The UKRN welcomes the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee’s report on Reproducibility and Research Integrity. The Committee has produced an important and valuable review of the landscape, together with practical recommendations that should, if implemented, improve the quality of UK research.
The report touches on many issues of particular interest to UKRN, and in which we and our members have both deep expertise and active strands of work. For example:
- Questionable research practices and publication bias can be tackled using the “Registered Reports Funding Partnership” model, which the Committee commended. This offers the opportunity of researchers to have their methodologies peer reviewed at an early stage of the research process. UKRN has played a key role in pioneering this model, working with bodies such as Cancer Research UK.
- The Committee proposes that the UK Committee on Research Integrity (UKCORI) should set up a subcommittee on reproducibility, in particular to focus on establishing an evidence base. UKRN has an established relationship with UKCORI and has interest in research-on-research to build this kind of evidence base.
- UKRN’s broad understanding of ‘reproducibility’, as the transparency and quality of research, is supported by the Committee, which goes on to recommend that UKRI policy cover open data and code. We are actively enabling researchers and institutions to implement such policies, through our Open Research Programme. We are also aware of the challenges associated with making data and code open, and UKRN institutions have come together to assess the implementation of the 2016 Open Research Data Concordat, to learn lessons and provide evidence that may inform any new funder policies. Open Research Data Concordat, to learn lessons and provide evidence that may inform any new funder policies.
- Concern expressed about the published record are partly related to the incentives across the system for researchers to communicate in a way that seeks to persuade as much as to inform readers. We are exploring with leading publishers, journalists and with the AHRC to re-think the ways in which science can be communicated in ways that are more informative and yet still compelling. We also support initiatives intended to develop new approaches to publishing, such as Octopus.ac.
- The Committee recommends that UKCORI looks at the issues around the use of AI in scientific research. We note current work led by the Royal Society on this topic and look forward to co-convening activities this year with the Society specifically on AI and reproducibility.
- Better training is vital to improving transparency and quality, and the Committee calls for training for students and early career researchers in integrity and reproducibility. This is part of the Open Research Programme, see for example our collaboration with Project TIER in the US (as well as our cooperation with FORRT) and with Griffith University (in Australia) on “10 reproducible things” – to bring the benefits of global best practice to the UK research community.
- The Committee acknowledges that the environment in which research is done can affect research reproducibility, and that recognition and reward is an important part of this. Again, the Open Research Programme is contributing to improvements here, alongside international initiatives such as the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment, which UKRN is signing.
The Committee’s Report is a very positive contribution to improving the reproducibility – the transparency and quality – of UK research. UKRN looks forward to working collaboratively with all those across the research system who are keen to put its recommendations into practice.