Scientific Integrity Principles and Best Practices: Recommendations from a Scientific Integrity Consortium

The Scientific Integrity Consortium published a set of principles and best practices in Science and Engineering Ethics in February 2019. The principles and best practices are intended to be applied broadly across scientific disciplines, and provide a standardized approach for scientists to achieve accountability and integrity in scientific research. They focus on multiple aspects of scientific integrity found in the research ecosystem, including fostering a culture of integrity, the establishment of institutional processes, policy interests, reproducibility, communications, the peer review process, publication bias, and open science.

Consortium participants represent a wide array of scientific disciplines with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and approaches to scientific integrity strategies. The Consortium comprises 4 U.S. government agencies, 3 Canadian government agencies, 11 professional societies, 6 universities and 3 non-profit organizations. It was convened by IAFNS and hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine’s Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR).

IAFNS is a member of the Scientific Integrity Consortium.

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A Partnership for Public Health: USDA Global Branded Food Products Database

As a proof of concept of IAFNS’s 12 Principles for Public-Private Research Partnerships, IAFNS has joined USDA ARS, GS1 US, and other partners in a “A Partnership for Public Health: USDA Branded Food Products Database.” This public-private partnership’s goal is to enhance public health and the sharing of open data by enhancing the USDA National Nutrient Database with nutrient composition of branded food and private label data provided by the food industry. The submission of data to the USDA Branded Food Products Database is voluntary, however, if a manufacturer participates, a set of mandatory attributes agreed upon by the Partners must be submitted. As part of the USDA National Nutrient Database, the USDA Branded Food Products Database will ensure that these data are publicly available to those who will utilize them. This includes, but is not limited to, federal agencies, the research community, international databases, proprietary databases and end users, and the food industry. In addition, these data can be used to support the development of consumer facing applications (i.e., “Apps”).

Access the full publication: A Partnership for Public Health: USDA Branded Food Products Database

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Scientific Integrity Resource Guide

In October 2016, IAFNS published a “Scientific integrity resource guide: Efforts by federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, and academia in the United States” in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. This resource guide lays out the work being done in 5 different sectors on scientific integrity. The manuscript will be a living document and will be updated twice a year on the IAFNS website.

Read more: Scientific Integrity Resource Guide: Efforts by Federal Agencies, Foundations, Nonprofit Organizations, Professional Societies, and Academia in the United States

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Principles for Public-Private Research Partnerships

The Assembly on Scientific Integrity deemed it critically important to pursue a public private partnership initiative that establishes a set of harmonized principles for public private partnerships in scientific research to ensure a strong ethical foundation to avoid potential and perceived conflicts of interest. Such partnerships are imperative in leveraging diverse expertise to solve our complex problems in public health and questions concerned with nutrition, health, and food safety. IAFNS published this set of 12 principles for successful research public-private partnerships in October 2013 in Nutrition Reviews. These principles were then used as the base for a set of principles for research public-private partnerships that were agreed upon and endorsed by 4 federal agencies and 5 nutrition, food science, and food safety professional societies. This new set of principles was publicly unveiled at the National Academy of Sciences in June 2015 and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2015. Excerpts of the publication also appeared in:

Read more: Achieving a Transparent, Actionable Framework for Public-Private Partnerships for Food and Nutrition Research

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How Experts Are Chosen to Inform Public Policy: Can the Process Be Improved?

Ethical questions have been raised regarding conflict of interest, making it more challenging for the formation of expert advisory committees that advise government agencies and public health officials in formulating nutrition and food safety policy. Due to the growing complexity of the interactions among government, industry, and academic research institutions, ever-more stringent conflict of interest policies may have the effect of barring the most experienced and knowledgeable nutrition and food scientists from contributing their expertise on expert panels.

The Assembly explored this issue in-depth through a review of the practices of professional societies, voluntary health organizations, foundations, government, the National Academies, and international bodies. A scholarly paper, “How Professionals Are Chosen for Expert Panels: Can the Process Be Improved?”, proposes a set of principles determining considerations for service on expert advisory committees and calls for a boarder discussion in all sectors of the research community on whether the process might be improved.

Read more: How Experts Are Chosen to Inform Public Policy: Can the Process Be Improved?

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Funding Source and Research Report Quality in Nutrition Practice-Related Research

The aim of this project was to determine whether types of funding sources of nutrition research are associated with differences in research report quality. This work was conducted through a partnership with the ADA and using the ADA’s Evidence Analysis Library. Over 2,800 peer-reviewed research articles were examined.

Read more: Funding Source and Research Report Quality in Nutrition Practice-Related Research

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Guiding Principles for Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research

The scientific process requires open, transparent examination and honest interpretation of data, regardless of a researcher’s affiliation or source of funding. To address the potential influence of funding source on scientific research, IAFNS developed 8 Guiding Principles for Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research. These guidelines were specifically designed to protect the integrity and credibility of the scientific record.

These principles were published simultaneously published in six peer-reviewed scientific journals: Nutrition ReviewsAmerican Journal of Clinical NutritionJournal of the American Dietetic AssociationJournal of Food ScienceNutrition Today, and The Journal of Nutrition.

Guiding Principles:

In the conduct of public/private research relationships, all relevant parties shall:

  1. conduct or sponsor research that is factual, transparent, and designed objectively; according to accepted principles of scientific inquiry, the research design will generate an appropriately phrased hypothesis and the research will answer the appropriate questions, rather than favor a particular outcome;
  2. require control of both the study design and the research itself to remain with scientific investigators;
  3. not offer or accept remuneration geared to the outcome of a research project;
  4. prior to the commencement of studies, ensure that there is a written agreement that the investigative team has the freedom and obligation to attempt to publish the findings within some specified timeframe;
  5. require, in publications and conference presentations, full signed disclosure of all financial interests;
  6. not participate in undisclosed paid authorship arrangements in industry-sponsored publications or presentations;
  7. guarantee accessibility to all data and control of statistical analysis by investigators and appropriate auditors/reviewers; and
  8. require that academic researchers, when they work in contract research organizations or act as contract researchers, make clear statements of their affiliation; require that such researchers publish only under the auspices of the contract research organizations.


Read the manuscript: Funding Food Science and Nutrition Research: Financial Conflicts and Scientific Integrity.

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