Annual statement on Research Integrity

 

2018 - 2019

Introduction

 

The University's Strategy outlines our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity in its research, and places ethics and integrity at the heart of its decision making.

 

The University’s Research Governance Committee oversees the integrity of the University’s research practices on behalf of the University’s Senior Management team. In the capacity of ‘Named Person’ for research integrity at the University, the Chair of the Research Governance Committee provides a first point of contact for anyone wanting more information on matters of research integrity.

 

Any person wishing to raise concerns about the integrity of research being conducted under the auspices of the University can do so through the Named Person (integrity@liverpool.ac.uk) as part of the University’s Policy on misconduct in research.

 

This statement forms part of the University’s commitment to strengthen the integrity of the University’s research.

 

Statement

 

Policies and procedures

The University has policies and procedures in place to ensure that research is conducted to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. 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 misconduct in research outlines the procedure to be followed when there is an allegation or discovery of potential misconduct in research. This procedure has appropriate principles and mechanisms to ensure that investigations are thorough and fair, carried out in a transparent and timely manner, and protected by appropriate confidentiality measures.

 

The University’ Policy on research integrity provides a framework to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with good research practice; while the Research ethics policy provides a framework to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with fundamental ethical principles.

 

The University's Human Material Research Policy outlines the requirements for maintaining the highest standards of respect, care and integrity in regard to its holdings of human samples.

 

These policies are reviewed on an annual basis to ensure they meet the requirements of an evolving global research portfolio, and can be found on the University’s Research Integrity webpages.

 

The University recognises the importance of having clear policies on research ethics and research integrity available to all researchers. Policies are made available to staff through the University webpages and are referenced in staff and student handbooks. Further to this, communications on the University's research ethics and integrity processes are made through the University's announcements system. Research ethics and integrity are also standing items on the University's Faculty Research Committees and Faculty Regulatory Affairs Committees.

 

Information about University research-related policies and procedures is disseminated at induction via departmental and course programme handbooks. Induction for research students will include guidance on avoiding plagiarism and signposting to the University’s online training resources for research ethics and integrity.

 

Policies relating to research ethics and research integrity are usually reviewed annually. During the last year, the University has produced Guidance on authorship practices to help researchers further understand authorship expectations. Additionally, a GDPR and research note was produced following the introduction of the Data Protection Act 2018.

 

Research integrity activities

The University seeks to ensure that all researchers are aware of and understand the policies and principles relating to ethics and integrity. It is recognised that multiple initiatives must be adopted to strengthen the understanding and engagement with research ethics and integrity issues.

 

The University has purchased training modules on research integrity and ethics, which form a mandatory part of the University's induction training for all research and teaching related staff; and a mandatory part of submissions for applications for research ethics review. Appropriate training is essential to embedding integrity and ethics within the research environment. This training is supported by ad-hoc presentations, workshops, and occasional guest speakers. During the last year, the University held workshops for research ethics reviewers, staff and students working with human material, and further workshops are planned over the next few months.

 

The University is a member and regular attendee of the Russell Group Research Integrity forum, which meets to discuss mechanisms to embed a culture of integrity within higher education institutions. This forum provides important learning experiences and examples of activities which the University can learn from in its efforts to support and strengthen the framework for upholding research integrity across the institution.

 

Research Ethics

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 any 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 standards.

 

The University regularly reviews its research ethics framework against the standards set out in the 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 Research Ethics Committees are constituted and operate in accordance with the ESRC framework standards and include lay representation, as well as a broad range of discipline expertise.

 

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 year, this has included extensive work with our Faculties to develop understanding of ethical issued and to enhance the quality of engagement with research ethics across the institution through: the delivery of training workshops; the production of guidance on various aspects of good practice in research ethics; and the enhancement of the online system for research ethics.

 

Conclusion

During the last year, the University has undertaken various activities to embed a culture of research integrity. A strengthened suite of guidance documentation relating to research integrity complements the processes and structures, and is supported by mandatory training in research ethics and integrity.

 

The University looks forward to building on these efforts through the continuation of training in research integrity, through ongoing initiatives to raise aware of research integrity and through a review of current initiatives in light of the requirements of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity and good practice within the Higher Education sector. It is hoped that these steps provide an important contribution in promoting a positive culture of research integrity across the institution.

 

Appendix

Details of potential research misconduct investigations which have progressed to the Formal Investigation stage: 

 

Number of formal investigations completed

Number of allegations upheld    (in whole or in part)

 

Oct 2015 - Sept 2016

Oct 2016 - Sept 2017

Oct 2017 - Sept 2018

Oct 2015  - Sept 2016

Oct 2016 - Sept 2017

Oct 2018 - Sept 2019

Fabrication

0

0

1***

0

0

1***

Falsification

0

0

1***

0

0

1***

Plagiarism

0

0

0

0

0

0

Misrepresentation

0

0

1***

0

0

1***

Breach of duty of  care

0

1**

0

0

1**

0

Improper dealing with allegations of misconduct

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other

(authorship dispute)

1*

0

0

1*

0

0

Details of any allegations upheld in part

*Please see below

**Please see below

0

*Please see below

**Please see below

0

* The University launched an investigation into possible research misconduct following concerns raised over the accuracy and authorship practices of a research paper related to health. The investigation addressed the possible failure to give appropriate recognition to others involved in research activity. This investigation concluded that research misconduct had occurred as the authorship practices deviated unacceptably from current accepted practice in carrying out research.

** The University investigated concerns relating to the alleged lack of research ethics approval in place for a student module which involved the collection of data from human participants. The investigation concluded that there had been a deviation from accepted good practice in carrying out research due to the failure to follow process and acquire the required favourable opinion from the appropriate Ethics Committee for the research conducted as part of the module.

*** The University investigated an allegation of misconduct in research relating to the fabrication of data for published studies investigating prognostic disease biomarkers. The panel unanimously agreed that the allegations of misconduct in research are upheld.