The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a Report on the ‘Culture of Scientific Research in the UK’ (December 2014)

58% of survey respondents were aware of scientists feeling tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity and standards

 excellent R&I requires intellect and integrity.Sheffield's Policy on Good Research and Innovation Practices (GRIP)

The University supported the project which led to this report. In June we hosted a workshop, and were one of 15 UK universities to do so. The project and its report are available from: http://nuffieldbioethics.org/project/research-culture/

The report makes recommendations for universities and individual researchers, as well as for publisher, funders and learned societies At Sheffield we already:

  • Ensure early career researchers have a thorough grounding in research ethics –We are the only Russell Group university to deliver a compulsory Research Ethics and Integrity training DDP module for doctoral research students: http://www.shef.ac.uk/ris/pgr/ddpportal/reit
  •  Provide mentoring and career advice to researchers throughout their career –Through Think Ahead we provide early career researchers with professional training and career development which prepares them for careers within and beyond academia. We have been recognised as the best in the sector for this, winning the Times Higher award 2014 for ‘outstanding support for early career researchers’: http://www.shef.ac.uk/ris/ecr

            Think Ahead includes a suite of research-informed mentoring programmes: http://www.shef.ac.uk/ris/ecr/mentoring

The report recommended that individual researchers should:
  •  Instil good values as best they can in students and fellow staff.
The report recommended that universities and individual researchers should:
  • Use a broad range of criteria to assess track records (e.g. give due value to professional activities such as mentoring, training, teaching, peer review, committee service, public engagement as well as grant capture & the publishing of papers with high impact factor).

The project focused on scientific research but the report’s authors consider the report to also have relevance for the arts and humanities and social sciences. Its findings are based on an online survey that attracted 970 responses and 15 face to face open discussions involving 740 speakers and attendees. The largest percentage of survey respondents (30%) and attendees at discussions (18%) were postdoctoral research staff. The next largest groups were lecturers and senior lecturers and 7-11% were professorial.

The report’s key findings:
  • 58% of survey respondents were aware of scientists feeling tempted or under pressure to compromises on research integrity and standards.
  • 26% of survey respondents had themselves felt tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity and standards.
  • A higher proportion of survey respondents under the age of 35 (33%) stated they felt tempted or under pressure to compromise on integrity and standards

       i. Asked to define high quality research, the 5 most frequently selected words were (in order of importance): Rigour; Accuracy; Originality; Honesty; Transparency.

       ii. Collaboration was seen as the feature having the most positive effect on high quality science (multi-disciplinarity and open access publishing were also viewed positively), leading to better communication, greater sharing of data and methodologies, less competition, working less in isolation, and faster discovery.

       iii. A greater % of respondents under 35 welcomed data sharing policies.

       iv. A greater % of female respondents were negative or very negative about the competitive nature of research and concerned about the short-term culture of funding and contracts.

       v. Competition is a double-edged sword – can encourage better research but can encourage people to cut corners.

       vi. The features of today’s research culture that are seen as most negative – lack of funding, a perception that funders don’t tend to fund risky research-play it safe, the REF, the pressure to publish in high impact journals, the focus on metrics.

ad6resinThe Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a Report on the ‘Culture of Scientific Research in the UK’ (December 2014)