Research bodies try to strengthen the integrity of UK research

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 11 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2677
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The UK’s leading research bodies have come together and drafted five key commitments to help ensure that UK research meets the very highest standards of quality and integrity.

The concordat to support research integrity provides a framework to underpin research integrity in all disciplines and outlines the responsibilities of researchers, their employers and their funders in undertaking research.

The draft document has been drawn up by Universities UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust, and government departments. The bodies argue that, as the UK is second only to the US in terms of research performance, “ensuring the integrity of our research is beyond doubt is vital to the UK’s reputation.” Research draws on public funds so it is essential that these are used appropriately, they add, and knowledge generated is used for making decisions that are crucial for the general welfare of society and for economic development.

As a result the UK needs to ensure that all research is conducted according to the highest standards of rigour and integrity and that there are robust mechanisms in place to deal with situations where this does not happen. The concordat proposes that researchers, research organisations, and funders agree to uphold five commitments to help make this vision a reality.

They should be committed to:

  • maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research, in particular rigour in performing research, honesty and transparency in reporting findings, and a duty of care to participants

  • ensuring research is conducted according to the appropriate legal, professional, and ethical frameworks and standards

  • creating a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity, based on good governance, best practice and support for the development of researchers, which means having clear and transparent policies and appointing one senior staff member “to act as coordinator and contact for matters of research integrity”

  • having robust, transparent and fair processes in place to deal with allegations of research misconduct. Researchers should take primary responsibility for investigating allegations; where necessary, impose sanctions and report any action to funders or professional bodies; and ensure potential whistleblowers are aware of to whom to take any suspicions of research misconduct

  • continually working to strengthen the integrity of research. Progress should be reviewed regularly and openly. This should involve research organisations making an annual statement to governing bodies identifying activities they have undertaken to strengthen the integrity of research.

Funders would also be required to make an annual statement on research integrity and be responsible for identifying and disseminating key lessons learnt.

The concordat follows a BMJ/COPE high level meeting in January 2012, which issued a consensus statement that the UK’s mechanisms for ensuring good research conduct and investigating research misconduct needed to be strengthened.

The meeting agreed that research funders should require research institutions to appoint a research integrity officer and register with a national advisory and oversight body, such as a beefed up UK Research Integrity Office, to which all allegations and investigations of research misconduct should be reported (BMJ 2012;344:e1111, doi:10.1136/bmj.e1111).


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2677


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