Code of Practice for Research
The UK Research Integrity Office’s Code of Practice for Research has been designed to encourage good conduct in research and help prevent misconduct, to assist organisations and researchers to conduct research of the highest quality. It provides general principles and standards for good practice in research, applicable to both individual researchers and to organisations that carry out, fund, host or are otherwise involved in research.
The Code is applicable to all subject areas and does not attempt to micro-manage research. Recognising that many forms of guidance already exist, the intention is that research organisations may use the principles and standards outlined in this Code as benchmarks when drafting or revising their own, more detailed, codes of practice. No single publication can expect to cover the nuances of all types of research in all disciplines; therefore, the Code should not be seen as prescriptive but as a set of guiding principles and standards to inform the management and conduct of research.
The Code covers areas of good practice in research typically included in organisational policies for the conduct of research, drawing upon existing good practice and the experiences of the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) in addressing good conduct and misconduct in research. Detailed guidance is given on core standards for good practice in research but particular attention has been paid to areas where UKRIO has most often been approached for guidance, in the hope of passing on lessons learned to the research community.
The Code complements existing and forthcoming guidance on research conduct, such as that provided by Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust or the Council for Science and Technology. Similarly, the Code complements organisational policies, such as those for health and safety, raising concerns at work, or management of finances or of intellectual property, and does not seek to replace them. Use of the benchmarks contained in this Code can assist research organisations in fulfilling the requirements of regulatory, funding and other relevant bodies, and ensure that important issues have not been overlooked.
UKRIO recognises that there are many organisations which issue guidance on the conduct of research to the UK research community. For some time, UKRIO has been working with organisations such as Research Councils UK and the Department of Health, with a view ultimately to streamline guidance on good practice in research, to ensure clarity for the research community and avoid duplication of effort.
The Code does not stipulate how to put the promotion and support of good research practice into operation as it is quite rightly left up to organisations and researchers to determine the best way to do so in their particular research environment. It should be noted, however, that only through the endorsement and support of good practice in research at the highest level and implementation through education, training and supervision, can researchers become aware of their individual responsibilities and the collective responsibility they have to their research organisation and the wider research community.
King’s College London also endorses good practice in the management and mentoring of research staff as outlined in the RCUK code and policy.
Note that, for the purposes of this Code, “research” refers to the definition used by the Research Assessment Exercise (Research Assessment Exercise 2008, p. 34):
"‘Research’… is to be understood as original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship*; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and routine analysis of materials, components and processes such as for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research."
"* Scholarship… is defined as the creation, development and maintenance of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines, in forms such as dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases."
Similarly, for the purposes of this Code, “organisations” refers to any bodies which: conduct, host, sponsor or fund research; employ, support or host researchers; teach research students; or allow research to be carried out under their auspices. “Researchers” refers to any person who conducts research, including but not limited to: as an employee; an independent contractor or consultant; a research student; a visiting or emeritus member of staff; or a member of staff on a joint clinical or honorary contract.
Some organisations may wish the Code to apply to undergraduate students; if so, this should be made clear in institutional policies and organisations should consider what particular education, training, supervision and support they should provide to student researchers. They should make it clear to student researchers that their research must comply with the organisation’s policies and procedures for the conduct of research.
The King’s College London Research Committee intends that this code will apply to all researchers and research students, and encourages research supervisors for taught degrees to apply these principles to the supervision or research components in taught degrees.
Sources used in the development of the Code are acknowledged in the Bibliography. UKRIO would also like to thank the individuals and institutions who responded to the public consultation on a draft version of the publication in 2009 for their contributions to the Code.