Annual Statement on Compliance with the Concordat for Research Integrity 2023

Approved by Senate on 13 December 2023. Subject to Approval by University Court on 21 February 2024

Section 1: Key Contact Information

Question

Response

1A. Name of organisation

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

1B. Type of organisation:

higher education institution/industry/independent research performing organisation/other (please state)

Higher Education Institution

1C. Date statement approved by governing body (DD/MM/YY)

To be approved by the meeting of University Court on 27 February 2024.

1D. Web address of organisation’s research integrity page (if applicable)

Concordat to Support Research Integrity | Strategy and Policy | Queen Margaret University (qmu.ac.uk)

1E. Named senior member of staff to oversee research integrity

Name: Kim Stuart, Director of Research and Innovation, Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit (RKEDU)

Email address: kstuart@qmu.ac.uk

1F. Named member of staff who will act as a first point of contact for anyone wanting more information on matters of research integrity

Name: Sylwia Gorska, Research and KE Special Projects Fellow,  Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Unit (RKEDU)

Email address: sgorska@qmu.ac.uk

 

Section 2: Promoting high standards of research integrity and positive Research Culture. Description of actions and activities undertaken

2A. Description of current systems and culture

QMU is committed to its obligations as a signatory to the Concordat to Support Research Integrity and to fully embedding its principles within our Research and Knowledge Exchange (KE) culture. We have published a statement on Concordat for Research Integrity compliance which reiterates this commitment and provides additional guidance to staff and external collaborators. Our institutional Research and KE Strategy 2022-27 identifies culture as one of three strategic priority areas.   

In 2023 we undertook a major review of our Research and KE Centres and introduced new and enhanced Professorial leadership structures to ensure that institutional research governance standards, policy and process are fully embedded and monitored at a local level. To improve the promotion of high standards of research integrity and support our commitment to a positive and healthy Research Culture, in 2024 we will implement proposals for a new Research Governance Steering Group, chaired by the Deputy Principal, to respond to new sector directives relating to Research Culture, Ethics, Governance and to replace what was the Athena Swan and Concordat Steering Group. Working closely with the Research Strategy Committee, this new Research Governance Steering Group will oversee and monitor specific institutional commitments relating to:

  • UK Concordats and National Statements
  • Research Governance
  • Trusted Research
  • Responsible Innovation
  • Research Misconduct
  • Safeguarding in Research and Innovation
  • Matters relating to Research Ethics outwith the remit of current governance
  • mechanisms or that require escalation/further review.
  • NHS Research Ethics and Governance Frameworks

 

The Research Governance Steering Group will be responsible for ensuring that the governance and policy context for the undertaking of research and KE within the University is in line with sector requirements and best practice. The Group will oversee implementation of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity and address issues of compliance and non-compliance.

In September 2023 we appointed a Research and KE Special Projects Fellow from our academic staff to support the work of the Research and KE Development Unit (RKEDU) and Research and KE Centres to:

  • Develop and enhance institutional policy on Research Integrity based on the UKRI Code of Practice for Research.
  • Develop a Research Integrity Action Plan, based on the Research Integrity Toolkit.
  • Produce, embed and monitor new institutional guidance on Research Misconduct, supported by the appointment of a new Research Misconduct Working Group.
  • Produce, embed and monitor new institutional guidance on Safeguarding in Research and Innovation, supported by the appointment of a new Research Misconduct Working Group.
  • policy advice and secretariat to a new institutional Research Governance Steering Group, chaired by the Deputy Principal.

An external facing QMU Research Integrity webpage has also been created with links to our annual statements and contact details for the named person for receiving allegations of misconduct. Research Integrity continues to be central to our institutional researcher development training programme and induction.   

We are committed to working with other institutions to share expertise, resources and best practice through forums including active membership and participation in the Scottish Research Integrity Network (SRIN).    

RKEDU is working with the new UK Government Research Collaborations Team (RCAT) to provide expertise and support for the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Trusted Research and Responsible Innovation (TR&I) work programme in response to the increasing need across the sector to:

 

  • help manage and provide guidance and support in ensuring collaborative activities are done safely and securely.
  • minimise the risks associated with operating within a global research and innovation ecosystem while maximising the opportunities.

Under the guidance of the Universities Scotland Research and Commercialisation Directors Group and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), QMU is now part of the Scottish Universities Trusted Research Practitioners Network.

We are also currently investigating opportunities for closer links with the UK Reproducibility Network and continue to be guided by directives, initiatives  and training from the UK Research Integrity Office.

In recognition of the variety of determinants of Research Culture and the reciprocal relationship between culture and behaviour we continue to use the UK Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey (CEDARS) as a strategic tool and work with Vitae and the UK CEDARS Steering Group to champion its use at a UK and national level. CEDARS reveals valuable researcher perspectives on Research Culture, employment and development within QMU.

In 2023 we commissioned a further external independent review of our CEDARS 2023 against UK aggregate data. The qualitative data can help ascertain what is  working and what is not within the institution and the evidence drawn from the data can be used as an effective lever for change. Conducting the survey in itself has also increased awareness of the Research Integrity Concordat.

In 2024 the outcomes of this will inform how we better support a positive QMU Research and KE culture and we will work with the Research and KE Centre Directors to better understand the influences that shape it, how they are interconnected, and how they in turn translate into behaviours, both positive and negative.  We are also keen to ensure that CEDARS based KPIs are used to support the institutional strategic planning process as a robust measure of a healthy and positive Research Culture.

 

2B. Changes and developments during the period under review

Responsibility for governance of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity has been incorporated into the Concordat for Researcher Development Working Group (CRDWG). Proposals are underway to change the name of CRDWG to the Research Culture Working Group (RCWG) to reflect this additional scope and responsibility. RCWG will ensure QMU implementation of the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) Code of Practice for Research to support good practice in research and KE across QMU using relevant structures  such as the Research Strategy Committee, quarterly meetings of the Research and KE Centre Directors, Annual Meetings of Research and KE Centres and School Leadership Teams,  HR partners (to include the Code as part of our induction package for  Contract Research Staff (CRS)) and a new  MS Teams resource for CRS.

A Working Group has also been formed to progress work on research misconduct guidelines to complement existing policies and processes to support research integrity.

Recognising that safeguarding is among Research Culture and integrity priority areas, QMU is committed to ensuring that safeguarding implications are properly considered and managed during the lifetime of research projects. In line with this, work is currently under way to inform research specific guidance as part of a broader QMU Safeguarding Policy, Procedure and Framework. To progress this, the CRDWG formed a sub-group with responsibility to identify and consider research-specific safeguarding issues and inform related guidance. This work will be completed in 2024.

In 2023 QMU continued to participate in the Teaching, Research and Academic Mentoring Scheme (TRAMS), cross-institutional mentoring scheme led by the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee and in partnership with Abertay University, Glasgow School of Art, the James Hutton Institute, and Trinity College Dublin (School of Medicine). In 2024 TRAMS is being reviewed and TRAMS Lead co-ordinators from the University of Dundee, will refresh the scheme for further development and enhancement to support and make sustainable the rapid growth of TRAMS In recent years. In 2024 we will promote the facilitation of informal external mentoring partnerships with partner institutions and alternative mentoring options such as that run via our membership of EURAXESS which aims to encourage and to facilitate transnational mobility, by fostering cooperation between European Research Area (ERA) researchers.

Through collaboration with the University of Dundee, training modules continue to be available to all researchers to support understanding of research integrity and compromised integrity issues and to instil a culture of good practice. Responsible and Ethical Practice in Research is an online video-based training course designed to promote researcher awareness and engagement with research integrity issues. In 2023 a series of Research Integrity staff training sessions were delivered in partnership with UKRIO.

 


2C. Reflections on progress and plans for future developments

As a small institution with very limited central Research Office resource and no dedicated Research Governance Officer/Manager, responding to the very welcomed but high volume of new directives relating to Research Integrity has been challenging. 

A new QMU ethics website has now been published to support the launch of new QMU Ethics support systems, policies and guidance. These set out the principles behind ethical review and the QMU regulatory framework under which research is undertaken. RKEDU continues to deliver a programme of NHS Research Ethics and Governance training in collaboration with NHS Lothian R&D Office. Support for NHS Ethics and Governance approval has been strengthened by the appointment of a School Professorial Lead for Ethics. In 2024 we plan to enhance QMU training materials, resources and signposting for NHS Research Ethics  and Governance via a refreshed and updated QMU Intranet page.

We are working to embed and mainstream Research Integrity guidelines in our standard practices and to strengthen in-house expertise via the various new cross sector developments including The Scottish Universities Research Culture Good Practice Exchange (SURGE), a new Universities Scotland supported initiative to create a surge of momentum in addressing sector-wide Research Culture challenges and enhancing practice across Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). On a UK level we are pleased to now be part of the Research Culture Enablers Network, led by the University of Warwick.

 

We have also maximised alignment with our Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2028 strategy, specifically in relation to People, Culture and Environment and ongoing commitments to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and the Leiden Manifesto, recognising the need to improve the ways in which researchers and the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. The outcomes of these commitments will be reflected in the publication of an updated 2024 Institutional Statement on the Responsible Use of Metrics in Research Assessment. We are committed to the principles of Narrative CVs and have benefited from being active members of the UKRI Alternative Uses Group (AUG) co-developed in partnership with Universities UK (UUK). This group has progressed the alternative applications of Royal Society’s Résumé for Researchers (R4R)-like CV.

 

We are currently preparing proposals to become a signatory to the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment (CoARA), signalling internally and externally our willingness to continue to develop approaches for responsible research assessment to support excellent research with impact. The Agreement’s principles and associated commitments reflect our forward-looking approach to research metrics and assessment, aligning with our Research and KE Strategy 2022-27. The CoARA Agreement is based on 10 commitments which provide a common direction for research assessment reform. CoARA’s vision is that the assessment of research, researchers and research organisations recognises the diverse outputs, practices and activities that maximise the quality and impact of research. This requires basing assessment primarily on qualitative judgement, for which peer review is central, supported by responsible use of quantitative indicators.

 

QMU works closely with and is grateful for the ongoing support provided by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO). Due to the disparity in funding to support Research Culture across the UK Funding Bodies and the absence of such resource in Scotland we were disappointed to have to withdraw institutional membership of UKRIO in 2024.

Outstanding 2023 actions, as identified in the Concordat to Support Research Integrity Action Plan, but priorities for 2024 include:

·        Incorporating research integrity updates into QMU Ethical Guidelines review to support the implementation of a new institutional Ethics/research management system.

·        Mapping inclusion of Research Integrity and Research Misconduct across relevant policies/guidelines.

·        Reviewing training required to support people in named person and other roles related to research misconduct, research integrity and research ethics panels.

·        Review of reporting requirements to support ongoing monitoring of research integrity across QMU.

In 2024 we will also continue to fully engage with RCAT and colleagues in the sector to ensure our due diligence and procedures are clear, comprehensive and accessible. We will extend our work on Trusted Research and Responsible Innovation to ensure researchers are guided and supported. A new QMU Trusted Research and Responsible Innovation webpage is under development and due to be launched in early 2024. Following active 2023 participation in the national Department for Science, Innovation & Technology Survey (Research Infrastructure, Security & Position, Navigation & Timing) we will work with RCAT to co-develop a QMU Trusted Research Action Plan.

Participation in the Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey 2023 (CEDARS)

QMU participates in CEDARS. This biennial national survey is intended to gather anonymous data about working conditions, career aspirations and career development opportunities for research staff and research leaders in Higher Education Institutions. CEDARS is based on a standard question set to allow for UK benchmarking with other institutions and longitudinal comparison. We are using CEDARS to undertake detailed and robust analysis of QMU research staff views and experiences of research integrity and to benchmark against national UK aggregate data. Key data for 2023:

CEDARS statement

QMU CEDARS 2021

UK Aggregate Data 2021

QMU CEDARS 2023

UK Aggregate Data 2023

QMU Action in response to CEDARS Feedback

I have knowledge / some understanding of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity

79.5%

52.1%

74.6%

55.9%

Standing item on key institutional committees.

 

Enhanced staff training. Consideration of Research Integrity KPI as part of strategic planning.

 

Roll out the new Research Integrity Self-Assessment Toolkit in 2022/23

I am familiar with my institution's mechanisms to report incidents of research misconduct

51.2%

57.7%

55.2%

55.2%

Enhanced promotion of the Concordat and reporting mechanisms.

 

Increased visibility on web, intranet and in staff communications.

 

Roll out the Research Integrity Self-Assessment Toolkit in 2022/23.

 

Enhanced staff training.

I would feel comfortable reporting any incidents of research misconduct

58.9%

66.4%

73%

66.4%

Development of integrity as a core component of research culture and a priority theme in new QMU Research and KE Strategy 2022-27.

 

Explore best practice in other HEIs via SRIN.

 

Roll out the new Research Integrity Self-Assessment Toolkit in 2023/24.

 

Enhanced staff training.

 

Continue to invest in internal and external mentoring.

I trust my institution to investigate any reported incidents of research misconduct fairly and take appropriate action

61.7%

65.4%

61%

63.1%

Promotion of UKRIO confidential helpline

 

QMU training events with the Chief Executive of UKRIO.

 

Roll out the new Research Integrity Self-Assessment Toolkit in 2022/23.

 

Long term commitment to CEDARS participation and external independent analysis of findings.

I have personally felt pressured into compromising my research standards or integrity

11%

8.9%

10.2%

7.9%

Work with UKRIO to investigate specific issues.

 

Mandatory training for all Research Managers in 2022/23.

 

Appointment of School Research and KE Champions/Co-ordinators.

 

Enhanced staff training.

 

Continue to invest in internal and external mentoring.

In the past 2 years I have reported any incidents of research misconduct

1.3%

4%

3.4%

4.1%

Explore efficacy of reporting mechanisms and governance structures for misconduct with input from URKIO.

 

Explore best practice in other HEIs via SRIN.

I agree that QMU promotes the highest standards of research integrity and conduct

65.7%

75.4%

69%

69.3%

Development of integrity as a core component of research culture and a priority theme in new QMU Research and KE Strategy 2022-27.

Please note that we have included the CEDARS 2021 and UK Aggregate data for context. Any differences between 2021 and 2023 should be treated with caution due to the relatively small sample size.

 

2D. Case study on good practice (optional)

The piloting and embedding of the  the UK Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey (CEDARS) at QMU to benchmark Research Culture measures was selected as a  (QMU Best Practice Case Study in UKCORI Research Integrity in UK 2023 Statement).

 

For the past 3 Years, QMU has used the results of the most recent iteration of the CEDARS to benchmark integrity measures in research culture with other universities. These results helped the University identify priority areas for action, including the provision of additional training, researcher mentoring and links with external networks.

Section 3: Addressing research misconduct

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

We continue to promote the UKRIO Confidential Advice Line on the conduct of academic, scientific and medical research, from promoting good practice to addressing poor practice and misconduct. This is open to all, including members of the public, research participants, patients, individual researchers, research students and research organisations.

The QMU Whistleblowing Policy allows researchers to raise concerns or to disclose information which they believe shows wrongdoing by the university or its staff that is of public interest.

An ongoing programme of training on research misconduct is a core part of our QMU Researcher Development Programme. This focuses on providing the skills to identify and address research misconduct.

Awareness and anonymous feedback is monitored via QMU CEDARS. We are working to ensure that CEDARS informed KPIs relating to Research Misconduct are fully integrated into institutional and Research and KE Strategic Planning.

In relation to research integrity, QMU CEDARS 2023 results were broadly in line with the national aggregate, with around 90% of respondents saying that they had not personally felt pressured into compromising their standards.

In 2024 we will work to incorporate research integrity requirements outlined in the UKRIO Code of Practice for Research, Procedure for the Investigation of Misconduct in Research and the Research Misconduct Process, into our internal guidelines and procedures for the investigation of allegations of misconduct in research. To facilitate this the CRDWG formed a sub-group responsible for aligning QMU internal policies with these requirements and developing research specific guidelines for identifying and addressing any instances of research misconduct.

This work will be completed to ensure that QMU and our researchers are fulfilling the requirements of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, and of regulatory, funding and other bodies, and that important issues are not overlooked.

 

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

Type of allegation

Number of allegations

Number of allegations reported to the organisation

Number of formal investigations

Number upheld in part after formal investigation

Number upheld in full after formal investigation

Fabrication

0

0

0

0

Falsification

0

0

0

0

Plagiarism

0

0

0

0

Failure to meet legal, ethical and professional obligations

0

0

0

0

Misrepresentation (eg data; involvement; interests; qualification; and/or publication history)

0

0

0

0

Improper dealing with allegations of misconduct

0

0

0

0

Multiple areas of concern (when received in a single allegation)

0

0

0

0

Other*

 

0

0

0

Total:

0

0

0

0

*If you listed any allegations under the ‘Other’ category, please give a brief, high-level summary of their type here. Do not give any identifying or confidential information when responding.

[Please insert response if applicable]