Harmonic resonance

July 7, 2011

The UK Research Integrity Office was established not only to address misconduct but also to promote good research practice ("Fighting for integrity", 30 June). So we are puzzled by Universities UK's suggestion that the UKRIO has focused on "firefighting" misconduct to the detriment of embedding best practice in universities.

Indeed, data held by UUK and the UKRIO indicate that out of a sample of 75 universities, more than 50 have used or adopted our Code of Practice for Research. The information shows similar use of our published guidance on research misconduct, thus strongly supporting the "harmonisation in approaches" that UUK also seeks.

The UKRIO was created not to deliver an assurance mechanism for research funders (a function that remains their responsibility), but to fill a gap in support for the research community and the public.

However, our work does indirectly support funders by improving research integrity in the organisations receiving their funds. As noted, our publications and services have been recommended in guidance from Research Councils UK, among others. Our initial focus on the life sciences was a pilot for a wider remit, one driven by demand from the research community and in accordance with the original proposal for the UKRIO. Our board includes representatives from other disciplines, not least its chair, and we are continuing to broaden its scope.

It is clear that researchers and those personnel who deal with research integrity on behalf of universities value our guidance, as shown by the continuing rise in the use of our services. We would not be approached for assistance if we were not needed.

There are many valuable perspectives on issues of research integrity. We welcome the initiatives being undertaken by funders such as the proposed Concordat and would be happy to contribute our expertise. UKRIO agrees that assurance and advisory functions must remain separate, but that does not weaken the case for drawing on a common repository of skills and information.

Sir Ian Kennedy, chair, UKRIO; Michael Farthing, vice-chair, UKRIO

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