EU project: VIRT²UE – Train the Trainer program for Upholding the principles of the ECoC

VIRT²UE – Virtue based ethics and Integrity of Research: Train the Trainer program for Upholding the principles of the European code of conduct

Recognizing the importance of addressing ethics and research integrity (ERI) in Europe, in 2017 the All European Academies (ALLEA) published a revised and updated European Code of conduct for Research Integrity (ECoC). Consistent application of the ECoC by researchers across Europe will require its widespread dissemination as well as an innovative training program and novel tools to enable researchers to truly uphold and internalize the principles and practices listed in the Code.

Debates on how to train research ethics and, later, research integrity are decades long. It has been argued that approaches focusing on compliance but neglecting researchers’ moral and value development fail to equip them for the complexities and dilemmas of real life research and situations not covered by rules and codes. In order to deal with conflicting demands in practice, researchers need to develop moral sensitivity and the disposition to act in a good way. The VIRT2UE project, therefore, takes a primarily virtue ethics approach to research integrity. A ‘virtue’ approach fosters habits that dispose a person to exemplary practice. This allows researchers to go beyond mere compliance by motivating them to strive for excellence in themselves and their practices.

The VIRT2UE project aims to develop a sustainable blended learning programme, enabling contextualized ERI teaching across Europe focusing on understanding and upholding the principles and practices of the ECoC. Centers from twelve European countries cooperate to develop this blended learning course in Research Integrity: One online component and a face-to-face component, designed to train trainers to foster moral virtues.

The online component of VIRT2UE will be part of the Embassy of Good Science, the platform designed by the EnTIRE project and will also be linked to SINAPSE (the free communication platform of the European Commission). VIRT2UE will collaborate closely with EnTIRE and make use of the platform’s infrastructure and community of users for the online component of the trainings.

As for the face-to-face training component of the project, the aim is to reach 3050 researchers by the end of the project, through training 305 trainers who will each train 10 researchers. A train-the-trainer model is most appropriate in this instance due to the extremely large group of researchers to reach across Europe – teaching trainers allows the programme’s efforts to be multiplied many times over, as VIRT2UE -trained trainers will go on to educate researchers and influence the teaching and training in their own in stitutions over a much longer period of time. This way the proposed goal of the project is not only met but secured long after the project ends.