Borderlands of Good Scientific Practice

Investigating a global phenomenon in its local versions

Jubiläumsfondsprojekt der Österreichischen Nationalbank

Duration: February 2017 - January 2021


Project leader: Ulrike Felt

Project staff: Florentine Frantz


The project will investigate how under the changing conditions in research and innovation issues of respecting good scientific practice come up and how they are dealt with. In doing so it focuses on a specific institutional, epistemic and local context, i.e. an Austrian University and the field of life sciences/biomedicine, while looking at it through the lens of international debates. The project will not start from a fixed normative definition of good scientific practice (GSP), but much rather follow the notion through researchers’ narratives, institutional structures and wider societal narratives.

Even if institutions set normative standards, they are negotiated in everyday contexts and have to get meaning in scientific practice. We will therefore work with and develop the notion of “the borderlands of good academic practice”. Like that it wants to acknowledge the good scientific practice is often not as clear-cut as it might seem ex-post, but needs continuous assessment and negotiation among researchers. “Borderlands” are those zones and moments where negotiations (with oneself and with others) take place over what, in which situation is still an acceptable practice and what would go beyond. This points at the fact that what counts as good practice is always negotiated in context-specific ways and that there are grey-zones researchers regularly encounter/navigate, where they have to decide on the kind of scientific practice they are ready to engage.

We actually know very little about the dynamics at work. This project proposes to contribute to a better understanding of the micro-dynamics at work when it comes to make judgements about the limits of good scientific practice and to show how the conditions of contemporary research might contribute to fostering transgressions rather than hindering them.