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Updated concordat must be followed if research is to be trusted

Universities UK, together with signatories to the concordat including UK Research & Innovation and Wellcome Trust, has reaffirmed its pledge to the revised concordat to support research integrity to further assure government, business, international partners and the public that they can continue to have confidence in UK research and its world-leading researchers.

The commitments within the concordat call on universities, research institutes and individual researchers to ensure their work is underpinned by rigorous high standards. This issue of research integrity must be continually revisited, to guarantee its principles are understood and accepted and that newly-introduced ethical, legal and professional obligations are met.

An inquiry led by Science and Technology Select Committee identified challenges with the earlier version of the concordat, and this revised concordat responds to those challenges. Significant changes have been introduced, and these include:

  1. individual research funders have now put sanctions in place which will be enforced if the conditions of the concordat are not met
  2. the concordat’s language has been tightened, with expectations being replaced by commitments or requirements. This will make it easier for research organisations to understand what is required of them.
  3. In addition to publishing their annual statement, research organisations are now additionally required to send a link to the secretariat. This will mean that the sector is better able to demonstrate its commitment to the concordat.

An annual forum will convene to assess progress and work on good practice for the sector, from which a statement will be made publicly available. In addition, the signatories have committed to regularly reviewing the concordat’s principles every five years to ensure its commitments are met.

Professor Paul Boyle, Chair of the UK Research Integrity Forum and Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, said: “UK universities carry out important research every day, to the significant benefit of society. With the need for openness and transparency greater than ever, research must be undertaken in line with the stringent principles laid out in this concordat. The higher education sector has a responsibility to adhere to the concordat’s commitments to ensure continued public trust in this research. Now that the revised concordat is published Universities UK will work with the other signatories to support the delivery of the concordat.”

Universities UK is joined on the signatories list by UK Research and Innovation, Wellcome Trust, National Institute for Health Research, The Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland, the Government Office for Science, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Scottish Funding Council.

A progress report released in 2016 identified good practice but also detailed areas where greater attention and focus was needed – in areas including improving accessibility to information and better resourcing to bring about change at institutions.

Universities UK signed the concordat to support the career development of researchers in September 2019. The report can be read in full here

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