Enablers and Inhibitors of Research Integrity

This week sees the launch of Enablers and Inhibitors of Research Integrity, a new addition to the evidence base for research integrity. The study, carried out by UKRIO in partnership with the UK Reproducibility Network and the Science Policy Research Unit of the University of Sussex, explores the evidence for systemic factors that may enable or inhibit research integrity and was commissioned by the UK Committee on Research Integrity.

Looking at academic and other literature, the study sets out evidence for suggestions and opportunities for interventions to promote research integrity in the UK. It found that publication pressures are viewed as systemic inhibitors of research integrity that can encourage questionable research practices (QRPs), with available data and expert opinion suggesting that QRPs are a far more prevalent issue for research integrity than fraud or data fabrication.

Mentorship from positive role models was identified as having positive effects on research integrity and there is good evidence that training can change knowledge and attitudes, though it does have its limitations.

The research also identified gaps in the evidence base. Most literature on research integrity relates to quantitative academic research, with underrepresentation of qualitative studies and research outside higher education. There is also a lack of evidence of the efficacy and effectiveness of research integrity interventions.

The report states that without changes to how research and researchers are evaluated, it will be hard to make substantive progress on issues such as QRPs, falsification, fabrication and plagiarism, and other researcher-level threats to research integrity. It notes that care must be taken with improvement measures – such as changes to metrics or study registration and dissemination – to ensure that these lead to desired outcomes and avoid incentivising box ticking or gaming the system.

The work of UKRIO is evidence-led and the report’s findings will inform our commitment to promoting good research practice and enhancing research culture in our workstreams for 2024/25 and beyond. As part of this, we will look at enablers and inhibitors of research integrity within topics such as AI and authorship. We will also examine what support we can provide to help the research community better measure research integrity standards and culture and, building on our recent report, Barriers to Investigating and Reporting Research Misconduct, publish a suite of information, advice, and guidance on investigating and reporting research misconduct.

James Parry, Chief Innovation Officer at UKRIO says:

“We are committed to using these findings to inform our work and ensure that integrity remains a cornerstone of research practices. Over the coming period, UKRIO will continue to work with project partners across the research ecosystem to address inhibitors to research integrity, while also safeguarding and enhancing its enablers.”

For more details, access the report here.