Summary of responses on the draft Research Misconduct procedure in May 2022.
The consultation on the model procedure was held from April – June 2022. UKRIO received 23 responses including comments. Each response was considered in detail. The document is long and complex, and we are very grateful for the significant amount of time that colleagues spent reading and commenting on the procedure – it is a much-improved document as a result.
This is a summary of the main substantive areas on which responses were received and to which we have responded. We have retained notes of changes made, so if you have any queries on any areas you don’t consider we have addressed fully then please get in contact. As a result of the feedback, we have also prepared a summary of areas that we are considering for further guidance and supporting material, for complainants, respondents and Research Integrity Officers/Named Persons. This is appended to this document, and we would welcome feedback on which areas would be most useful and should be prioritised.
Receipt of allegations
The draft did not include an option to dismiss an allegation at the receipt of allegations stage. The reason for this was that UKRIO receives significant numbers of enquiries from complainants unhappy that their allegation has been dismissed at a very early stage, often without, from their perspective, due consideration and explanation. We have now included this following feedback from respondents to the survey, along with a text box about the importance of good communication at this point. UKRIO accepts that some allegations do need to be dismissed at this stage and not referred elsewhere but notes that for many complainants this is the only option to raise a matter, they may do it after a lot of thought, and have strongly held views on the matter they are raising. The text box notes that where institutions dismiss a matter at this stage it is helpful to ensure that you provide a good clear response to the person who has raised the matter. There is after all no external body that an individual can refer a matter to, so full communication is important.
Length of Model Procedure
We received comments indicating that the Procedure is too long and repetitive. This has been taken on board some repetition has been removed, but new information based on feedback received has also been included, so overall it has not significantly changed in length. We consider it important to be as comprehensive as possible and to include some repetition to avoid constant cross-referral. This is a document aimed primarily at specialists, i.e. RIOs and Named Persons, and institutions can adapt the procedure contents to suit their needs and institutional culture.
We have prepared summary guidance and information that will hopefully be useful to those who don’t need to refer to the whole model procedure. There is however a lot to take on board in a procedure such as this, so it will inevitably remain long.
UKRIO asked a question about where the appeals section should sit, either before or after the outcome and further action section. A significant majority of responses preferred the section to remain where it is rather than move to before outcomes and reporting, so it has remained there. We have made some changes to the appeals section including removing the Named Person as the person running the procedure at this stage, following comments received.
Several respondents indicated that the timescales were too short. They are indicative, to try to ensure a balance between moving matters along in a timely way and allowing full consideration of the issues. Research Organisations should include timescales that are appropriate for them. We believe that including timescales does help ensure that investigations progress in a timely manner – another comment sometimes received from complainants and respondents is that matters take a long time to investigate.
Other areas added and modified
- We have included information on the importance of considering matters relating to equality, diversion;
- We have also added notes on ensuring the wellbeing of all involved, including the staff managing the procedure;
- The initial investigation process has been streamlined to make it somewhat lighter and distinguish it more clearly from the full investigation stage.
Related work and suggestions for further guidance
- Short guide to research misconduct for those not familiar with the terms and processes, what it is and the types of issues it covers, to include a flow chart – note: flow chart to be published shortly.
- Guidance for complainants and respondents -note: this is in progress and will be published shortly.
- Advice and guidance for RIOs and Named Persons - Access to individuals/organisations with specific expertise, such as a database of experts. This might include, for example, forensic investigations of personal computers and image manipulation expertise.
- A UKRIO version of the Russell Group statement on Collaboration with other institutions, to enable collaboration with, or passing information to, other organisations over investigations, particularly taking account of data protection legislation and employment law.
- Guidance on how to proceed where an allegation is found to be true after an individual has left, including the responsibility of institutions to notify as appropriate.
- Guidance on retention of research misconduct records.
- Separate policy on scope and standards including setting out what other types of processes might be appropriate where the research misconduct is not the right one.
- Suggestion for a template report for the receipt of allegations stage.
- Referral for fitness to practice (either at this or later stages, for example following a finding of research misconduct).
- ‘The standards by which allegations of misconduct in research should be judged should be those prevailing at the date that the behaviour under investigation took place.’ It has been suggested that UKRIO produce some guidance on this area.
- Recruitment of external membership to a full investigation panel and assessing their suitability.
- Guidance on the implications of data protection legislation (and employment law; cf. paragraph 180) for research misconduct investigations, including the sharing of information with other institutions/organisations during and after an investigation (e.g. new or prospective new employers).
- Guidance on managing timescales and avoiding delays in investigations.
- Advice on assessing vexatious or malicious complaints and difference between that and frivolous.
Completed February 2023