5 ways to enhance research integrity and avoid the risks of ‘publish or perish’ in academia

International team develops principles to measure trustworthiness, rigour and transparency in research

July 16, 2020

Dr. David Moher “These principles send a clear message that behaviours that foster research integrity need to be acknowledged and rewarded.”- Dr. David MoherAmid growing criticism of the traditional “publish or perish” system for rewarding academic research, an international team has developed five principles that institutions can follow to measure and reward research integrity. The team believes that applying these principles in academic hiring and promotion will enhance scientific integrity and amplify the benefits of research to society.

Canadian scientist Dr. David Moher led the team that developed the principles, which are referred to as the Hong Kong Principles, since they were presented and discussed during the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity in Hong Kong in 2019.

“The traditional publish or perish system involves evaluating researchers based on the number of papers they publish, how often these papers are referenced by other researchers, and the value of research grants they are awarded” said Dr. Moher, a senior scientist and expert in scientific publishing at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “While easy to measure, these criteria do not give a full picture of the rigour of the researcher’s work, or of their contributions to research and society.”

Published in PLOS Biology, the Hong Kong Principles aim to fill this gap in the way that researchers are evaluated by their institutions. The five principles include:

  • Principle 1: Assess researchers on responsible practices from study conception to delivery, including the development of the research idea, research design, methodology, execution and effective dissemination
  • Principle 2: Value the accurate and transparent reporting of all research, regardless of the results
  • Principle 3: Value the practices of open science (open research), such as open methods, materials and data
  • Principle 4: Value a broad range of research and scholarship, such as replication, innovation, translation, synthesis, and meta-research
  • Principle 5: Value a range of other contributions to responsible research and scholarly activity, such as peer review for grants and publications, mentoring, outreach, and knowledge exchange

The paper also includes examples of how each principle can be measured.

“Because responsible research practices can be time and resource intensive, they may result in a smaller number of grants and publications,” said Dr. Moher. “These principles send a clear message that behaviours that foster research integrity need to be acknowledged and rewarded.”

Institutions and individuals are encouraged to endorse the Hong Kong Principles and share examples of their implementation.

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones. 

Media Contact 

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Cell: 613-297-8315


Disease and research area tags: Health research methods, Journalology