Category / Research Integritiy

HEFCE grants tied to research integrity

The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) recently announced that all UK research institutions must comply with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity in order to be eligible for grants.

HEFCE stated, ‘we are party to a formal agreement or ‘concordat’ about standards and integrity in UK research. This sets out five commitments that assure Government, the wider public and the international community, that the highest standards of rigour and integrity will continue to underpin research in the UK.’

This condition will apply from 2013-14 and follows their consultation earlier in the year on implementing the concordat. HEFCE’s decision was prompted by a consultation on how best to implement the concordat. Of the respondents, 82 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that compliance with the concordat should be a condition of HEFCE grant funding. Only 11 per cent of respondents said that they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the suggestion. The 78 respondents included 59 universities.

The Concordat sets out five commitments:

  • Maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research;
  • Ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards;
  • Supporting a research enivironment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity;
  • Using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct should they arise;
  • Working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly.

Universities UK developed the concordat with the funding and research councils, the Wellcome Trust and a number of government departments. It was launched on 11 July 2012.

This follows Research Councils UK’s announcement that demonstrating compliance with the concordat will be a condition of further funding for universities.

Research Ethics: Insights from the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health and the Centre for Social Work, Sociology & Social Policy

Ethics contributions

Collage of research ethics contributions

Academics based in HSC have experience in a wide-range of research.  In the process of reflecting on all aspects of the research process several members of HSC have published about ethical issues that they have had to address in their own research.    This BU Blog highlights some of these key HCS papers which may help fellow academics and students across the globe address similar ethical questions.  HSC has a history of publishing on research ethics, Professor Emerita Immy Holloway wrote about the researcher who may have a dual role, or even conflicting role, as researcher and health care professional (1).  More recently, several midwifery researchers in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health wrote about the issues facing practitioners doing research in the field where they work, especially concerning the similarities and differences between professional ethics and research ethics (2-3).  Negotiating ethical paths cleaved by competing concerns between protecting research participants and over-managing the ethical process is tricky.

In her book Rainforest Asylum: The enduring legacy of colonial psychiatric care in Malaysia Dr. Ashencaen Crabtree in the Centre for Social Work, Sociology & Social Policy, addresses the problematic issue of gate-keepers in research together with the ethics of critical observation of abuse (potential or actual), as well as the ethics of advocating on behalf of research participants (4).

The fear that the ethical application process in the UK is becoming more and more cumbersome and bureaucratic has been widely recognised as highlighted by Prof. van Teijlingen and colleagues (5-6).

Research ethics review processes are also considered in terms of access to participants regarded as ‘vulnerable’ in a recently published paper by Dr. Ashencaen Crabtree (7) of ethnographers working in health settings who are seeking to understand the context of care and patient/service user experiences.  She concludes that paternalistic control of participation on the grounds of ethical protection of vulnerable people seriously disenfranchises potential participants in preventing them from being able to share their relevant, lived experiences as recipients of service provision.

Prof. van Teijlingen and BU Visiting Fellow Dr. Padam Simkhada highlighted that the social, cultural and economic contexts in which research is conducted often differ between developing and developed countries.  However they stress that researchers need to apply for research ethics approval to the relevant local authority, if national legislation requires one to do so (8).

A new and challenging area of research is the use of discussion boards as a source of research data.  In their paper Dr. Bond and BU colleagues discuss both practical and ethical dilemmas that arise in using such data (9). In earlier research, Prof. Parker of the Centre for Social Work, Sociology & Social Policy, highlighted some of the benefits and dangers of using email and the Internet for research as the potential for electronic media continues its rapid growth (10).

Obtaining informed consent is something that all researchers need to consider. However, in some research situations obtaining consent can be particularly challenging.  Prof. Hundley and colleagues discuss the ethical challenges involved in conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial, where consent needs to be considered at a number of levels (11).  In a second paper issues of consent during pregnancy, where there is the potential for harm to two participants, are considered (12).

In research into the implications of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for social research, Prof. Parker explored the contested meanings and difficulties associated with informed consent in social research, highlighting some of the challenges raised by an almost unquestioned acceptance of biomedical research ethics in social research and questioning whether potential ‘harm’ is different in this context (13, 14). This research has led to further explorations of the potential for ethical covert research by Prof. Parker and Dr. Ashencaen Crabtree.

 

The way forward

There a plenty of challenges to research ethics in both the health and social care sectors.  Ethical considerations relate to technological developments such conducting research over the Internet or the analysis of tweets.  HSC staff will continue to publish on a range of moral dilemma as well as practical issues related to research ethics.  Moreover, academic from the two centres are planning a Masterclass on research ethics to be held in early 2014.

 

 

References

  1. Holloway, I., Wheeler, S. (1995) Ethical Issues in Qualitative Nursing Research, Nursing Ethics 2: 223-232.   Web address:  http://nej.sagepub.com/content/2/3/223.full.pdf+html
  2. Ryan, K., Brown, B., Wilkins, C., Taylor, A., Arnold, R., Angell, C., van Teijlingen, E. (2011) Which hat am I wearing today? Practicing midwives doing research, Evidence-Based Midwifery 9(1): 4-8.
  3. van Teijlingen, E.R., Cheyne, H.L. (2004) Ethics in midwifery research, RCM Midwives Journal 7 (5): 208-10.
  4. Ashencaen Crabtree, S. (2012) Rainforest Asylum: The enduring legacy of colonial psychiatric care in Malaysia, London: Whiting & Birch.
  5. van Teijlingen, E., Douglas, F., Torrance, N. (2008) Clinical governance and research ethics as barriers to UK low-risk population-based health research? BMC Public Health 8(396)                            Web address: www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-8-396.pdf
  6. van Teijlingen, E. (2006) Reply to Robert Dingwall’s Plenary ‘Confronting the Anti-Democrats: The unethical Nature of Ethical Regulation in Social Science, MSo (Medical Sociology online) 1: 59-60  Web address:  www.medicalsociologyonline.org/archives/issue1/pdf/reply_rob.pdf
  7. Ashencaen Crabtree, S. (2013) Research ethics approval processes and the moral enterprise of ethnography. Ethics & Social Welfare. Advance Access: DOI:10.1080/17496535.2012.703683
  8. van Teijlingen E.R., Simkhada, P.P. (2012) Ethical approval in developing countries is not optional, Journal of Medical Ethics 38 :428-430.
  9. Bond, C.S,  Ahmed, O.H., Hind, M, Thomas, B., Hewitt-Taylor, J. (2013) The Conceptual and Practical Ethical Dilemmas of Using Health Discussion Board Posts as Research Data, Journal of Medical Internet Research 15(6):e112)  Web address: http://www.jmir.org/2013/6/e112/
  10. Parker, J.  (2008) Email, ethics and data collection in social work research: some reflections from a research project, Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate & Practice, 4 (1): 75-83.
  11. Hundley, V, Cheyne, HC, Bland, JM, Styles, M, Barnett, CA.. (2010) So you want to conduct a cluster randomised controlled trial? Lessons from a national cluster trial of early labour, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 16: 632-638
  12. Helmreich, R.J., Hundley, V., Norman, A., Ighedosa, J., Chow, E. (2007) Research in pregnant women: the challenges of informed consent, Nursing for Women’s Health 11(6):  576-585.
  13. Parker, J., Penhale, B., Stanley, D., 2010. Problem or safeguard? Research ethics review in social care research and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Social Care & Neurodisability, 1 (2): 22-32.
  14. Parker, J., Penhale, B., Stanley, D. (2011) Research ethics review: social care and social science research and the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Ethics & Social Welfare, 5(4): 380-400.

 

Vanora Hundley, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Jonathan Parker & Edwin van Teijlingen

 

 

Festival of Learning – Testament to a Successful Morning (Dr Simon Thompson, DEC Psychology Research Centre)

‘Testamentary Capacity in Dementia’ (03 June 2013 10:00h – 13:00h) – Presentation followed by in-depth plenary session about the complexities of leaving an estate to beneficiaries following a diagnosis of dementia.

‘Dementia’ is an umbrella term used to describe many types of deteriorating diseases – the most common ones are Alzhiemer’s disease, Vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia.

Many married couples own property as ‘joint tenants’. Upon death, ownership automatically passes to the survivor. If property is owned as ‘tenants in common’, one half of the estate belonging to the deceased is dealt with by their Will. Problems arise when there is no Will, when others make a claim, or when another Will is executed.

‘Testamentary capacity’ is a person’s legal and mental ability to make a
valid Will. There are three premises: Presumption of capacity; Requirements; Proof of testamentary capacity.

It is proposed that the law should allow testators alternative means of satisfying the testamentary capacity standard such as an option to validate a testator’s capacity during their lifetime through forensic assessment measuring cognitive elements of testamentary capacity.

It does not remove the difficulty of knowing the status of person at a specific time line. However, it goes some way to describing a person during their lifetime in terms of mental ability and capacity.

Thompson, SBN (2006). Dementia and memory: a handbook for students and professionals. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Thompson, SBN (2012). Dementia. In SBN Thompson (Ed), Psychology of trauma: clinical reviews, case histories, research (pp169-202). Portsmouth: Blackwell-Harvard-Academic.

Publish empirical or experimental data early whilst letting theory mature?

My colleagues and I have written several papers to help budding researchers about the process of writing and publishing academic papers (Hundley, & van Teijlingen 2002; van Teijlingen 2004; Pitchforth et al. 2005; van Teijlingen et al. 2012; Simkhada et al. 2013). For all researchers – students and staff alike publishing research findings is important as new insights will add to the existing knowledge base, advance the academic discipline and, in the case of applied research, perhaps improve something in the lives of others such as, well-being, the economy or the environment. Apart from this general/altruistic drive to add to knowledge, the advice academics give our postgraduate students is: to get your study published as soon as possible. The two main reasons for publishing early are: (a) getting into print to potentially help your careers; and (b) staking once claim as an authority in the field and/or publishing your findings before someone else does.
As always there are exceptions to the rule. As academics we agree that trying to get into print early is a good personal strategy for an early researcher or a postgraduate student especially for those working with empirical or experimental data. However, occasionally it is better to wait and give the underlying idea in the paper time to develop and mature. The kind of paper that often improves with time is one based on theory. Let me share a personal example: a theoretical paper from my PhD (awarded by the University of Aberdeen in 1994). This paper started life as a theory chapter in my PhD thesis (van Teijlingen 1994). This chapter on models of maternity care was not the strongest part of my thesis and it took me another decade of fine-tuning to get it into a state worth publishing. The paper ‘A Critical Analysis of the Medical Model as used in the Study of Pregnancy and Childbirth’ was finally published in Sociological Research Online, the original online-only Sociology journal in the world (van Teijlingen 2005). The wait was worthwhile as the paper is today (May 2013), eight year after publication, the seventh ‘most viewed articles during the past eight weeks’ in the journal (see: http://www.socresonline.org.uk/stats/top20.html).
In conclusion, it is generally sound advice to new researchers and postgraduate students to publish early. Occasionally though, waiting and giving your paper time to improve through discussion with colleagues, presenting the ideas at conferences and on blogs may lead to a better final product.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
School of Health & Social Care

References
Hundley, V., van Teijlingen E. (2002) How to decide where to send an article for publication? Nursing Standard 16(36): 21.
van Teijlingen (1994) A social or medical comparison of childbirth? : comparing the arguments in Grampian (Scotland) and the Netherlands (PhD thesis), Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen. Available online in the British Library (search for: uk.bl.ethos.387237 ).
Teijlingen van, E. (2004) Why I can’t get any academic writing done, Medical Sociology News 30 (3): 62-6.
van Teijlingen, E. (2005) A Critical Analysis of the Medical Model as used in the Study of Pregnancy and Childbirth, Sociological Research Online 10(2) Freely available online at: www.socresonline.org.uk/10/2/teijlingen.html.
Pitchforth, E., Porter, M., Teijlingen van, E.R., Forrest Keenan, K. (2005) Writing up and presenting qualitative research in family planning and reproductive health care, Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health Care 31 (2): 132-135.
Teijlingen van, E., Simkhada. P.P., Simkhada, B., Ireland, J. (2012) The long and winding road to publication, Nepal Journal Epidemiology 2(4): 213-215. http://nepjol.info/index.php/NJE/article/view/7093
Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen, E., Hundley, V. (2013) Writing an academic paper for publication, Health Renaissance 11 (1): 1-5. www.healthrenaissance.org.np/uploads/Pp_1_5_Guest_Editorial.pdf

RCUK publishes guidelines on the governance of good research conduct

Research Councils UK (RCUK) has published its latest policy and guidelines to help researchers and research organisations achieve the highest standards possible when carrying out research. The policy and guidelines have been updated to reflect growing national and international experience in identifying and promoting good research conduct, and in addressing unsatisfactory conduct.

The RCUK Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research Conduct:

  • sets standards of good research practice, with associated guidelines
  • specifies and describes unacceptable research conduct
  • provides guidelines for reporting and investigating allegations of research misconduct
  • clarifies the respective responsibilities of the Research Councils and Research Organisations in fostering and safeguarding the highest possible standards of research conduct.

This document replaces the RCUK Policy and Code of Conduct on the Governance of Good Research Conduct, published in July 2009, and was developed after a wide consultation with partners across the higher education and research sector. It covers the promotion of good research conduct, including good conduct in peer review, the need for appropriate training and development, what constitutes unacceptable research conduct, and the investigation and reporting of unacceptable research conduct.

Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of RCUK, said: “A commitment to good research conduct lies at the heart of an effective research system. High standards of integrity underpin the quality and reliability of research outcomes and of the decisions we make about funding.

“The Research Councils have long been committed to maintaining the highest standards. As a signatory of the Universities UK Concordat to support research integrity, RCUK expects all individuals engaged in research – including researchers themselves, support staff, managers and administrators – to abide by its principles and foster a supportive and open environment.”

The Policy and Guidelines are intended to apply across the full spectrum of research and training funded by the Research Councils and should be amplified in specific disciplines by the guidance issued by individual Research Councils, other funders, professional associations and learned societies.

Are we born to yawn?

Yawning consistently poses a conundrum to neurologists and neuroscientists. Increasingly, evidence is found to link neurological disorders through the commonality of yawning episodes and contagious yawning. Despite discrete incidences (such as parakinesia brachialis oscitans) in brain stem ischaemic stroke patients, there is considerable debate over the reasons for yawning, with the mechanism of yawning still not fully understood. Cortisol is implicated in the stress response and fatigue; repetitive yawning may be the link between neurological disorders and with a strong correlation between yawning and a rise in cortisol levels. Evidence has now been found in support of the Thompson Cortisol Hypothesis that proposes cortisol levels are elevated during yawning [1]. Additional data is in press, and further research is planned with longitudinal consideration to neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and stroke. Funding for such initiatives is currently being sought.

[1] Thompson, S.B.N., & Bishop, P., 2012. Born to yawn? Understanding yawning as a warning of the rise in cortisol levels: randomized trial. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 1(5), e4:1-9. Doi: i-www.jmr.org/2012/e4/

Proposed Copyright Hub to Streamline Copyright Licensing

Recommendations for the establishment of a Digital Copyright Exchange, contained in a final report into its feasibility, have just been published following a Department of Business, Innovation and Skills funded study undertaken by Richard Hooper, click here.

Given the amount of digital material available and likely to be created in the future, it is essential to streamline the process of copyright licensing. Having easier mechanisms to obtain the appropriate copyright licences will benefit rights holders and potential licensees.

The report recommends the creation of a not-for-profit industry-led, industry-funded Copyright Hub, and the establishment of a steering group to drive forward and oversee the design and implementation of the Hub.

The Copyright Hub will have five main purposes, to:

  • act as a signpost and be a navigation mechanism to the complex world of copyright
  • be the place to go for copyright education
  • be the place where any copyright owner can choose to register works, the associated rights to those works, permitted uses and licences granted
  • be the place for potential licensees to go for easy to use, transparent, low transaction cost copyright licensing
  • be one of the authoritative places where prospective users of orphan works can go to demonstrate they have done proper, reasonable and due diligence searches for the owners of those works before they digitise them

The Government’s response to these proposals is awaited.

Hefce’s purse strings may be tied to the proposed Concordat to Support Research Integrity

Universities could be forced to sign up to the proposed Concordat to Support Research Integrity as a condition of public funding under proposals being considered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).  The Concordat–drafted by Universities UK, Research Councils UK, among others–sets out the standards required of researchers, funders and universities, but makes clear that primary responsibility for policing misconduct rests with institutions.  Please see a previous blog post from 4 April which provides more detail on the Concordat.  Fortunately, Bournemouth University is already on track to implement the standards set out in the Concordat. 

If Hefce decides to require universities to sign up to (and effectively implement) the Concordat as a condition of public funding, this will be a huge first step towards funding being tied to research integrity principles.  As BU’s research conduct officer, it brings me great joy to see Hefce helping to ensure research is done to the highest degree of integrity by requiring compliance with the concordat as part of the financial memorandum universities sign with Hefce.  A paper prepared for Hefce’s board members said the move would “provide assurance to the government and the…public that public funding for research is used with integrity and that appropriate mechanisms are in place to identify and respond to…misconduct,”adding that “the other major UK funders” are also considering making compliance a condition of their grants.  A final decision on this plan will be made once the final version of the Concordat is published next month.

Emerald Literati Network 2012 Awards for Excellence

Professor Jonathan Parker

Professor Jonathan Parker, Deputy Dean for Research in the School of Health and Social Care has been chosen as an Outstanding Reviewer at the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2012. Each year Emerald names and rewards the Outstanding Reviewers who contribute to the success of the journals.  Each journal’s Editor has nominated the Reviewer they believe has been that title’s most Outstanding Reviewer.

The most Outstanding Reviewers are chosen following consultation amongst the journal’s Editors, whom are eminent academics or managers. Professor Parker was selected for the very impressive and significant contribution he made as a Reviewer to The Journal of Adult Protection throughout 2011.

This is your chance – comment on the draft Research Integrity Concordat

Calling all comments!!

If you’d like to comment on the draft Research Integrity Concordat (see previous post: http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/2012/04/04/draft-research-integrity-concordat-now-available-for-comment/), please send all comments to Julia Hastings Taylor by the end of the day on Tuesday, 24 April.

The concordat outlines five important commitments that those engaged in research can make to help ensure that the highest standards of rigour and integrity are maintained. It also makes a clear statement about the responsibilities of researchers, employers and funders of research in maintaining high standards in research.

Draft research integrity concordat now available for comment

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is working with Universities UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Wellcome Trust and government departments to develop a concordat to support research integrity. Comments are now being invited on the draft concordat which is available on the Universities UK website or go directly to the draft concordat.

The consultation phase is open for six weeks and will close on Friday, 11 May 2012.

The concordat outlines five important commitments that those engaged in research can make to help ensure that the highest standards of rigour and integrity are maintained. It also makes a clear statement about the responsibilities of researchers, employers and funders of research in maintaining high standards in research.

On behalf of BU, a coordinated response will be drafted and sent to Universities UK.  If you have any comments, please send them directly to Julia Hastings Taylor.

As part of the BU Ethics Review, it will be strongly recommended that the University fully adopts the concordat and implements its recommendations. Not only will this help to ensure that BU is maintaining a high degree of research integrity, but it will also confirm that BU is brought in line with industry standards.

‘Consensus statement’ on research integrity released

The UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) has welcomed calls for it to be placed at the centre of a toughened research integrity oversight regime in the UK.  Agreed at a high-level meeting organised by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Committee on Publication Ethics and attended by a variety of senior figures from journals, funders and institutions, the Consensus Statement calls upon institutions and research funders to do more to prevent and detect misconduct.

According to a recent BMJ survey, research misconduct is “alive and well” in the UK; 13 percent of UK-based scientists and doctors claimed they had witnessed colleagues fabricating or altering research data ahead of publication in peer-reviewed journals and of the 2,700 scientists and doctors who responded, 6 percent admitted misconduct themselves when preparing or presenting research papers.  Research misconduct is important as it wastes resources, damages the credibility of science, and can cause harm (for example, to patients and the public). 

As part of my role as the Conduct Officer in the RDU, I’m currently undertaking a University-wide ethics review, which will (among other things) actively promote a high level of research integrity in all BU endeavours.  Within this review, I will ensure that the University is compliant with the guidelines agreed in the Consensus Statement and that we are doing our part to educate and inform staff and students on the importance of good research conduct.

Below is an abbreviated list of points agreed at the meeting:

  • The UK’s mechanisms for ensuring good research conduct and investigating research misconduct need to be strengthened.
  • Research misconduct is defined as behaviour by a researcher, intentional or not, that falls short of good ethical and scientific standards (Edinburgh 1999).  Research misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, suppression, or inappropriate manipulation of data; inappropriate image manipulation; plagiarism; misleading reporting; redundant publication; authorship malpractice such as guest or ghost authorship; failure to disclose funding sources or competing interests; misreporting of funder involvement; and unethical research (for example, failure to obtain adequate patient consent). 
  • Primary responsibility for good research conduct rests with individual researchers.  However, institutions have direct responsibility as employers to ensure good research conduct, and funders have a duty to hold institutions to account.
  • Research funders should require research institutions to appoint a senior named person as a research integrity officer and to adhere to an agreed code of conduct for research.
  • The code of conduct should mandate the setting up of effective systems to prevent and detect misconduct and proper investigation of allegations of research misconduct.

UKRIO is an independent body which provides expert advice and guidance about the conduct of research.  They cover all subject areas and help all involved in research, from research organisations, including universities and the NHS, to individual researchers and members of the public.