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Annual statement on research integrity 2022/2023

The University's annual statement sets out our actions and initiatives to sustain and enhance the integrity of our research for the 2022/23 academic year.


Promoting high standards of research integrity and positive research culture

1. Policies and systems

1.1. The University of Bath is a leading research institution committed to maintaining the highest standards of research excellence and integrity. This is the 7th University statement setting out the actions and initiatives we have undertaken to sustain and further enhance the integrity of our research.

1.2. The University of Bath fully upholds the principles outlined in the updated version of The Concordat to Support Research Integrity (Universities UK, October 2019).

1.3. We have a long-standing commitment to high standards in research ethics and integrity, which is reflected in our University Strategy and Code of Ethics. As a part of our commitment we have drawn upon the Leiden Manifesto and the Metric Tide to develop our own set of principles outlining our approach to research assessment and management, including the responsible use of quantitative indicators.

1.4. The current University Strategy 2021-26 includes a key objective: ‘actively engaging locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to help to build towards our strategic objectives, serving to strengthen our culture of research integrity, and enabling our researchers to deliver their full potential’.

1.5. We are committed to providing an appropriate framework to support a research culture that is underpinned by research integrity. This involves, in part, providing clear guidance about policies, procedures and responsibilities, training and supporting researchers according to their responsibilities, and monitoring the implementation of relevant policies and procedures. There is a dedicated page containing information and news about all research policy and governance matters.

1.6. A new approach to the ethics review process has been launched which includes a new online system for submitting and reviewing research ethics applications.

2. Culture, development and leadership

2.1. The University of Bath has a long standing commitment to supporting the development of a good research culture. Research integrity and ethics is one of the research culture pillars alongside career development, collegiality, open research, research design and research recognition.

2.2. At our University, the Academic Ethics and Integrity Committee advises Senate on the development, implementation and review of procedures and guidelines relating to academic ethical issues.

2.3. The Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee is responsible to Senate for the development of strategies to assist the University in meeting its research objectives.

2.4. The University Research Ethics Committees, all reporting into the Academic Ethics and Integrity Committee, have been set up to consider applications, provide robust and proportionate advice on the ethical implications of projects, and liaise directly with researchers in a supportive and constructive way.

2.5. The Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) supports the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research to ensure that the research related actions in the University Strategy are fully realised. The Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) has particular responsibility for embedding principles of good research culture, integrity and ethics so as to enable growth of new and existing research governance activities.

2.6. The Research Governance and Compliance team, established in November 2022, is responsible for managing the Institutional-wide ethical review processes purposely designed to facilitate and enable research with due regard for the dignity, rights, health, safety and privacy of those involved. This team is also responsible for developing and delivering training to all researchers (staff and students) across the University in governance, ethics and integrity matters. The team has strategic oversight of research governance policies and processes and monitor compliance with relevant frameworks to ensure that research carried out with or by the University is ethical, lawful and of the highest standards of integrity and rigour. The Head of the team supports the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) in carrying investigations into alleged research misconduct.

2.7. At a School/Department level the DREOs (Departmental Research Ethics Officers) and the Sponsorship Facilitators provide help and advice on specific projects. The Deans of each Faculty or School work with the Heads of Department/Division and have the overall responsibility for the performance of academics and researchers in their respective Faculties/School.

2.8. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research is the contact for any research integrity queries including research misconduct. The Director of Finance is the confidential liaison for whistle-blowers or any other person wishing to raise concerns about research integrity.

3. Communications and engagement

3.1. We have continued to improve our research culture to support our staff and students by providing guidance and tools to ensure compliance and facilitate informed decisions. These included:

  • direct communications via e-mail by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research)
  • a full review of our website resulting in better sign posting, information about events/training available, guidance, FAQs and case studies
  • a new approach to training committee members, setting up an induction session for lay members and refreshed training sessions for Departmental Research Ethics Officers
  • delivery of a dedicated session for committee reviewers in collaboration with a trainer from UKRIO
  • inviting a specialist trainer to deliver a session on Sponsorship roles and responsibilities to guide members of the ‘External and Sponsorship’ Committee
  • establishing a monthly open-house session, for staff and students, to facilitate the discussion of any matters related to research ethics, our processes, challenges and learn from best practice
  • Library support for open research and delivery of a host of workshops and guidance, for staff and students, on research data management; preventing fraud; handling sensitive data; gaining consent for data sharing; citing data sources; responsible use of bibliometrics; and avoiding ‘predatory’ publishers

4. Monitoring and reporting

4.1. We continue to monitor compliance and are committed to carrying out the following annual audits:

  • management of human tissue samples
  • Department Research Ethics Officer survey to monitor issues, identify training needs and encourage discussions at Departmental level
  • open research practices survey

4.2. An update, demonstrating progress, against our workplan to ensure compliance with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity was submitted to the Academic Ethics and Integrity Committee.

5. Investment on resource

5.1. The ’Research Governance and Compliance’ Team was established in November 2022. This investment by the University to support researchers, staff and students to deliver high quality research underpinned by good governance, integrity and ethical approaches is symbolic of the Institutional-level commitment to research integrity and ethics. Reporting to the Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, the Head of Research Governance and Compliance is responsible for managing the Trusted Research Manager, the Research Ethics Officer, the Research Integrity Manager and the Governance and Assurance Manager for Research in Health and Social Care.

6. New ethics system

6.1. The new digital system Ethics@Bath was successfully launched on 3 April 2023 enabling staff and doctoral students to raise ethics applications for their projects. This new digital system has been designed so as to support the researcher in considering the ethical implications of their research but also to assist reviewers with enabling and facilitating research whilst upholding the highest standards of research integrity. The new ethics form includes sections pertaining to research ethics but also to research integrity, trusted research, PREVENT duty, Nagoya protocol and other legislative requirements. The system can be accessed by any member of staff or student and supports all parts of the life-cycle of the project from its inception to closure. It accommodates applications which require internal review but also those which require external consideration (e.g. Home Office or NHS REC) or have already received an ethics opinion which can then just be confirmed to be aligned with the values we wish to uphold. The system is, therefore, agnostic to the type of research, researcher or funding received as it is also mandatory for internally funded (also known as unfunded) research.

7. Establishment of new research ethics committees

7.1. University-wide subject specific research ethics committees were established to replace the Department/Faculty level structures. A mechanism for proportionate review has also been devised and a new process to allow for the consideration of ethical implications of projects being carried out by undergraduate or Masters students will be announced ahead of the next academic year. All Committees’ terms of reference and procedural rules were designed to enable the achievement of the highest standards of research ethics review in line with the guidance published by UKRIO and ARMA.

7.2. To support the effective running of Research Ethics Committees and to ensure that projects presented are suitable for informed committee review, the Research Governance & Compliance team have put in a place a process to allow for initial checks to be carried out on applications requiring Committee-level review. In instances where insufficient information has been provided, or where key documents are missing, or the information provided is not clear, researchers are asked to review their applications prior to the form being submitted for committee review.

7.3. Pre-Committee meetings have been scheduled with the Chairs and Secretary for each REC to allow for an Agenda setting meeting and give the Chairs early sight of any issues which may require special consideration.

8. Training and inductions

8.1. Ahead of the launch of the system we carried out training / introduction sessions on the new ethics governance structures, processes, and system to:

  • Committee members
  • Lay members
  • DREOs
  • Doctoral College
  • RIS (Pre-Award and Post-Award teams)
  • Ask Me Anything session available to anyone

9. Improved engagement with users

9.1. We have updated and included new information on the Research Ethics and Integrity webpages and launched the Ethics@Bath portal which includes user guides to the system, recordings of the training sessions, FAQs, dates of the next committee meetings etc.

9.2. We have also set up monthly Open House sessions on first Wednesday of the month (12:15pm-13:15pm) that anyone can attend to ask any questions they have about research ethics.

9.3. Bespoke presentations about research ethics processes have been delivered to Departments across campus to allow for training of research support staff, researchers and students.

9.4. The Code of good practice in research integrity was revised this year. This sets out the principles and standards that everyone involved in research at the University of Bath is required to adhere to.

10. Progress and plans for future developments

10.1. Over the summer, we will work with faculties and departments to finalise the plans for launching the Ethics@Bath online system to undergraduate and masters' students. This will include training colleagues and providing guidance to help with Departmental/Faculty level structures. We expect to onboard departments on an individual basis as and when the set-up has been agreed. The system will be available for all departments by September 2023.

10.2. We will also work to develop reports from the system so that we can identify themes requiring training, best practices and/or particular groups which may require further engagement with training or information sharing sessions. The system will also allow us to monitor compliance and carry out quality assurance checks. Supporting the Research Ethics Conference 2023, with the sponsorship of one speaker (details tbc) to deliver a session on online mediated research and staffing Q&A sessions.

10.3. Working alongside the internal audit team to prepare for an internal audit on research ethics practices and compliance scheduled to take place this summer.

10.4. Long-term plans include the delivery against approved workplans for the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, Trusted Research and Open Research as well as continuing to develop our processes to support high quality research such as development of SOPs and exploring the possible application for a human tissue license. Opportunities to engage more pro-actively with the Departmental Research Ethics Officers will also be created to help develop the role in light of the new system and the opportunities it brings.

11. Addressing research misconduct

11.1. Our research misconduct processes were reviewed in the academic year 21/22. The University has the following mechanisms to manage allegations of research misconduct:

11.2. Mandatory training for staff includes: diversity in the workplace, unconscious bias, bribery act, data protection, research integrity and how to tackle harassment.

11.3. The Code of good practice in research integrity which was revised this year sets out the principles and standards that everyone must adhere to if they are involved in research at the University of Bath.

11.4. Our approach to investigations of allegations of research misconduct was revised last year and implemented this year. By introducing a triage step we have been able to constructively address poor-practice and resolve issues of poor judgement or established bad practices with good outcomes. The clearly articulated steps for investigation of allegations of research misconduct have allowed our researchers, and responding parties, to understand our processes. We have received good feedback on our approach even though the subject is often very personal and sensitive.

12. Allegations of research misconduct

12.1. Each year the University receives details of a range of concerns relating to research integrity. During this academic year the PVC(R) received 8 complaints regarding research integrity, which included:

  • 1 case of alleged plagiarism which was not upheld after formal investigation
  • 1 case of failure to meet legal, ethical and professional obligations which was upheld
  • 6 cases where, because of our work to review processes and systems relating to research ethics resulted in a heightened awareness of best practice, researchers (both staff and students) came forward to report instances where they have not observed best practice or established protocol

Approved by Council 13 July 2023

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