The UK Committee on Research Integrity’s April 2023 meeting was held at the University of Cardiff, hosted by Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Dean of Research Environment and Culture, and Harriet Barnes, Director of Policy and Funding, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
As well as welcoming two new members of the committee, Jane Alfred and Jeremy Watson, to their first meeting, we were pleased too to be joined by people from universities across Wales who are active in supporting research integrity in their organisations. We heard about the higher education landscape in Wales – a diverse group of universities with common strong emphases on community and civic engagement. Professor Wahl-Jorgenson and Emma Gore, Research Integrity and Governance Officer, described how the university is working to strengthen a positive research culture – ‘a precondition for excellent research’. Others described the activities in their own universities, with discussion of a number of issues – how excellence in supporting and embedding research integrity is recognised and rewarded; the value of discipline-specific research integrity material; the role of training; the importance of senior buy-in.
The committee hugely appreciated the time, enthusiasm and insights of the participants, and recognised once again the importance of sharing good practice, and having cross-institutional fora for discussion.
Following the launch of our strategy in February, the committee meeting itself focused on our work programme, and our forthcoming first Annual Statement on research integrity in the UK, expected to be published in June. It’s invaluable to have our work informed by discussions with researchers and others with a role in furthering research integrity. We discussed how we can further strengthen our engagement and communications – keep an eye on the committee’s website.Jil Matheson, UK Committee on Research Integrity member
Research integrity in UK higher education institutions: understanding the current landscape
Following the announcement in our February newsletter, Research Consulting has now secured and analysed over 280 annual research integrity statements prepared by UK higher education institutions.
Emerging results indicate that while there are variations in the scope and format of activities supporting research integrity, higher education institutions consider integrity to be a strategic priority and have been intensifying their efforts in this area over time.
Research Consulting’s full report will provide commentary on areas such as research misconduct, institutional learning and support and training available, plus case studies that illustrate how provision can be effectively tailored to local institutional contexts.
The Research Consulting report is due to be published in June, alongside a response from the committee and the UK Concordat Signatories Group and the committee’s own first annual statement. For more information on this work, please see the website.
Launch of the committee’s 3-year strategic plan
The committee held a webinar last month to formally launch the committee’s 3-year strategic plan. It was chaired by the committee co-chair, Rachael Gooberman-Hill and four committee members – Ralitsa Madsen, Chris Graf, Maria Delgado and Jane Alfred – formed the panel. As well as talking about the strategic plan and the committee’s activities for 2023, the panel took questions from the audience that covered balancing support for research integrity against increasing bureaucracy, the committee’s advocacy on the Research Excellence Framework (REF), and what evidence gaps they are hoping to fill with their annual statement and work on integrity indicators. There wasn’t time to answer all the questions in the session, so here are some additional Q&As.
How do you envision your work intersecting with changes in research culture?
Culture is really important to the work of the committee. We have a lot of good evidence that aspects of research culture can affect people’s abilities to live up to their own high ideals for research integrity (from the early culture work by the Royal Society, to the 2020 Research Integrity Landscape report). One of our strategic aims is to embed research integrity into discussions about research culture. For example, discussions around research assessment or reward for those who support a positive culture should include discussion about how to assess the integrity of research, and how to recognise those who make the time for the highest integrity research. There are other groups overseeing different aspects of research culture, such as the Forum for tackling bullying and harassment and the committee will be maintaining a dialogue with those groups.
Regarding the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and research integrity: much like research culture, should this be ‘assessed’ in an exercise that is competitive? Particularly in view of the importance of collaboration and partnership in this space.
Reimagining how to assess, reward and recognise team research and collaboration is an important challenge for the whole academic research sector. In the meantime, we are aware of how powerful the REF can be, as evidenced by the shifts in open access with the change of criteria for REF2021. Integrity is already part of REF assessment through the inclusion of rigour as one of the main components of output assessment. The committee thinks that data access statements and author contribution statements should included in outputs submitted to a future Research Excellence Framework.
Is the committee working with any groups internationally?
Yes. The co-chairs met with their peers in the Australian national committee, ARIC, early in the life of the committee, to hear about their experience. We are pleased that Dr Sanna-Kaisa Spoof, secretary general of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK) and previous chair of the European Network of Research Integrity Offices, will be a member of our ‘poor research practice and research misconduct’ working group. Committee member, Chris Graf is a member of the programme committee for the 2024 World Conference on Research Integrity. Co-chair, Andrew George has also participated in the Académie royale de Médecine de Belgique workshop on research integrity.
House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee’s Reproducibility and Research Integrity Report
The UK Committee on Research Integrity welcomes the publication of the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee’s report concluding its inquiry into reproducibility and research integrity. We are pleased that the report helps to focus attention on reproducibility in UK research. We are now looking at the report in detail so that we can produce our response. Read the report of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee here: UK Parliament website.
Dates for your diary – Research Culture and Practice Forum, 13 and 14 June 2023
Universities UK are hosting a free online event for all staff in the research ecosystem, including Early Career Researchers, postdoctoral researchers, technical staff, research managers, leaders, professional service staff, and researcher developers.
The event will provide insight into the role of a number of different concordats and initiatives responsible for driving positive research culture, including research integrity. Reserve a free place here: Free event: Research Culture and Practice Forum (universitiesuk.ac.uk).