Together we are beating cancer

Donate now
  • For Researchers

Research with integrity – making a statement

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | Analysis

23 January 2024

1 comment 1 comment

Integrity

More than just a hoop to jump through, creating an annual statement on research integrity can give you invaluable insight into your integrity activities says Catherine Winchester. Here we find out just what these statements are, and how best to put them together and use them…

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Research Integrity


As we start a new year it’s time for me to reflect on the actions we’ve taken at the CRUK Scotland Institute (formerly the CRUK Beatson Institute) to ensure we conduct robust and high quality cancer research.  And to summarise these actions in an annual statement on research integrity.

So, what is an annual statement on research integrity?

The annual statement on research integrity is a mandated high-level report under the Concordat to support research integrity summarising the activities that UK research organisations have undertaken to promote, facilitate and support best research practices.

It includes numerical data on any research misconduct investigations that have been conducted. In addition, organisations use the statement as a positive opportunity to highlight lessons learned, areas for improvement and actions in development, as well as a demonstration of their commitment to research integrity and compliance with the Concordat to support research integrity.

Commitment 5 of the Concordat to support research integrity states that employers of research will produce a short annual statement, which must be presented to their own governing body, made publicly available on the institution’s website and sent to the secretariat of the Concordat signatories.

The statement must include the following:

  • A summary of actions and activities that have been undertaken to support and strengthen understanding and the application of research integrity issues.
  • A statement to provide assurance that the processes the institution has 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.
  • 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.
  • A statement on what the institution has learned from any formal investigations of research misconduct that have been undertaken, including with lessons have been learned to prevent the same type of incident re-occurring.
  • 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.

Who produces an annual statement on research integrity, and why?

Annual statements on research integrity should be produced by all UK research organisations.

Back in 2012, the first iteration of the Concordat recommended the publishing of a short summary on research integrity activities and misconduct investigations. However, adoption of this proposal was not widespread, with statement content being variable and often not very comprehensive. Indeed, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s 2018 inquiry into research integrity reported that only about half of University UK members had published an annual statement between 2015 and 2017. Universities voiced concern over confidentiality and drawing attention to problematic research.

This changed when in 2019, the revised Concordat was published. It mandated that all employers of researchers and the Concordat’s signatories had to produce an annual statement on research integrity. As a funder of research, CRUK became a signatory in 2021 and since then has published three annual statements on its website.

Our Annual Research Integrity Statements

As a signatory to the 2019 Concordat to Support Research Integrity, we publish annual narrative statements summarising our activities to strengthen research integrity in line with the Concordat.

2022 CRUK Research Integrity Statement

2020-2021 CRUK Research Integrity Statement

2019-2020 CRUK Research Integrity Statement

What does an annual statement on research integrity say?

We have progressed from the early days of brief summaries and concerns over confidentiality or perceived negative connotations to the publication of detailed narrative annual statements. These now encompass areas such as:

  • Institutional strategies for fostering positive research cultures.
  • Training in best practices.
  • Research integrity policies.
  • Awareness-raising, monitoring and auditing.
  • Sector engagement.
  • Processes for dealing with allegations of research misconduct and conducting investigations.
  • Reflections on how these experiences are used to continually improve research practices.

I have written four annual statements for the CRUK Scotland Institute and used guidance from UKRIO to structure them. I have found putting the annual statements together to be invaluable for considering and consolidating our research integrity activities over the year, identifying examples of good practice, and determining gaps in our practice and potential areas to develop and focus on in the following year.

Why might you want to read your organisation’s annual statement on research integrity?

I think the statements demonstrate how organisations embed research integrity practices and what policies underpin these activities. They also provide a very good starting point for directing you to what support and training are available.

In addition, transparency over investigating allegations of research misconduct enables you to evaluate how important research integrity is to an organisation, giving you confidence that research integrity is at the forefront of their strategic priorities.

Can annual statements tell us anything about research standards in the UK?

The UK Committee on Research Integrity (UKCORI) and the Concordat signatories wanted to answer this question and appointed Research Consulting to survey the UK’s 134 higher education institutions that receive funding from UKRI.

Research Consulting’s report, published in July 2023, showed that the majority of these organisations now produce an annual statement and that they “consider research integrity to be a strategic priority”. Analysis of statements showed that whilst organisations are increasing their research integrity activities, these are heterogeneous and context dependent. They also found that the content of annual statements had been left up to individual organisations.

Other key findings were that organisations are incorporating discussions on research culture and lessons learned from research misconduct investigations into their research integrity activities, and that support and training is mainly focused on early career researchers.  However, this analysis was complicated by the lack of a consistent structure and format to annual statements, as each institution could determine their own approach to writing them.

Next steps for annual statements on research integrity

This diverse information in narrative annual statements prompted the Concordat signatories to pilot the use of a template to standardise reporting and to strengthen the focus on sharing good practice. The template, produced on behalf of the Concordat signatories by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) divides the report into sections along with guidance on completing them.

 A template for your annual statement on research integrity

Section 1: Key contact information

Section 2A: Description of current systems and culture

Section 2B: Changes and developments during the period under review

Section 2C: Reflections on progress and plans for future developments

Section 2D: Case study on good practice

Section 3A: Statement on processes that the organisation has in place for dealing with allegations of misconduct

Section 3B: Information on investigations of research misconduct that have been undertaken

It’s going to be interesting to see how widely the template is used, whether it increases readership of the statements and awareness of research integrity in the UK’s research organisations. These are just some of the questions the Concordat’s signatories are considering and will be gathering data on over the next year.

Personally, I think the template is a really useful tool. I like the section-by-section steer on how to structure the content and the depth of information to include.

The template gives more prominence to research culture than our previous statements, which required me to get input from the Head of HR (now the Head of People and Culture) and the Head of Research Management. This was very helpful – it made me think about how areas such as EDI, sustainability, and researcher evaluation can impact research integrity and how I might incorporate more about research culture into the CRUK Scotland Institute’s research integrity service.

Detailed reporting on allegations of research misconduct and investigations is still potentially contentious, and clarity is needed to interpret different organisations’ definitions and investigation procedures while ensuring confidentiality.

Despite the template taking longer to complete than producing your own version, I think it is a positive step for the annual statements and will certainly foster consistent reporting across organisations. I will be using it to write my 2023 annual statement. So, watch this space!

Dr Catherine Winchester

Author

Dr Catherine Winchester

Catherine is senior research adviser – grants and research integrity at the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute

    Comments

  • Eleanor Adams
    14 February 2024

    Great work as always Catherine! Brilliant to read about your experience. We’re working on ours at the moment.

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.

    Comments

  • Eleanor Adams
    14 February 2024

    Great work as always Catherine! Brilliant to read about your experience. We’re working on ours at the moment.

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.