13.03.13


Research integrity - Issue of the Week - 13 March, 2013

Should funders require mandatory compliance with the research integrity Concordat as part of their grant conditions? If so, how? Those were the questions asked by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in their recent consultation with the sector which closed last week.

The Concordat, launched in July 2012, was developed by Universities UK, with the funding councils, the Wellcome Trust, and Government, to provide a coordinated approach to research integrity. It 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.

HEFCE Consultation

The 1994 Group supports the role of the Concordat as a supplement to existing checks within institutions. Research integrity is fundamental to maintaining the UK’s reputation for research excellence globally and to ensuring it continues to contribute to economic growth. At present 88% of the research output produced by 1994 Group members is internationally recognised (RAE 2008).

Maintaining research standards is vital, not least for HEFCE because it must also act as a custodian of public funds. Any research misconduct is classified as a misuse of public funds, thus compliance with the Concordat would seem a proportionate measure to safeguard those funds.

It is for these reasons that the 1994 Group is content that compliance with the principles of the Concordat should be a condition of the HEFCE grant for research institutions.

Recommendations

Although the Group support the principles of the Concordat there are still some concerns about its implementation. The 1994 Group argue that:

- Funders should not seek to regulate research integrity or create a separate agency responsible for oversight.

- Institutions need time to make internal arrangements to ensure compliance– the envisaged requirement for HEFCE funding from 2013-14 does not allow adequate time for this.

- Current reporting requirements should not become unduly burdensome as a result of incorporating reporting on compliance with the concordat.

It is imperative that HEFCE and other funders respect the principle that prime responsibility lies with researchers and institutions to ensure research integrity, and that this admits of a variety of institutional agreements.



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