Calls for research integrity watchdog dismissed

The government and the research councils have rejected suggestions that the UK needs a specific body to police research integrity.

October 18, 2011

The idea was floated by the Commons Science and Technology Committee in its report on peer review, published in July.

The committee expressed concern at the lack of a body to provide “advice and support to research employers and assurance to research funders across all disciplines” – as well as to ensure that research organisations were “doing the right thing” in terms of policing research integrity.

But, in its response to the report, published today, the government says it is “not minded” to set up such a body.

It expresses support, instead, for the “concordat”, currently being drawn up by research funders and Universities UK.

The concordat, which is due to be published in November, will set out principles of research integrity to which all research institutions will be expected to sign up.

The government says these should include a commitment “to deal with research integrity in an open and transparent manner”.

“There are already a number of regulatory and licensing bodies in key areas of research, and, therefore, any new regulatory body would increase regulatory burden on employers, and risks causing unnecessary overlap and uncertainty,” it adds.

In its separate response, RCUK says that it “felt unable” to implement recommendation of a panel it convened last year, the Research Integrity Futures Working Group, to support a generic Research Integrity Service.

It cites reasons of cost, the need for a “more careful separation” between advisory and policing functions, and disagreement about how best to carry out such policing.

RCUK funding for the existing Research Integrity Office has been withdrawn, though the organisation continues to operate.

RCUK says the concordat will “represent an aspirational framework” that will coexist with existing assurance mechanisms.

Institutions will have a “responsibility to monitor and evaluate” its adoption.

But if it proves insufficient to provide “assurance and consistency” across work funded by the research councils, “additional measures” may be introduced.

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