Introduction to research integrity at the University
The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity in its research, and places ethics and integrity at the heart of its decision making. As a component of this commitment, the University requires that all research projects undertaken under the auspices of the University observe a commitment to good research conduct as laid out in the Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity and the UK Research and Innovation Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research Conduct.
Actions and activities that have been undertaken to support research integrity at the University of Liverpool
The University has a number of frameworks, policies, and contacts relating to research integrity – the details of which are laid out in the later paragraphs within this statement.
During the 2021-2022 academic year, the University undertook three initiatives aimed at enhancing good research practice.
- In order to enhance awareness of research integrity, detailed ‘Research integrity expectation communications from the Pro-Vice-Chancellors’ were sent to all research active staff and students. These communications highlighted expectations and responsibilities for research integrity for all academic staff. In addition, the Research Integrity Team and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact gave oral presentations to the academic leadership of the Faculties which provided an opportunity for discussion on the steps that could be taken to enhance research integrity.
- The University has invested in a training package produced by Epigeum on research integrity that is used by multiple institutions across the sector. Undertaking this online training is now mandatory for all research and teaching related staff, as well as postgraduate students.
- The University appointed research integrity champions across the Institutes and Faculties.
Concluding reflections and new research integrity initiatives at the University of Liverpool
During the 2021-2022 academic year, the University has placed emphasis on the importance of enhancing awareness and training in research integrity. The University's initiatives relating to awareness and training are a first step to ensuring that all staff have an understanding of the importance of undertaking rigorous research that meets good practice standards.
However, there have been challenges. Completion rates for the research integrity training are lower than expected. This raises considerations about ways to enhance the effectiveness of communications aimed at encouraging the uptake of training.
Further, the volume of work in ethics and integrity has prevented progress on the ‘research integrity handbook of good practice’ that was envisioned in the previous year’s annual statement.
Issues are also emerging in relation to the understanding of responsibilities for research involving human tissue, and work is underway to understand and address the issues.
To help address the challenges that have been encountered, the University has appointed a number of ‘Research Integrity Leads within the Faculties. These leads will work with the University’s Named Person for Research Integrity and the Research Integrity and Ethics team.
A number of initiatives are also planned to enhance understanding of the requirements when working with human material, such as: human material-drop in events, tailored training workshops; revised policies and guidance etc.
It is hoped that these steps will provide an important contribution in promoting a positive culture of research integrity across the institution.
Who to contact to discuss research integrity, and the process for managing research misconduct at the University of Liverpool
The University’s Research Integrity and Governance Committee oversees the integrity of the University’s research on behalf of the University Council. The University’s ‘Named Person for Research Integrity’ (Professor Elizabeth Perkins, firstname.lastname@example.org) oversees the University’s research misconduct process, and provides a first point of contact for anyone wanting more information or to discuss concerns relating to research integrity.
How the institution creates and embeds a research environment in which all staff, researchers and students feel comfortable to report instances of misconduct
The University recognises that concerns relating to research integrity can be complex, challenging and highly sensitive; and can impact upon the emotional and mental wellbeing of those involved.
Any person wishing to raise concerns about the integrity of research being conducted under the auspices of the University can do so in confidence through the Named Person for Research Integrity by emailing email@example.com as part of the University’s ‘Policy on Misconduct in Research’. Concerns can also be raised initially at a local level within the institution via, or with the assistance of, an intermediary such as a Line Manager, Tutor or Supervisor, Head of School, Trade Union representative, Guild advice service representative, or colleague.
How the University of Liverpool implements our research integrity policies and procedures
The University has policies and procedures in place to ensure that research is conducted to the highest levels of ethics and integrity, and these are available on the research integrity webpages. The University recognises the importance of clear policies and guidelines in embedding a culture of integrity and ethics within research practices. Such documents support researchers in understanding and acting according to expected standards, values and behaviours.
The University’s Policy on Research Integrity outlines a framework to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with good research practice; while the University Policy on Research Ethics provides a framework to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with fundamental ethical principles.
The University’s Policy on Misconduct in Research outlines the procedure to be followed when there is an allegation of misconduct in research. This procedure has appropriate principles and mechanisms to ensure that investigations are thorough and fair, carried out in a transparent manner, and protected by appropriate confidentiality. Details of recent research misconduct investigations is provided in the Appendix below.
These policies are reviewed on a regular basis in light of experience to ensure that they meet the requirements of an evolving global research portfolio, and can be found on the University’s Research Integrity webpages.
Policies are made available to staff through the University webpages, and are referenced in staff and student handbooks. Further to this, communications on research ethics and integrity processes are made through the University's announcements system. Ethics and integrity are also a standing item on the University's Faculty Research Committees and Faculty Regulatory Affairs Committees.
Information about University research-related policies and procedures is generally disseminated at induction via departmental and course programme handbooks. Induction for research students will normally include guidance about avoiding plagiarism and a requirement to undertake the University’s online training in research ethics and research integrity.
The University of Liverpool’s research ethics framework
The University's research ethics process provides rigorous safeguards and reduces harm wherever possible for all those involved in the research process by ensuring that the research is subject to active consideration of the ethical issues that may arise. The research ethics framework provides a mechanism for researchers to demonstrate engagement with ethical issues, and the process supports researchers in designing research to a high ethical standard.
The University’s Research Ethics Committees are constituted and operate in accordance with the Economic and Social Research Council Framework for Research Ethics and include lay representation, as well as a broad range of discipline expertise.
The University regularly reviews its research ethics framework against the standards set out in Economic and Social Research Council Framework for Research Ethics, the Association for Research Ethics Framework for Research Ethics Committees and the Department of Health Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees.
The University’s Committee on Research Ethics continues to undertake a program of process improvement aimed at a further optimisation and strengthening of the research ethics process. During the previous years, this has included: the enhancement of the online system for the management of research ethics applications; the development of a research ethics teaching module; the creation of a research ethics decision tool; weekly research ethics drop in events; and the implementation of initiatives aimed at embedding awareness and expertise in research ethics across the institution.
Each year, the University receives details of a wide range of concerns relating to research integrity. The University considers such concerns under the framework of the Policy on misconduct in research.
A significant number of the concerns raised can be dealt with through competency, education, and training mechanisms. During the 2021-2022 academic year, over fourty research integrity issues raised through the Policy on misconduct in research were dealt with via these informal mechanisms at the Initial Assessment stage of the Policy.
Occasionally, concerns are investigated by a Screening Panel who determine whether there is sufficient evidence of misconduct in research to warrant a Formal Investigation; or whether the concerns raised are mistaken, frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious.
Some research integrity concerns which are uncovered require Formal Investigation by research misconduct panels as part of the later stages of the Policy on misconduct in research.
During the 2021-2022 academic session, there were two cases of potential misconduct in research which progressed to the ‘Screening Panel’ and ‘Formal Investigation’ stages of the University’s Policy on research misconduct. These cases concerned the alleged failure to give appropriate recognition to others involved in research activity.
Lessons learned from any formal investigations of research misconduct that have been undertaken
The University recognises the importance of using issues of research misconduct as important learning opportunities. Each research misconduct investigation concludes with a series of recommendations and lessons arising from the investigation. These recommendations are taken forward as part of the work of the University Research Integrity and Governance Committee; and a number of such recommendations have been described earlier in this statement.
The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity in its research, and places ethics and integrity at the heart of its decision making.University Strategy 2020
Research Ethics and Integrity Team
Back to: Research Integrity