Prof. dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs

Prof. dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs

Environmental Sciences

Graduate School of Geosciences PhD Course:
Maintaining Scientific Integrity in Present Day Academic Reality

Course content
Recently, science has increasingly become compromised by issues having to do with the integrity of researchers, research teams and their institutions. Individuals, institutions, and the culture in which science can grow and proliferate seem to have become driven by incentives produced by the need to survive in present day academic reality, such as increased dependency on contract research, output-based financing, impact-factor-based publishing and the perceived need for strategic maximization of Hirsch index, which makes them vulnerable to breaches of integrity. For young scientists in training thus the question arises: What are the pitfalls of science and of how to develop and maintain a high ethical standard in the present-day academic reality?

This course offers PhD candidates a clear view of the setting in which they work, codes of conduct for good scientific practice, pitfalls, and the do’s and don’ts in science. It will also help them to examine their own assumptions and to build in adequate quality assurance and develop an attitude of critical appraisal with regard to assumptions in their own research projects.

This course is mandatory for all 2nd year PhD-candidates of the Graduate School of Geosciences. The course is open to all PhD-candidates of the Graduate School of Geosciences.

Learning outcomes
The main objective of the course is to acquaint the participants with essential insights from the theory of science and the ethics of scientific research that may be useful in the work on their own projects. At the same time they are supposed to develop a broader perspective of their own academic field, increasing their sensitivity to epistemological, ethical and societal aspects of their activity.

The readings for the course are available online. Follow the links mentioned in the sessions below. Further reading may be required; this will be communicated via e-mail.

There will be five sessions of three hours each. All sessions are mandatory. Every session will consist of a lecture by a leading expert, followed by a break-out session with fellow PhD-candidates from the varying disciplines in the Geosciences.

There are two mandatory assignments in the form of an essay.

The topics of the essays are linked to the sessions, but you are encouraged to relate it to your own field to the extent that you can use the essay-text as a section of your introduction chapter or the conclusion and discussion chapter of your own PhD thesis. Specific details concerning the assignments will be given later. The assignments have to be submitted in English.

The deadline for the first assignment is 18 December 2015;
The deadline for the second assignment is 22 April 2016.

Course coordinator
The course coordinator is dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs (

Guest lecturers
Prof. Frank Miedema, dean of UMCU, co-founder of Science in Transition; Prof. mr. dr. Roel Fernhout, chair of LOWI (Landelijk Orgaan Wetenschappelijke Integriteit – National Organ of Scientific Integrity); Sandra Broerse PhD, Elsevier; Andrea Saltelli, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission; dr. Ilse van Liempt, Assistant Professor Qualitative Research Methods, UU.

For practical matters, please contact the Graduate School of Geosciences:


1. Science in Society
In which setting do we conduct our research? How does society perceive science? How does the scientific system work? Where does the cash flow lead and why? What is the role of the PhD candidate in the scientific system?

Lecturer: Prof. Frank Miedema, dean of UMCU, co-founder of Science in Transition
Science in Transition ,

Date: Friday 25 September 2015, 13:00 – 16:00h

Texts: Gibbons, 1999, Science’s new social contract with society (Nature 402, C81-C84)

2. The Ethics of Science
What can go wrong in science? Cases of scientific (near-)errors close to our own daily practice will be discussed.

Lecturer: Prof. mr. dr. Roel Fernhout, chair of LOWI (Landelijk Orgaan Wetenschappelijke Integriteit – National Organ of Scientific Integrity)
Break-out session: The Lab: avoiding research misconduct. The Lab is an interactive game of choices in scientific integrity. Participants learn that each choice has its consequences.
Lecturer/Discussion supervisor: dr. ir. Martijntje Smits, senior scientist

Date: Friday 30 October 2015, 13:00 – 16:00h

- The Netherlands Code of Conduct of Scientific Practice
- Frank van Koolschoten, Conflicts of interest: can you believe what you read?
- Matthias Kaiser, The Integrity of Science – Lost in Translation?

3. Publish or Perish?
Publish or perish versus publish and perish: the scientist as communicator to peers and to society.
Lecturer: Sandra Broerse PhD (Publisher Ecology & Sustainability, Elsevier)

Date : Friday 27 November, 13:00 – 16:00h Texts: will follow

** No session in December due to the Holidays. You are expected to hand in your first assignment by 18 December 2015 **

4. Issues in Quantitative or Qualitative Research (parallel sessions)
Depending on your research (quantitative or qualitative) you will attend session A or session B. The results of the discussions will be discussed plenary.

4a. Issues in quantitative research
What to do with an outlier in your data? What if you have multiple outliers? Bring examples of challenges you are confronted with. PhD candidates with questions about their quantitative research, can ask the audience for advice.

Lecturer: Andrea Saltelli, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
discussion supervisors (t.b.c.):

4b. Issues in qualitative research
Privacy, researcher bias, response bias, selecting a sample from big data: examples of challenges you are confronted with. If you have any questions concerning your qualitative research, you can ask the audience for advice.

Lecturer/discussion supervisor: dr. Ilse van Liempt, assistant professor of Human Geography and Planning, faculty of Geosciences

Date: Friday 26 February 2016, 13:00 – 16:00h

Texts: What do I make of your latinorum? Sensitivity auditing of mathematical modelling

5. Uncertainties and Quality Assurance in Research (closing session)
Geoscientists are sometimes confronted with a lack of available data, for example in Life Cycle Analysis, in calibrating models or in paleo research. They can use proxies: substitute data that are very similar, but not equal to the data needed. A lecture and discussions on assumptions and dilemma’s in dealing with risks and uncertainties in research.

Lecturer: dr. Jeroen van der Sluijs, associate professor/senior researcher faculty of Geosciences

Date:Friday 18 March 2016, 13:00 – 16:00h, followed by drinks

Texts: Exploring the quality of evidence for complex and contested policy decisions

** You are expected to hand in your final essay by 22 April 2016. It is advised to link the essay to your dissertation, either by putting it into a broader perspective, or by listing the limitations of your research **



Involved in the following course(s)