president of the EWI PhD council
For years I have kept a diary. A diary in which I store my experiences, my thoughts, and my feelings. I find the nightly writing routine to be rather therapeutic, as a way to self-reflect on my actions and behaviours from the day. This includes thinking about how my actions could have been perceived by others. Besides honesty, that might be one of the most important aspects of integrity: being conscious of how one’s behaviour comes across to others.
Occasionally, I flip open an old diary to a random page. That could take me back to my time at Oxford University, a period over which I have very warm memories. I especially think fondly of the many times I had personal contact with both students and teachers. During the tutorials I attended, which are appointments between a teacher and two or three students, it was interesting to see different perspectives, leading the way towards fruitful discussions. Perspectives, not only in terms of cultural norms, but especially ideas regarding academic integrity. If week in week out you are personally taught how a respected scientist approaches their work, their scientific integrity automatically becomes a part of you.
Integrity is a form of self-awareness.
Here in the Netherlands integrity mainly exists in the open culture, in which you are free to speak up to anyone, no matter his or her standing in the academic hierarchy. Additionally, we are well aware here at Delft that people from different backgrounds, for example from East Asia, might not be used to this approach – so I see people are careful not to exclude them from this way of working.
What I have also noticed here at Delft, unfortunately, is the formation of cultural ‘bubbles’. This is completely understandable. If you are far away from home, it is nice to speak to someone with a similar background. If you are Dutch, it is comfortable to speak your own language. While I cannot get angry about this, it can be a little disappointing. That is why, as president of the PhD council, I make the effort to organise as many events as possible during which you will meet people who you would otherwise never speak with. If I am honest, we should all make the effort to do that, to really connect with someone else. That way you not only discover new perspectives, but you also get to know yourself a bit more. Integrity is a form of self-awareness – as a human being and as a scientist, you can only benefit from that.