’Integrity needs more attention at our university’

Ingrid Heynderickx, former dean of the Department of Industrial Engineering &
Ingrid Heynderickx, former dean of the Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, is TU/e’s integrity ambassador. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke
Ingrid Heynderickx has been our ambassador for integrity since October 1. By the summer, she wants to have realized a single point for the entire university for all questions and issues concerning integrity.

A lot is already taking place in the field of integrity at our university, but one thing is crystal clear for Ingrid Heynderickx, TU/e’s integrity ambassador. "I want to bring all’of the initiatives around integrity together and make visible what is already being done and by whom. The goal is that they can be found better because what they’re doing is very important for our university."

Integrity. A word that can take on many forms and that plays a role in all places and at all levels at our university. For Ingrid Heynderickx , the bottom line of this umbrella term is "that you can work together with one another and with the outside world in a pleasant, honest and respectful manner." This applies to everyone at TU/e: students, academic staff and support staff.

In her first months as TU/e’s integrity ambassador, Heynderickx has found that integrity is an incredibly broad concept and that, in many cases, you cannot separate scientific or business integrity from social safety. As a result, she focuses on integrity in the broadest sense of the word, which includes organizational integrity, scientific integrity, inclusiveness and social safety. "That’s all part of working and communicating with one another in a safe and sensible way."

What is integrity?

When Heynderickx discusses integrity, she is talking about:

    Organzational integrity

    This is about how you set up your organization so that it can have greater integrity. Consider this: how do you collaborate with the business community and how do you deal with possible conflicts of interest, knowledge security and data privacy? What about any conflicts and dilemmas that may arise therein?

    Scientific integrity

    How do you conduct scientific research with integrity? How do you combat plagiarism, how do you evaluate research data and how do you report? But also: how do you work together and how do you value one another’s contributions in the right manner?

    Social safety

    How do you make everyone feel safe in the studying or working environment? What are the ground rules for this and where can you turn if you don’t feel safe?

Always a larger context

Heynderickx: "I believe that you cannot view the aforementioned types of integrity as separate from one another. Many situations in which integrity is under pressure involve a combination of those factors. If a discussion is taking place about mentioning a co-author in a publication, for instance, it often turns out that there is more to it than that. For example, a lack of guidance. You cannot solve one without the other. There’s always a larger context, but it doesn’t always surface immediately in a conflict."

Another example: "Suppose that within a large project two people claim the same results. If you can talk about that, you can often work things out together. When there is a power imbalance and someone insists on their own way, the situation not only lacks scientific integrity but is also socially unsafe." To put it simply, Heynderickx is saying that the different sides of integrity are always closely related in a conflict.

A conversation becomes difficult, if not impossible, when people say, ’I know my values, but I’ll cross the line anyway’.

Ingrid Heynderickx, integrity ambassador
"Integrity is the same for me as a person and as a scientist. You want everyone to have their own good moral compass of what is right and wrong so that you can work together in a pleasant and honest way. Those values may differ from person to person, but you can have a respectful conversation about that. Such a conversation becomes difficult, if not impossible, when people say, ’I know my values, but I’ll cross the line anyway’. When people deliberately push a boundary or cross it, it can bring a lot of damage to people and an organization."

Culturally determined

Part of what one does or does not consider to have integrity is related to culture. Heynderickx, herself of Flemish background, gives an example of Belgium and the Netherlands: "In the Netherlands, we consider openness and honesty to be a form of integrity. In Belgium, on the other hand, saying things bluntly represents a complete lack of integrity. You then insult people."

In addition, cultures change, and with them some norms. "It used to be very common to touch one another during conversation. Nowadays, people are more careful about that because it is not desirable behavior for everyone. But some values and violations of them remain, of course. The norm ’thou shalt not steal’ will always remain."

I want something to happen, even if it’s small steps. As long as it’s visible.

Ingrid Heynderickx, integrity ambassador
With a subject like integrity, which has so many intersections and no clear boundaries, the danger lurks of continuously adding things. "In doing so, we make the subject so big and complex that it seems unsolvable, which for me is sometimes paralyzing."

Heynderickx, former dean of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, is a doer, someone who wants to take steps forward. "I want something to happen. That could be small steps, as long as they’re visible. Those steps may not be optimal yet and follow-up steps may be necessary, but let’s start somewhere."

One point, one button

For her, that first visible step is the arrival of a point for everything surrounding integrity. This should be realized before the summer vacation. "What that point should look like has not yet crystallized, but it could be an online button through which people can report questions and problems regarding integrity. Those reporting should therefore not have to also figure out which body to turn to. What exactly is going on and who they should turn to are things we’ll figure out at the back end. The most important thing is that people know that they can come to this point with their story. I want to make it easier to come forward."

Our community needs to be able to put forward questions and issues surrounding integrity at the push of a button. We’ll figure out on the back end who can best help them.

Ingrid Heynderickx, integrity ambassador
That report could end up with the TU/e confidential counsellors, for example. "They have the knowledge and can properly assess what something concerns. Is it about scientific integrity, is it something for the complaints committee or is it about an employment conflict and should a lawyer look into it?"

Learning organization

Of course, there must be a back office behind this point that takes care of the processing of reports. This should also deal with, for instance, the reporting on this and what we as an organization can learn from the summaries of those reports. Currently, each function involved in integrity still makes its own annual report. "It’s clearer if you get one report with recommendations and it’s easier to work with that as an organization."

What are our values?

In a recent interview , our Rector Silvia Lenaerts called for more attention to academic values. In doing so, she mentioned autonomy, freedom, collegial cooperation, looking out for one another, listening to one another and dealing with one another with respect and integrity, regardless of each other’s backgrounds or views.

Heynderickx has been appointed as chair of the Values Track working group to bring to the forefront the precise values that make TU/e what it is. "You want it to be clear to everyone what culture we want at TU/e and what that means for the behavior of each individual."

Starting conversation

Heynderickx wants to use the working group to collect the values within the TU/e community. This should result in a set of values that should then be widely propagated.

"We need to start the conversation. How do we make sure those values that describe our uniqueness and culture are felt and utilized? That’s quite the challenge." But here too, Heynderickx prefers to take small steps: "Let’s collect those values first. Along the way, this will surely inspire us for the next steps."

A lot of work done

Heynderickx emphasizes that "a lot of work has already been done in recent years. All kinds of people are working on integrity, fragmented across divisions. At Education and Student Affairs, they do it for students, at HRM for staff and at General Affairs for scientific integrity. We also have confidential counsellors, an ombuds for employees and one for students, a PhD and EngD counselor and helplines for students. But recently, more links are being made so that all’of these actions also form a more coherent whole."

There’s already a lot being done in the field of integrity. I want to bring that together and put a nice big bow around it so that the work becomes very visible to everyone.

Ingrid Heynderickx, integrity ambassador

Bringing together

She sees it as her mission to bring everything together and to make it visible and accessible to the TU/e community. "I want to create a comprehensive whole in terms of policy and presentation. And be able to put a nice bow on it that everyone sees. Bringing it together gives the subject more visibility and value than all’of the separate components."

Moreover, she believes that it is important to let those working on integrity know and feel that their work is important. "They have the knowledge and expertise. They are already working on issues that are not yet sufficiently seen. I’m just there to coordinate it and make sure their work is visible. My mission is then accomplished."

Ingrid Heynderickx has been our ambassador for integrity since October 1. By the summer, she wants to have realized a single point for the entire university for...


People are the heart and soul of our university, and we want to offer them a safe place to work and study. An environment in which everyone feels safe, physically, mentally and emotionally. We greatly value collegiality and respect for one another, regardless of position, experience or background.

Moreover, we want our employees and students to act with integrity, whether in research, teaching or valorization. For the academic staff, scientific independence and integrity are of paramount importance. TU/e also values transparency and integrity in the business field.

Social safety is a matter for us all. Every student, employee and guest at TU/e is responsible for creating a safe and positive studying and working environment. If you encounter an unsafe situation or undesirable behavior, you can contact various individuals and bodies. This guide for employees will help you find your way. For students, there is also a guide to social safety. In addition, students can always turn to 24 students who act as confidential contact persons.

Social safety and integrity fall under the Resilience theme within our Strategy 2030 .