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Update: Research into MPs' responsiveness to constituents - Final Report and Institutional Response

18 August 2022

Final report and institutional response to the externally-led review of issues raised by research on MPs' responsiveness to correspondence

In July 2021, following concerns raised by Parliamentarians and their staff about the appropriateness, timing and situational context of a research project that used fictious identities in emails as a mechanism to evaluate MPs’ responsiveness to correspondence, King’s College London began a review of the practices and processes around the approval and conduct of this research project.

While King’s had already established that the lead academic investigator had complied with all ESRC and university policies and procedures in seeking and receiving ethical approval for the project, we recognised the considerable depth of concern this project raised amongst Parliamentarians and wanted to explore the broader issues raised.

The purpose of the review panel, which comprised Parliamentarians and academics, was to examine how we can best enhance our future practices and processes, learning lessons from the recent research project but looking at the wider context of research environment activity and external opinion. King’s committed to publishing both the review report and a response to its findings publicly.

The review, led by the Rt Hon. Chris Skidmore MP OBE, a former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, has now been published and is available to read.

The statement below from Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People and Planning), is the formal response by King’s to the review’s findings:

“We welcome the carefully considered, nuanced findings of the panel about the ethical and practical considerations in respect to the use of deception as a research methodology in social sciences.

“The review panel has identified a crisp, intelligently-balanced set of shared principles and approaches to constitute a best practice guide in respect to the potential use of such research methods to ensure they are only used in a proportionate, carefully-considered manner if no feasible and rigorous alternative is available.

“The College Research Committee at King’s will consider how these findings can usefully inform our research approval procedures.

“King’s believes these findings have wider relevancy and utility to the research-active community of universities as well as research funders such as the Economic and Social Research Council."