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A key component of sustaining and enhancing good practice in research is a healthy research culture. Research that is high quality and of high ethical standards requires the right environment in which to flourish.
The Concordat to Support Research Integrity states that:
A research environment that helps to develop good research practice and embeds a culture of research integrity should, as a minimum, include:
• clear policies, practices and procedures to support researchers
• suitable learning, training and mentoring opportunities to support the development of researchers
• robust management systems to ensure that policies relating to research, research integrity and researcher behaviour are implemented
• awareness among researchers of the standards and behaviours that are expected of them
• systems within the research environment that identify potential concerns at an early stage and mechanisms for providing support to researchers in need of assistance
There should also be no stigma attached to researchers who find that they are in need of assistance from their employers.
UKRIO has long recognised the importance of research environments that nurture good research practice and a culture of research integrity. It is essential that research institutions provide strong leadership to build a research environment that supports researchers throughout their careers in striving for robust research design and high ethical standards. While basic standards can appear to be straightforward, putting them into practice can be more challenging.
UKRIO’s work programme helps institutions and researchers to support research environments that are based on good governance, best practice, high ethical standards and support for the development of researchers. We have worked with bodies such as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Royal Society to explore what pressures researchers can face in unhealthy research environments and what a ‘good’ research culture might look like.
Our aim is to facilitate a culture of good research practice that does not micro-manage researchers, add bureaucracy or delays, or inhibit innovative or cross-disciplinary research.
Our activities in this area, aligning with the requirements of The Concordat to Support Research Integrity, include: leading awareness-raising sessions; assisting with the creation or revision of systems for research governance, management and ethics; training and development activities for researchers; and providing advice and support on how to embed a culture of research integrity with an institution.
UKRIO is collaborating with the Royal Society on a programme of work exploring the culture of scientific research in the UK.
In March 2018, UKRIO and the Royal Society co-hosted a roundtable workshop on research culture. Representatives from a variety of disciplines and research backgrounds discussed the impact of research culture on good research practice and how to inculcate an environment that fosters research integrity and high ethical standards.
UKRIO and the Royal Society have published the Integrity in Practice toolkit, a set of case studies showcasing examples of institutional and individual innovative and creative practice when it comes to promoting and encouraging research integrity. The aim is to demonstrate the many and varied ways that individuals and institutions are inspiring research integrity globally and to offer guidance and inspiration as to how these ideas could be implemented in other contexts.
In October 2018, we will be participating in the Royal Society’s two-day conference Research culture: changing expectations. This conference will showcase initiatives and work across the research landscape to continue to create and improve the cultural conditions and environments in which excellent research and researchers can flourish. The conference will be the culmination of the Royal Society’s two-year programme on research culture.