Last week the Research Councils U.K. (RCUK), the collection of granting councils that apportions roughly 3 billion pounds of research funding, circulated a draft concordat for comment. The consultation period will close in one month, on May 11.
Unlike the messy efforts in the U.S. dealing with how both researchers and non-scientist employees work with scientific research in policymaking, this particular project is focused on researcher conduct and ensuring good research practices. The extent of government involvement outlined in the concordat is consistent with encouraging and supporting those practices and the proper resources and procedures for investigating and handling cases of alleged misconduct. With this concordat, it would appear that the U.K. would end up with a single code across a multitude of disciplines – something I don’t think has been codified in the U.S. Yes, there are research guidelines from various agencies, but – like with scientific integrity – no set of principles that is broadly applicable.
The recent revisions to the U.K. Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees (which I’m negligent in analyzing for this blog), do attempt to address the same two aspects of scientific integrity that have so vexed some of the U.S. science cognoscenti, but they are limited to the scientific advisory committees, and not rank-and-file government scientists. Would it make sense to do something similar for government scientists in the U.K.? I don’t have a sense that conflicts in this area have involved government-employed scientists as they have in the U.S. and Canada. But I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic to know for sure. Even if I wasn’t, and government scientists in the U.K. weren’t running into issues with how their superiors were ‘using’ their research, that doesn’t mean having some policies in place would be a bad idea. As always, it depends on the policies and their implementation.
Independent of any of the above nattering, the RCUK and its partners in the research integrity concordat are looking for comments by May 11. Those outside of the U.K. will have to be content with being spectators.