Annual Statement on Research Integrity

Annual Statement on Research Integrity

Advice & guidance

Dr Martin Turner is the senior member of staff responsible for overseeing research integrity and is the Institute’s first point of contact for anyone wanting more information.

Mr Simon Jones is the confidential liaison for whistle-blowers or any other person wishing to raise concerns about the integrity of research being conducted under the auspices of the Babraham Institute.

Research integrity governance

The Institute’s Research Integrity Steering Group (RISG) reports to the Babraham Executive Committee (BEC). RISG is chaired by the Associate Institute Director Dr Turner and includes the following roles as members:

  • Associate Institute Director (Chair)
  • Deputy Director of Science
  • Head of Epigenetics Programme
  • Deputy Director for Operations and Chief Information Officer
  • Head of Strategic Research Development
  • Head of Research Operations
  • Head of Human Resources
  • Head of Finance
  • Graduate Tutor
  • Head of Bioinformatics
  • Chair of Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB)
  • Tenured Group Leader
  • Tenure Track Group Leader
  • Head of Communications
  • Contracts Manager
  • Head of Health & Safety, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance of Research
  • Deputy Head of Health & Safety, Safeguarding, Quality Assurance of Research

The RISG has the remit to:

  • Play a leading role in building an inclusive and open culture which promotes rigorous and reproducible research
  • Promote awareness and reflection on the challenges of trust faced by scientists and to help identify ways of supporting colleagues to meet these challenges
  • Provide support for resolving disagreements between colleagues over the use of data before they escalate into allegations of misconduct
  • Coordinate formal investigations into allegations of misconduct

To put this into practice within the framework of the Research Integrity assurance review, the following actions are in place to ensure open, ethical, rigorous and reproducible research.

Assurance:

A biannual research integrity (RI) assurance review to assess and ensure the Institute is achieving the standards set out in the Institute RI policy. A periodic review will provide structure to RI setup and act a good preparatory process for RI audits (by the Institute auditors (RSM)). The review will include two levels: corporate (overall Institute RI standards) compliance review and individual (sampled) research groups ‘Good Research in Practice’ (GRiP) looking at RI standards compliance ‘in practice on the ground’. The review report will be presented to the Institute’s Executive Committee (BEC), Audit Committee and Science and Impact Advisory Committee in the first instance and will help provide assurance to staff, BEC, Trustees, and grant awarding bodies.

Principles, Practices and Policies:

The Institute has in place policies, processes and activities to foster and support integrity in research practices and these are reviewed regularly and developed to reflect changing needs. Progress in this area from 2020-2021 includes:

  • A comprehensive overarching Research Integrity policy (launched 2021 - based on grant awarding body, UK and worldwide RI standards) was added to the suite of Institute policies supporting research integrity, for example a Code of Conduct, Research Misconduct, Authorship, Whistleblowing etc. which are available to all staff on the Institute’s intranet and with some policies available externally on the Institute’s website.
  • Ensuring that the contract of employment for all scientific staff includes an agreement to the BBSRC policy ‘Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice’.
  • Staff complete ‘declaration of interests’ information.
  • A new Human Tissue Compliance team has been established.
  • The Institute maintains an Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) for the Babraham Research Campus that scrutinises its animal research. The AWERB invites lay observers to attend its meetings and to participate.
  • Completed accreditation for AAALAC (American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care). This voluntary accreditation is evidence that the Institute is taking extra steps to achieve excellence in animal care and use.
  • The Institute was a partner on the Horizon 2020 Open Responsible research and Innovation to further Outstanding kNowledge (ORION) project on open science and is implementing the resultant Open Science Action Plan.

 

People:

The following activities aim to embed awareness of research integrity, develop required skills and create a safe, positive and supportive working environment:

  • A new Research Forum has been established as a platform for open conversations about science-relevant areas such as research culture, grant-writing etc.
  • Providing all new scientific staff with access to a guide on good scientific practice written by BBSRC.
  • Ensuring all new PhD students participate in a talk on research ethics and integrity.
  • A checklist is provided to all student supervisors to ensure they discuss research ethics and integrity upon lab induction.
  • Staff induction includes responsible research practices and ethics.
  • Research integrity and data integrity is highlighted on training courses run by the bioinformatics training team which include courses focused on research integrity itself, and practices that lead to robust scientific method and data interpretation such as scientific figure design, statistics, the management of biological data and use of electronic lab notebooks. The material for many of the courses are on the Bioinformatics facility training page at https://www.bioinformatics.babraham.ac.uk/training.html.
  • The Institute has commissioned a series of lectures, open to all, to be given by external speakers with expertise in Research Integrity. 2021 lectures were given by:
    • Prof. Ulrich Dirnagl Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin & Director of QUEST, BIH Center for Transforming Biomedical Research Berlin Institute of Health, Germany
      An institutional strategy to improve the trustworthiness, usefulness & ethics of biomedical research
    • Prof. Marcus Munafò, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol
      Research Ecosystems, Cognitive Bias and Incentives
    • Dr Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief of Nature and Chief Editorial Advisor for the Nature portfolio and Dr Nathalie Le Bot, Chief Life Sciences Editor, Nature Communications
  • Health, safety and wellbeing is well promoted to staff and managed by HSQAR and HR teams.
  • Promoting safe and inclusive working environments, and actively promoting equality and diversity through our equality4success programme.
  • Safeguarding policy, process and procedures are now well established for interactions between staff and under 18 visitors or adults at risk for public engagement events.
  • At the end of 2021 GDPR awareness training had a 57% completion rate.

 

Sustainability:

  • The Institute is committed to reducing the environmental footprint associated with our scientific research, and other work-related activities, at the Babraham Research Campus. Our environmental policy is being updated (in 2022) to clearly set out our sustainability vision.
  • In work done to date, the Institute has developed a bespoke action plan for sustainability, working with UK-SOS, Babraham Research Campus Ltd. and eight campus companies. Over the coming year, this plan will be enacted to significantly reduce our environmental impact and achieve ‘Green Impact’ accreditation.
  • The Institute continues to invest in energy efficiency measures to reduce both emissions and costs. In the last three years, the Trigeneration plant has saved over 2500 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £1.3 million.
  • Combined improvements have meant that the Institute has met its 2021-2022 emissions reduction target, representing an overall reduction of 13%, and the target for 5% reduction in abstracted water for 2020-2021 with ongoing commitments to monitor and continue this progress as the Institute returns to more consistent day-to-day operations following the covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Institute’s Green Labs Steering Group designed and implemented Green Impact, and work to raise awareness of environmental issues in the Institute, across campus and within the wider scientific community. The team are also actively engaged with the local community, supporting actions with Babraham Primary School and village residents, such as the new Babraham Forest Garden project.

 

Managing research misconduct

The Institute’s Research Misconduct Policy is published on its website and describes the processes in place for managing an allegation of research misconduct against an individual or individuals working under the auspices of the Babraham Institute. The Policy describes processes for both initial and full investigations and refers to disciplinary action(s) that might follow from the investigations if it is determined that research misconduct has occurred. Timescales are included to ensure timely investigation of allegations. Consequent to the recent establishment of the Institute’s Research Integrity Steering Group this policy is under review in order to ensure that it meets all current needs and a future iteration will include details of an appeals process.

A forthcoming policy survey will check with potential policy users that it is fit for purpose.

Investigations of research misconduct

There have been no formal investigations of research misconduct in 2021.

The Institute received one allegation for consideration and this underwent preliminary evaluation but was determined to be poor academic practice and did not proceed to a formal investigation.

This incident reinforced the importance of training for researchers not only in the identification of matters of research misconduct, whether intended or otherwise, but also in how to appropriately respond to the discovery of a genuine error, which is perhaps more frequently faced.

Research environment

The Institute has launched a variety of forums that enable researchers to communicate their concerns in confidence, including procedures for reporting concerns of misconduct by a third party employee at either Institute premises, or the premises of their employer. Such procedures can be found in the Institute’s Research Misconduct policy.

Awareness of how to express concerns and allegations is being facilitated by participation in an ‘active bystander’ training programme which will continue in 2022.