Educating PhD Students in Research Integrity in Europe


No university or research institution is immune to research misconduct or the more widespread problem of questionable research practices. To strengthen integrity in research, universities worldwide have developed education in research integrity. However, little is known about education in research integrity for PhD students in European research-intensive universities. We conducted a content analysis of didactic materials of 11 of the 23 members of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) to map out the content, format, frequency, duration, timing, and compulsory status of their training programmes and the characteristics of instructors of the onsite courses. Quantitative results revealed substantial variation in educational materials among the studied institutions. This variation might be because European research universities are free to design curricula without any requirements from the European, national, or institutional public funding channels. Given the challenges inherent to modern science and preventing misconduct, research institutions should empower future generations of researchers to engage in responsible research practices. To promote integrity in research among PhD students, we provide a set of recommendations for university-wide education in research integrity for doctoral trainees based on our investigation of educational resources.

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The authors would like to thank the members of the LERU for their contribution to the collection of educational resources, Nicholas Steneck for discussions of the scientific work, and the anonymous reviewers for their contributions to the present effort.


This research was funded by the KU Leuven Internal Funds C24/15/032.

Author information




BN and KD designed and supervised the study. SA collected and analysed the research data, and wrote the first successive draft of the manuscript. DP and KD conducted an independent analysis of two educational materials based on the initial analysis of SA. DP, BN and KD revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shila Abdi.

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Conflict of interest

BN and KD are involved in teaching research integrity at the KU Leuven. This research project was funded by the KU Leuven but the institution had no role in designing, performing, nor the findings of the study.

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Abdi, S., Pizzolato, D., Nemery, B. et al. Educating PhD Students in Research Integrity in Europe. Sci Eng Ethics 27, 5 (2021).

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  • Research integrity education
  • RCR
  • PhD students
  • European universities
  • Research integrity
  • Research misconduct