The University is required to confirm compliance with the Concordat to support research integrity, as a condition of receipt of funding. This requirement was introduced under HEFCE in 2013/14, as set out in the Circular Letter 21/2013 (Annex I - issued 24th July 2013).
‘The institution is required to comply with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity published by Universities UK in July 2012. Institutions in receipt of research grant from the Council are also required to provide assurance of their compliance with the Concordat through the annual assurance return to the Council and following any guidance that the Council may provide. For 2013-14 only, in recognition that compliance by some institutions may require a period of time to achieve, institutions in receipt of research grant from the Council may provide assurance either of their compliance, or that they are working towards compliance, with the Concordat.’
The primary purposes of this report are to provide the necessary assurance to University Council and for use as part of the Annual Assurance Return to the Office for Students. Secondary purposes include to:
This report follows the same format and updates the information provided in the 2021 report.
(Links marked with * are currently internal only)
Commitment 2: We are committed to ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards.
2.1 Comply with ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards as required by statutory and regulatory authorities, and by employers, funders and other relevant stakeholders
Employers of researchers must:
2.3 Having clear policies on ethical approval available to all researchers
2.4 Make sure that all researchers are aware of, and understand policies and processes relating to ethical approval
2.5 Supporting researchers to reflect best practice in relation to ethical, legal and professional requirements
2.6 Have appropriate arrangements in place through which researchers can access advice and guidance on ethical, legal and professional obligations and standards
Funders of research will expect researchers and employers of researchers:
2.7 through engagement with the signatories and other stakeholders, explore ways of streamlining their requirements to reduce duplication, inconsistency and/or conflict
Funders of research will:
2.8 ensure that their requirements are, through regular review, proportionate, relevant and consistent with the expectations of the concordat
2.9 incorporate proportionate checks, where appropriate, in the application and award processes related to legal and ethical requirements
2.10 only provide funding to organisations that can demonstrate that appropriate structures are in place to ensure research integrity in their research activities
2.11 clearly identify and indicate any specific codes of practice and other policies that researchers and employers of researchers are expected to comply with, beyond those that might be generally expected
Commitment #3: We are committed to supporting a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity and based on good governance, best practice and support for the development of researchers.
A research environment that helps to develop good research practice and embeds a culture of research integrity must, as a minimum, have:
a. clear policies, practices and procedures to support researchers
b. training on research ethics and research integrity with suitable learning, training and mentoring opportunities to support the development of researchers’ skills throughout their careers
c. robust management systems to ensure that policies relating to research, research integrity and researcher behaviour are implemented
d. awareness among researchers of the standards and behaviours that are expected of them
e. systems within the research environment that identify potential concerns at an early stage
f. mechanisms for providing support to researchers in need of assistance
g. policies in place that ensure that there is no stigma attached to researchers who find that they need assistance from their employer
h. clear processes for any staff member to raise concerns about research integrity
3.1 take responsibility for keeping their knowledge up to date on the frameworks, standards and obligations that apply to their work
3.2 collaborate to maintain a research environment that encourages research integrity
3.3 design, conduct and report research in ways that embed integrity and ethical practice throughout
Employers of researchers will:
3.4 embed these features in their own systems, processes and practices
a) clear policies, practices and procedures to support researchers
o Policies and support referenced throughout, see especially 1.4
b) training on research ethics and research integrity with suitable learning, training and mentoring opportunities to support the development of researchers’ skills throughout their careers
o Training and supervision for research students integrated into their programmes.
o All taught students engaged in central training on plagiarism and copyright; many also engaging in integrity and ethics training within undergraduate modules.
o New staff allocated a mentor prior to their appointment and mentoring available to existing staff seeking support for development. Mentors supported by training resources, and a mentoring network (with facilitation by an external coach).
o HR Excellence in Research award based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework and on the principles of the 2019 Research Concordat to support the career development of Research Staff.
o Research Integrity training for staff and PGR students is available for self-study:
o While this training is available to all staff, the courses are targeted primarily at PGRs and ECRs.
o Bespoke courses on Research Integrity for staff and students run by both DCAD and RIS, including one-off workshops and longer programmes such as ‘Leading Research’. In 2021/22 RIS ran a workshop on Ethics, Integrity and Responsible Research and Innovation for staff and students. Sessions focussed RRI are planned for the summer / early 2022/23 involving an external provider.
o Training provided by the library includes data management, IPR and copyright, metrics and open access.
c) Under the oversight of Research Culture Committee, work is in progress to develop a research training framework, identifying training needs and current provision, with a view to streamlining provision while providing appropriate opportunities for researchers at all stages of their career. To put in place robust management systems to ensure that policies relating to research, research integrity and researcher behaviour are implemented
o Governance for research activities provided by University Research Committee under the leadership of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research). Policy dissemination and review of practice carried out within Research Committee structures, including Faculty Research Committees (sub-committees of Research Committee) and department committees.
o Annual Development Reviews for staff address expected behaviours and matters of conduct.
o Poor conduct and misconduct managed through the relevant staff misconduct and student misconduct processes (general regulation IV).
o Robust approval process for funded research including relevant checks as set out in the Work
o with Outside Bodies Policy
o Adherence to University policy is a contractual obligation.
d) awareness among researchers of the standards and behaviours that are expected of them
o Standards are clearly stated in the Research Integrity Policy & Code of Good Practice, disaggregated into roles: Head of Department, PIs and Researchers.
o Departments generate discipline-specific supplementary guidance and the expected behaviours and relevant policies are disseminated at departmental forums such as board of studies.
o Durham University Staff code of Conduct which is applicable to all employees
e) systems within the research environment that identify potential concerns at an early stage
o Primary informal means to raise concerns is via mentoring and interaction within the research team. The University is supportive of a transparent and questioning research environment as reflected in its adoption of the Nolan principles of public life.
o Support staff provide early warning of any issues which may be indicative of other problems. These are reported to departmental management or via the PSS services (including a network for research support staff) and escalated as required.
o The University research systems provide an overview of research management and activities; reports can be used to identify atypical behaviours and patterns.
f) mechanisms for providing support to researchers in need of assistance
o mentoring and training as described above
o departments have their own mechanisms, and Research Policy Team in RIS act as central point of contact for queries
o the University has introduced a ‘staff concerns’ hub, signposting individuals to resources for support
g) policies in place that ensure that there is no stigma attached to researchers who find that they need assistance from their employer
o Mentoring and training opportunities are promoted to all and development and refresh of skills is encouraged. Policies to be reviewed to consider explicit statement.
h) clear processes for any staff member to raise concerns about research integrity
o Issues not resolved within a research group can be raised with the departmental Director of Research or with the Head of Department. These individuals are also responsible for ensuring that support and remedial measures for any issues are made available.
o Informal concerns can also be raised via Research Policy team in RIS
o Formal and confidential routes for issues to be identified are set out in
3.5 reflect recognised best practice in their own systems, processes and practices
3.6 implement the concordat within their research environment
3.7 participate in an annual monitoring exercise to demonstrate that the institution has met the commitments of the concordat
3.8 promote training and development opportunities to research staff and students, and encourage their uptake
3.9 identify a named senior member of staff to oversee research integrity and ensure that this information is kept up to date and publicly available on the institution’s website
3.10 identify a named member of staff who will act as a first point of contact for anyone wanting more information on matters of research integrity, and ensure that contact details for this person are kept up to date and are publicly available on the institution’s website
The first point of contact is the Research Policy Team (Catherine Brewer). The contact is given on the website here
Funders of research will
3.11 promote adoption of the concordat within the research community
3.12 support the implementation of the concordat through shared guidance, policies and plans
3.12 identify within their organisation a senior member of staff responsible for oversight of research integrity and ensure that this information is publicly available on the organisation’s website
3.13 identify within their organisation a named lead contact for research integrity, and ensure that contact details for this person are kept up to date and are publicly available on the organisation’s website
3.14 consider whether their policies and processes create disincentives for the creation and embedding of a positive research culture
3.15 work in partnership with employers and researchers to embed a culture of integrity within the research community
3.16 encourage adoption of the concordat by associating it with their funding conditions
Commitment #4: We are committed to using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct should they arise.
4.1 Act in good faith with regard to allegations of research misconduct, whether in making allegations or in being required to participate in an investigation, and take reasonable steps, working with employers as appropriate, to ensure the recommendations made by formal research misconduct investigation panels are implemented
4.2 Handle potential instances of research misconduct in an appropriate manner; this includes reporting misconduct to employers, funders and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies as circumstances require
4.3 Declare and act accordingly to manage conflicts of interest
Employers of researchers should:
4.4 Have clear, well-articulated and confidential mechanisms for reporting allegations of research misconduct
4.5 Have robust, transparent and fair processes for dealing with allegations of misconduct that reflect best practice. This includes the use of independent external members of formal investigation panels, and clear routes for appeal (see the references section)
4.6 Ensure that all researchers and other members of staff are made aware of the relevant contacts and procedures for making allegations
4.7 Act with no detriment to whistleblowers making allegations of misconduct in good faith, or in the public interest, including taking reasonable steps to safeguard their reputation. This should include avoiding the inappropriate use of legal instruments, such as non-disclosure agreements
4.8 take reasonable steps to resolve any issues found during the investigation. This can include imposing sanctions, requesting a correction of the research record and reporting any action to regulatory and statutory bodies, research participants, funders or other professional bodies as circumstances, contractual obligations and statutory requirements dictate.
4.9 take reasonable steps to safeguard the reputation of individuals who are exonerated
4.10 Provide information on investigations of research misconduct to funders of research and to professional and/or statutory bodies as required by their conditions of grant and other legal, professional and statutory obligations.
4.11 Support their researchers in providing appropriate information when they are required to make reports to professional and/or statutory bodies
4.12 Provide a named point of contact or recognise an appropriate third party to act as confidential liaison for whistle-blowers or any other person wishing to raise concerns about the integrity of research being conducted under their auspices. This need not be the same person as the member of staff identified to act as first point of contact on research integrity matters, as recommended under commitment 3.
4.13 Publish clear expectations of what constitutes research misconduct
4.14 Ensure that recipients of funding are aware of requirements regarding the investigation and reporting of research misconduct, and that these are openly stated
4.15 work with employers of researchers to manage funding appropriately, including any staff supported by an affected project
4.16 treat all allegations with confidentiality and abide by data protection laws with respect to data management
4.17 take appropriate action when research misconduct is reported to them. In the most serious case, this could include funding sanctions or mandatory improvements
Commitment #5: We are committed to working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly.
Employers of research will
5.1 take steps to ensure that their environment promotes and embeds a commitment to research integrity, and that suitable processes are in place to deal with misconduct
5.2 produce a short annual statement, which must be presented to their own governing body, and subsequently be made publicly available, ordinarily through the institution’s website. This annual statement must include:
a) A summary of actions and activities that have been undertaken to support and strengthen understanding and application of research integrity issues (for example postgraduate and researcher training, or process reviews)
b) A statement to provide assurance that the processes they have in place for dealing with allegations of misconduct are transparent, timely, robust and fair, and that they continue to be appropriate to the needs of the organisation
c) A high-level statement on any formal investigations of research misconduct that have been undertaken, which will include data on the number of investigations. If no formal investigation has been undertaken, this should also be noted
d) a statement on what the institution has learned from any formal investigations of research misconduct that have been undertaken, including what lessons have been learned to prevent the same type of incident re-occurring
e) a statement on how the institution creates and embeds a research environment in which all staff, researchers and students feel comfortable to report instances of misconduct
a. Included against each commitment of the concordat
b. Included under commitment 4
c. Included under commitment 4
d. Included under commitment 4
e. Included under commitment 4
5.4 Periodically review their processes to ensure that these remain ‘fit for purpose’
See 1.8 and 2.8
periodically review their policies and grant conditions to ensure that they support good practice in research integrity
periodically review their processes and practices to ensure that these are not providing inappropriate incentives
This is addressed as part of the regular policy review
Areas for Development 2021/22 - Progress
The following were highlighted in the 2021 report.
Areas for development
Complete revision of Research Misconduct and Research Integrity policies
Complete, revised policies due for approval.
Streamline and consolidate conflicts of interest processes/registers under a single conflicts of interest policy
Not progressed due to lack of time.
Review RI and ethics toolkits as part of the web migration
In progress – review of current pages complete and areas for update identified. Development of revised toolkits will be supported by an intern in 2022/23
Develop Research Governance dashboard to provide a one-stop overview of relevant risk areas.
In progress – further definition of approach and question set; decision taken to develop this separately to the ethics system.
Upgrade/replace ethics system
In progress – awaiting confirmation of chosen supplier following tender process
Approve training framework and begin implementation.
Expanded scope of this work to all research training – review of current provision and gap analysis in progress and will be supported by an intern in 2022/23. In the interim, the latest Epigeum Research Integrity modules have been purchased and made available to staff and students.
Develop lay members forum
Approval of Research Integrity Policy to ensure that concordat expectations are explicitly reflected
Due for final approval in October 2022.
Embed and utilise Research Culture Committee in other institution structures, facilitating a greater understanding of RI challenges, supporting the development and delivery of an action plan
In progress – a wide-ranging consultation process is taking place to develop the institutional vision and priorities for Research Culture. Research Culture Committee has been engaged in commenting on draft policies and developments including developments to the Promotion and Progression process.
Areas for Development 2022/23
The following areas have been highlighted as being areas in which University practice, or in some cases recording, could be improved. Progress against these will be reported in the 2021 Assurance report.
Areas of development
Streamline and consolidate conflicts of interest processes/registers under a single conflicts of interest policy
Put in place updated ethics and RI toolkits
1.4, 2.1, 2.5
1.4, 1.6, 2.1, 2.4, 3.4
Implement new online ethics system
Develop research training framework
Develop university vision for open scholarship
RCC – Open Scholarship Group
Develop programme of awareness raising for ethics and governance requirements
2.2, 2.4, 3.4