Barriers to Investigating and Reporting Research Misconduct

Between January 2023 and March 2024, the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) convened a working group to explore what barriers there may be to investigating and reporting research misconduct. Although our primary aim was to better understand such barriers to enable UKRIO to more effectively advise and guide matters relating to research misconduct, we believe our findings are relevant to all those in the research ecosystem.

The findings are published in UKRIO’s report, Barriers to Investigating and Reporting Research Misconduct. The report summarises our key reflections and planned actions, alongside broader proposals for UK research employers, funders, and Government to tackle these issues and wider tensions within the research ecosystem which hinder the investigation and reporting of research misconduct.

This is intended to trigger further dialogue in the UK and internationally, rather than to be taken as a comprehensive review of the issues or a complete set of solutions. Misconduct happens in every profession. When it does, there is a duty to ensure it is addressed and communicated appropriately. We hope this work will allow UKRIO and the wider research community to work more closely together to get a better measure of how much research misconduct is taking place and take steps to prevent, investigate, and report it. In doing so, our hope is to minimise the prevalence of research misconduct and its wider societal impact.


Key themes and proposed actions

In engaging with research employers, research funders, researchers, and publishers on their views of the barriers to addressing research misconduct, it is apparent that while the way in which issues are experienced differ, there are common themes at the root:

  • the need for every actor involved to have clarity on the relevant procedures and processes;
  • confidence that these procedures will be followed (and the relevant parties have the appropriate skills, resources and information to do so);
  • and wider shifts in research culture which destigmatises research misconduct, promotes transparency, and ensures the task at hand – to uphold the research record – remains at the heart of investigating and reporting efforts.

These findings have clear import for UKRIO. As a national charity established with the express purpose of promoting good research practice and preventing misconduct in the UK, it is incumbent on our organisation to hear and respond to the needs of the sector. Arising from these findings are clear areas of work for UKRIO to action, including:

  • Providing guidance to address key tensions and perceived barriers relating to investigating and reporting on research misconduct
  • Convening research funders and employers to discuss the development and adoption of a consistent set of expectations, process, and policies relating to research misconduct 
  • Developing training for those undertaking research misconduct investigations
  • Promoting efforts to destigmatise allegations of research misconduct and to encourage early reporting – in the first instance, by updating our Procedure for the Investigation of Misconduct in Research and inputting into the upcoming revision of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, but also working to promote culture change through the research sector more broadly  
  • Continuing to investigate the underlying issues that contribute to bad research practices and fraud and identify and support good practice to address these

However, no one actor can tackle the barriers to investigating research misconduct or single-handedly devise a solution. As such, we are committed to working with the wider research community and Government on four key proposals identified by our working group to respond to the challenges within our current system:

  1. The research community should adopt a standardised set of requirements and procedures detailing how allegations of research misconduct are investigated and reported, including the feasibility of a universal standard for reporting to funders.
  2. Professional research misconduct investigation training should be implemented across the UK in all sectors undertaking research.
  3. The research community should adopt a flagging system or model that promotes transparency, destigmatises allegations of research misconduct, and normalises early raising of concerns.
  4. Government should develop the infrastructure needed to collect and report on research misconduct cases nationally. This would not only enable a better understanding of its prevalence and underlying drivers, but also facilitate monitoring and evaluation of any processes, procedures, or training adopted.


The report is available here.

We welcome your thoughts and comments on this report, please get in touch with us via email.



If you are looking for further resources on research misconduct please look here


Confidential advice

We welcome enquiries on any issues relating to the conduct of research, whether promoting good research practice, seeking help with a particular research project or advice on investigating cases of alleged fraud and misconduct. Get confidential and impartial advice from UKRIO here


This page was last updated on 20/05/2024