What motivates scientists and what pressures are they under? What effects are funding, publishing and governance systems having on the production of high quality, ethical scientific research? Is competition in science a good thing?

These are some of the questions being explored in a survey launched today to find out how the different features of the UK research environment are affecting, both positively and negatively, the work and behaviour of scientists at all stages of their careers.

The survey is part of a project involving the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Royal Society, Society of Biology, Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Chemistry which will gather views and promote debate about the culture of scientific research in the UK. In addition to the survey, a series of events at universities across the UK will also take place this summer to discuss with scientists and others their views on these issues. The findings of the survey and events will be published and presented to policy makers towards the end of 2014. Sign up for updates about this project.

Professor Ottoline Leyser, chair of the steering group for the project, and Professor of Plant Development at the University of Cambridge said:

"Competition has always played a role in science, but now it is fiercer than ever, with the growing number of researchers, the escalating expense of cutting edge research, and a squeeze on funding. More and more, assessment focuses on the recent performance of the researcher. Have they published their research in “top-flight” journals? Have they won prestigious prizes or fellowships? Does their research have a high public profile or potential economic or social impact? These assessment measures are increasingly taken as defining “good” research. But do they really support high quality ethical research, or do they encourage hyperbole, corner cutting, selective reporting, secretive data hoarding and even fraud?”

The project team would very much like to hear from people involved in all kinds of scientific research in the UK (including bioscience, medicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computing, veterinary science and psychology), in the public, charitable and private sectors. As well as researchers themselves, we are interested in hearing from others with an interest in scientific research, such as university managers and support staff, professional bodies, funders of research, editors and publishers of scientific journals, science communicators, social scientists, relevant policy makers, and NGOs and campaigning bodies concerned with the practice and conduct of science.

The survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.


Respond to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sci-research-culture

Find out more about the project: www.nuffieldbioethics.org/research-culture

Read Ottoline Leyser’s blogpost “Scientific research culture: winners and losers in the laboratory rat race