Final U.K. Research Integrity Concordat Released; Silent on Accountability

Earlier this week Universities UK released the final version of a concordat on research integrity.  It was signed by several research councils and institutes in the United Kingdom, and other parties may join.

A draft was circulated earlier in the year, and the Academy of Social Sciences rejected it in part due to questions over how the concordat would be implemented.  Looking at the final version, it would appear that implementation/enforcement of this concordat is still an open question:

“The concordat therefore recommends that institutions should make a public statement on these issues, and that the signatories to this concordat should produce an annual statement outlining what we, as a sector, have been doing to further strengthen the integrity of UK research. Representatives of the signatories and supporters of the concordat will convene a research integrity stakeholder forum to provide a focus for debates on research integrity.”

Without this process, the document seems to be strictly aspirational, a list of principles that all researchers and employers of researchers should commit to.

  • We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research.
  • We are committed to ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards.
  • We are committed to supporting a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity and based on good governance, best practice and support for the development of researchers.
  • We are committed to using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct should they arise.
  • We are committed to working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly.

It sounds lovely, and probably reflects then norms of nearly every single U.K. researcher.  But without an implementation plan, it’s tough not to respond with a ‘so what?’

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