Category / Research Integritiy

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.