UK to set up research integrity committee to oversee misconduct investigations

UK to set up research integrity committee to oversee misconduct investigations

The United Kingdom is setting up a research integrity committee to monitor research misconduct investigations conducted by the nation’s universities. The decision to establish the new committee was made upon the recommendation of an inquiry in 2018 by the Science and Technology Select Committee into how research misconduct is dealt with at UK universities.

The select committee’s inquiry had revealed that one in four universities in the country fail to comply with the research integrity guidelines released in 2012 by Universities UK, an advocacy group representing the country’s universities. According to the guidelines, if a university fails to deal with misconduct transparently, it would lose research funding. Despite that, 25% universities in UK do not disclose information about the number of misconduct investigations they conduct, revealed the 2018 inquiry.

The new committee will work under United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), the body that directs research and innovation funding received from the government. Chris Skidmore, UK’s minister of science and universities and the time, wrote in a letter to Norman Lamb, chair of the select committee, explaining that the yet to be formed committee “will check that institutions have complied with terms and conditions of UKRI funding when investigating research misconduct, and provide oversight of UKRI research grant funding by reviewing investigations undertaken by individual research institutions and providing an annual assurance statement” and impose sanctions, if required.

Welcoming the decision, Lamb said: “The proposed committee will be crucial in championing integrity in the sector.” He added that his committee will continue to monitor the government’s and UKRI’s efforts towards protecting research integrity and “ensure that momentum is not lost.”

Stephen Curry, structural biologist at Imperial College London, and chair of the steering committee of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), applauded the move. He suggested that the committee should work in collaboration with other funders like the Wellcome Trust. Curry hopes that this will reinforce UKRI’s commitment with DORA (UKRI signed the declaration in June 2019) to emphasize “the rigour and integrity of research evaluation.”

Further details about the working of the committee have not been disclosed yet. According to Skidmore, the chair and panelists of the committee will be appointed by autumn this year and operations will start in the summer of 2020. It remains to be seen how the proposed committee tackles cases of misconduct. How do you think the committee should deal with misconduct investigations? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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