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Devised by the UK Government, Universities UK and major funding agencies, the Concordat to Support Research Integrity sets out five commitments that those engaged in research should make to help ensure that the highest standards of rigour and integrity are maintained. These key commitments apply to researchers, their employers and funding bodies alike. The major funders of research and universities in the UK now require compliance with the Concordat as a condition of their grants.
The Concordat rightly allows for flexibility in how its commitments are implemented – it does not set out a restrictive ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, it can be challenging to put high-level statements on research standards into practice and many institutions and researchers have asked UKRIO for advice.
UKRIO has developed a Self-Assessment Tool to help institutions identify areas of their research practices, policies, researcher development and monitoring that may need revision in order to comply with the Concordat. It also goes further than helping with compliance, allowing institutions to consider how they might carry out a broad implementation of the Concordat, building on their existing activities.
Our Self-Assessment Tool poses self-assessment questions for institutions, each mapped onto one or more commitments of the Concordat. For each question, this document also introduces practical ways in which they might be met under the heading ‘possible evidence’. An annex discusses what might be included in an annual institutional statement on research integrity, a key recommendation of the Concordat.
Guidance is given on every aspect of the Concordat but particular attention has been paid to areas where UKRIO has most often been approached for guidance, in the hope of passing on lessons learned to the research community. Use of the self-assessment questions will not only help with the implementation of the Concordat, but also enhance an institution’s overall approach to research integrity and help ensure that important issues have not been overlooked.
Our aim is not to suggest a ‘one size fits all’ approach or impose inflexible solutions. Rather, we hope that this self-assessment tool will help institutions consider how the Concordat can best be implemented in their particular settings, and how it might be used to promote and sustain research integrity.
As organisations develop their research practices to implement the Concordat, and funding bodies develop processes to assess compliance, we expect this self-assessment tool to evolve. The intent is that it will be a ‘living document’, subject to periodic review and revision to reflect emerging best practice in this area.
Universities UK’s 2016 progress report on the Concordat praised the help provided by our Self-Assessment Tool and other resources:
‘…the most oft-cited resources that institutional leads on research integrity drew on were those provided by the UK Research Integrity Office, with both the ‘hard’ guidance available through UKRIO (such as model policies and processes) and the ‘soft’ support (such as informal advice and the annual conference) being highly valued.’
A university representative commented in the report:
“The Concordat, the [UKRIO] Code of Practice for Research and the [UKRIO] Self-Assessment Tool […] have, together, provided a comprehensive set of tools with which to understand and promote research integrity within the institution.”