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UK sets out guidance on research misconduct

The US has its Office of Research Integrity (ORI), and many Nordic countries (for example, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) have national bodies that respond to cases of scientific misconduct; but the UK, and very many other countries, have nothing similar. Now the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) has released guidance about what to do in cases of suspected research misconduct for “all organisations engaged in research using funds from funders such as the Research Councils and other government bodies, as well as from charities, overseas funding bodies and the commercial sector”. A PDF copy of the guidance can be downloaded here (PDF file).

The UKRIO’s definition of misconduct is broader than that outlined by ORI, covering misrepresentation of data or interests and failure to follow accepted procedures in carrying out various aspects of research, as well as the key three areas ORI considers important (fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism). Although the guidance outlines standard procedures that universities should follow when faced with allegations of misconduct, UKRIO has no power to investigate or impose sanctions (unlike ORI or some other national bodies).

As highlighted in a recent Times Higher Education article, it’ll be interesting to see what impact the guidance has and whether self-regulation by universities and other research bodies really is the answer to investigating misconduct. The model followed here is similar to that used by COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics), which offers guidance and support to editors on handling ethical breaches in publication practice, but which cannot itself take action.

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