What does an annual statement on research integrity say?
We have progressed from the early days of brief summaries and concerns over confidentiality or perceived negative connotations to the publication of detailed narrative annual statements. These now encompass areas such as:
- Institutional strategies for fostering positive research cultures.
- Training in best practices.
- Research integrity policies.
- Awareness-raising, monitoring and auditing.
- Sector engagement.
- Processes for dealing with allegations of research misconduct and conducting investigations.
- Reflections on how these experiences are used to continually improve research practices.
I have written four annual statements for the CRUK Scotland Institute and used guidance from UKRIO to structure them. I have found putting the annual statements together to be invaluable for considering and consolidating our research integrity activities over the year, identifying examples of good practice, and determining gaps in our practice and potential areas to develop and focus on in the following year.
Why might you want to read your organisation’s annual statement on research integrity?
I think the statements demonstrate how organisations embed research integrity practices and what policies underpin these activities. They also provide a very good starting point for directing you to what support and training are available.
In addition, transparency over investigating allegations of research misconduct enables you to evaluate how important research integrity is to an organisation, giving you confidence that research integrity is at the forefront of their strategic priorities.
Can annual statements tell us anything about research standards in the UK?
The UK Committee on Research Integrity (UKCORI) and the Concordat signatories wanted to answer this question and appointed Research Consulting to survey the UK’s 134 higher education institutions that receive funding from UKRI.
Research Consulting’s report, published in July 2023, showed that the majority of these organisations now produce an annual statement and that they “consider research integrity to be a strategic priority”. Analysis of statements showed that whilst organisations are increasing their research integrity activities, these are heterogeneous and context dependent. They also found that the content of annual statements had been left up to individual organisations.
Other key findings were that organisations are incorporating discussions on research culture and lessons learned from research misconduct investigations into their research integrity activities, and that support and training is mainly focused on early career researchers. However, this analysis was complicated by the lack of a consistent structure and format to annual statements, as each institution could determine their own approach to writing them.
Next steps for annual statements on research integrity
This diverse information in narrative annual statements prompted the Concordat signatories to pilot the use of a template to standardise reporting and to strengthen the focus on sharing good practice. The template, produced on behalf of the Concordat signatories by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) divides the report into sections along with guidance on completing them.