Upholding research standards in UK higher education: A workshop on 10th February organised by the Westminster Forum.

The public (and the taxpayer) expect to be reassured

that research is being undertaken to high standards of practice.

Against a climate of increasingly tight controls on UK Government spending the importance of research integrity continues to grow.

We heard from Universities UK…

The state of the HE sector’s compliance with the UK Research Integrity Concordat, published back in 2012, was noted. Web link to the UK Research Integrity Concordat:www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Documents/2012/TheConcordatToSupportResearchIntegrity.pdf

RCUK, the Wellcome Trust and HEFCE expect individual researchers and universities to comply with the Concordat’s 5 Principles, and to be able to demonstrate compliance.

  1. We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research
  2. We are committed to ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards
  3. We are committed to supporting a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity and based on good governance, best practice and support for the development of researchers
  4. We are committed to using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct should they arise
  5. We are committed to working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly.

The Concordat includes an expectation that every university publishes an annual public statement that explains how the university is applying the 5 principles in practice – fostering research integrity. TUoS’s publicly viewable statement is at: www.sheffield.ac.uk/ethics

Many universities still don’t publish such a statement saying how they are complying/fostering integrity.

We heard from the Medical Research Council…

MRC is increasingly concerned about the rise in allegations of research misconduct and retractions. If the UK’s universities want to maintain a self-regulatory approach universities must better demonstrate that they do regulate their research effectively. It’s about safeguarding the reputation of UK research.

  • poor experimental design – especially animal research;
  • inappropriate statistical analysis;
  • selective reporting and publication bias;
  • cell line mis-identification;
  • competition and pressutrre to publish;
  • inadequate training/supervision.

MRC is undertaking a review into the ‘pressure to publish’.

MRC expects senior researchers to set ‘the tone from the top’ -

  • promote the exchange of ideas;
  • encourage challenge and debate;
  • help development of others;
  • set a positive example.

MRC will be paying much more attention to the following -

  • identifying and managing Conflicts of interest;
  • availability of appropriate training and research supervision;
  • support for good experimental design and statistics;
  • with respect to collaborative working, the importance of having agreements up front to clarify expectations of each collaborator;
  • research data management and record keeping;
  • fair peer review (including raising concerns regarding potential research misconduct).

We heard from NATURE…

NATURE is tightening up its requirements relating to reporting standards –

  • eliminating length limits on research methods sections;
  • increasing the scrutiny of statistics;
  • re-emphasising the importance data and protocol sharing.
ad6resinUpholding research standards in UK higher education: A workshop on 10th February organised by the Westminster Forum.