comes home after a long day at work and gets into conversation with her neighbour. The neighbour says that her son, who is studying at UHasselt, has being doing very well. However, Professor Van Esch has her doubts about this. The next day she goes into her office and decides to look up his grades.
One of Professor Jan Van Ham’s doctoral students saves all the data from her PhD project on her private laptop. Professor Van Ham would like to use the data, but has no access. Is this a breach of Hasselt University’s research data management policy? And isn’t it also referred to in the charter for supervisors and PhD students?
WHICH CANDIDATE SHOULD WE SELECT?
Kathleen Thijssens is head of department and sits on the committee for selecting a new staff member. There are two broadly equal candidates in the running. Kathleen decides to select Ismaïl Yilmaz, because it’s good for the university to recruit someone with a migration
WHEN IS SCIENTIFIC NEUTRALITY JEOPARDISED?
‘I’m asked by a journal to review an article. I quickly realise that it’s an article that an excolleague of mine has submitted. He’s rather sloppy, doesn’t work hard and often takes credit for other people’s achievements. His article is also mediocre in quality. Should I ask some fundamental questions that could lead to the article being rejected, should I inform the editor that I think I know who the author is or should I suggest a few modifications?’
‘My climate-related PhD research was funded by a large oil company. Recently it has come to light that the oil company gave misleading information about the climate research it commissioned, and only released the positive results. Now I want to publish, but the journals are rejecting my papers: because of the oil company’s financing they don’t regard them as credible.’
‘A brilliant master’s student approaches me to ask if he can write a thesis on a topic of his own choosing. He would like to investigate to what extent a specific mining company contributes to the development of a particular country and to what extent the company complies with international and African human rights treaties. However, the mining company is a major provider of research funding at our university. Its representatives regularly speak at prestigious Hasselt University events and, what’s more, we often collaborate with them at our university. I can foresee that the research won’t go down very well with the faculty board, and that I’ll gain a reputation as a troublemaking supervisor. What should I do?’
WHO'S THE AUTHOR AND WHO'S THE CO-AUTHOR?
‘As a PhD student, I am working on a larger project run by my supervisor. I’m completely responsible for one work package for my PhD, but I’m also collaborating on the other work packages. Several publications have already resulted from the project, in which I am not systematically included as a co-author. Don’t I meet the requirements? Or is my supervisor in breach of the integrity rules?’