RCUK research integrity plans are watered down

The concept of a national body for research integrity with powers to investigate allegations of misconduct has been dealt a blow after universities showed little appetite for it.

The idea was mooted in a consultation document launched last July by Research Councils UK on how to improve the conduct of research. But in light of the sector's responses, RCUK has shied away from the idea. It said there were concerns that such a body would be "trespassing" upon employer responsibilities.

Plans for a single national body still stand, but only to offer advice and guidance. Primary responsibility for dealing with misconduct cases would "rightly" be left to institutions, RCUK said.

"We are having some discussions with Universities UK about what sort of body there should be, but we are not suggesting a ... regulatory or investigatory (one)," Glyn Davies, convenor of the RCUK's Good Research Conduct Group, told Times Higher Education.

He said the new body, which could come into effect as early as the end of this year, would combine the work of the UK Research Integrity Office and RCUK on the issue.

It may also collect data to determine the extent of systemic problems and - more controversially - keep a central record of proven cases of misconduct.

"This is something that should be reported (and) available to other employers. We need to work out a system for doing that," he said.

The near-final draft of a research misconduct policy has also been released by RCUK. It includes definitions of what is and is not acceptable and guidelines for how universities should investigate cases, recommending that they should not be terminated just because the individuals involved resign.

Aubrey Blumsohn, a campaigner for greater openness in research conduct, dismissed the plans.

"Experience from a multitude of cases has rudely shattered the idea that it will ever be possible for institutions to investigate themselves ... It is a bit like using a condom with hundreds of holes (in it) and calling it safe sex."

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Woman taking homeopathic medicine

Alternative treatments in healthcare plan is latest in a series of homeopathy-related controversies

  • Man lying beneath rugby pile-up

Six academics share their experiences before delivering a verdict on the system

  • Zygmunt Bauman with hand over mouth

Eminent sociologist has recycled 90,000 words of material across a dozen books, claims paper

  • Foot about to step on banana peel

Kevin Haggerty and Aaron Doyle offer tips on making postgraduate study even tougher (which students could also use to avoid pitfalls if they prefer)

Phil Baty explains why hundreds of research papers will not be considered when compiling the next Times Higher Education rankings