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Concordat for Research Integrity – Public Statement 2021 

Durham University is a world-leading research-intensive University. We recognise the essential role that research integrity has in facilitating high quality research and ensuring the trust and engagement of our staff, partners, stakeholders and the public. We see research integrity as a core element of both personal action and University culture, which supports us to excel in delivering world leading research, impact and teaching.  We also recognise that research integrity involves an ongoing process and that we need to continue to review, evolve and improve our behaviours and the policies, practices and processes that underpin this process. These is especially true as our research and partnerships become more complex, collaborative and international. The statement below outlines Durham University’s approach to research integrity, the actions taken in the last twelve months and activities we’ve identified to improve our approach. The statement maps to the commitments in the Concordat to support research integrity.

Commitment #1: We are committed to upholding the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research.

The University continues to be committed to upholding high standards of integrity and rigour across its full research portfolio. This includes for student, staff and subcontractors across the full disciplinary spread. Responsibilities for research integrity are set out in the Policy and Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

The Research Integrity and Misconduct policies have both been reviewed and updated drafts prepared in the light of the revised Concordat. These are scheduled to be taken through the appropriate approval processes in 2021/22.The Vice –Provost (Research) is now supported by a Deputy whose role includes responsibility for shaping a vision for, and the effective delivery of, a ‘world class Research Culture’.We have started the development of a training framework, mapping our existing provision to the needs of various staff groups, identifying current provision and gaps. In 2021/22 we intend to relaunch our training in this area – supporting multichannel delivery.

Commitment #2: We are committed to ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards.

Durham University’s expectations regarding ethical review and approval are established in our Ethics Policy, supported by an Ethics Toolkit and online ethics system which reference other key governance requirements and standards, including health and safety and data management.

We have begun a thorough review of the online ethics system, looking at a range of alternative solutions and development options, with a view to implementing a new system with enhanced functionality during 2021/22.Following an internal audit of our arrangements for work involving human tissue, we have developed an online system to hold information on biological samples to facilitate compliance with the Human Tissue Act. The system will also hold information with other genetic resources relevant to the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing, and will assist researchers in determining when the protocol applies.  The system will be launched early in the new academic year.A review is being carried out of the use of online platforms for recruiting individuals as research participants or for other contributions to research e.g. image tagging, with a view to developing best practice guidance and recommendations on appropriate platforms.The University has strengthened its commitment to lay involvement in the review of projects. Creating a role descriptor and clarifying the points at which they must be involved. In 2021/22 we expect to formally launch a lay community and support programme.

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.

In 2021, the University established a new Research Culture Committee to support a ‘fair, transparent and positive culture for all those involved in research’. It takes over the remit of the former Concordat Implementation Group, including development and support of our responses to the Research Integrity Concordat and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.  The committee includes academic representation from all faculties, as well as a post-doctoral researcher, PhD student, and representatives of relevant support services.  The committee met for the first time in May 2021, and will develop an action plan to address areas for improvement. This work will take place in the context of work on wider University culture which is being led by the Respect Working Group, following on from the report of the Respect Commission in July 2020.To coincide with the launch of Research Culture Committee, the University is holding a series of Research Culture Cafes, providing a forum for researchers to discuss related issues and concerns. Two sessions have been held to date, and further sessions are being planned for the autumn.We have started work on an integrated governance review that aims to support researchers to identify high risk areas in their work and access timely, accurate and specialist advice to design and run their projects in the most effective way.

Commitment #4: We are committed to using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct when they arise.

The Research Misconduct policy clearly outlines the processes, roles and expected behaviours of all those involved in an allegation of research misconduct and subsequent investigation. 

Cognisant that increasing numbers of projects are more complex and involve stakeholders and other bodies the University is considering  appropriate mechanisms for handling and investigating allegations of poor behaviour /misconduct which involves individuals who are neither members of the University nor formal partners.The University will adopt the Russell Group Research Culture and Environment toolkit to improve and promote its research environment

Commitment #5: We are committed to working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly.

We are committed to working with other institutions to share expertise, resources and best practice through forums including the Russell Group Integrity Forum, North East Ethics and Integrity Group and UKRIO.