Country Report Ireland
National Research Integrity Landscape
Ireland has a national structure for research integrity in the National Research Integrity Forum, that was established to ensure continual development and adoption of good scientific practice. It acts as an advisory body and as a supporting platform, tasked with developing best-practice guidelines that can be adopted and implemented at local level by research performing institutions (RPOs), who have the responsibility for handling misconduct cases . Funding agencies, e.g. the Health Research Board and the Science Foundation Ireland do not conduct their own misconduct investigations, but expect their host research institutions to have in place appropriate policies and procedures to handle suspected research misconduct cases. These expectations are enshrined in the General Terms and Condictions of the Funding agencies.
National Research Integrity Forum
In June 2015, the National Research Integrity Forum (hereafter Forum) was voluntarily established by the Signees of the National Policy Statement on Ensuring Research Integrity in Ireland (2014) (herafter Statement) which was revised in 2019. The Statement was jointly developed by the major funding agencies, the Higher Education Authority, the Royal Irish Academy and research performing organisations of the Irish public research system which include the universities, institutes of technology, and quality bodies. At present, it has 26 members. The purpose of the Forum is to coordinate and facilitate implementation activities in this policy. It is co-chaired by the Irish Universities Association and the Technological Higher Education Association and its membership reflects the Signees of the Statement.
The Forum is governed by the Statement and the National Research Integrity Forum Terms of Reference, last revised in 2019, determining its scope and remit. The revised Statement draws heavily on the 2010 Royal Irish Academy publication Ensuring Integrity in Irish Research, the revised European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017) and is influenced structurally by the UK Concordat on Research Integrity of 2012. The Signees of the Statement further endorse the principles of the WCRI’s statements of Singapore and Montreal.
Mission(s) and tasks
The primary role of the Forum is to promote and raise awareness of the four commitments the Signees have adhered to as described in the Statement and to coordinate and facilitate implementation activities, and to enable the actors within the system to align their policies and processes. In sum, these commitments are (1) ensuring the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of their research (2) promoting research integrity and good research practices (3) working together to safeguard the integrity of the Irish research system and reviewing progress regularly (4) using transparent, fair and effective processes to deal with eventual allegations of research misconduct. Additionally, in December 2015, the Forum was tasked with the responsibility for research and integrity in Irish Government Research and Innovation Strategy, Innovation 2020. In furtherance hereof, it must annually report to the Innovation 2020 Action Group. Its key responsiblities are: (i) to support the implementation of research integrity policies and processes in a harmonised manner across the research performers; (ii) to support national resarch funders in implementing harmonised resarch integrity statements in grant conditions and associated audit processes; (iii) to agree a process and format for the public dissemination of the outcome of resarch integrity investigations having regard to existing regulations relating to misconduct and discipline in the research -performing organisations, and the terms and conditions of grants awared by the research funding organisations; (iv) to support the development and roll-out of resarch integrity training programmes for staff and students in the research performers; (v) to monitor developments and policy in the area of research integrity and making appropriate recommendations for adjustments in research integrity policy and practice in Ireland, and (vi) to communicate the importance of research integrity to the Irish research community and to the general public. The Key Outputs of the Forum to date are: (i) a series of position papers and guidance documents regarding the establishment of research integrity policies and procedures in Irish research performing organisations; (ii) a written contribution to the revised text of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity; (iii) two national seminars on Responsible research and innovation in February 2017 and March 2019, the second jointly with the National Open Research Forum; (iv) the roll-out a three-year pilot to provide research integrity training to staff and students at all higher education institutions and publicly-funded research organisations in Ireland, supported with funding from national research funding organisations, the Irish University Association and Technological Higher Education Authority; (v) raising the international awareness of the work of the Forum via presentation at several international research integrity conferences; (vi) representing Ireland in a Mutual Learning Exercise on Research Integrity led by the European Commission and (vii) annual statistics report on instances of research misconduct formally investigated in Irish research performing organisations.
The Forum is not supported by legislation, but is authorised by the Irish Government (via Innovation 2020) to provide guidance and advice to its members and non-members on research integrity related issues. It is not authorised to handle research misconduct cases or to mediate in such cases.
The Forum is coordinated by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Technological Higher Education Assocation (THEA). Its Chairperson is a representative of the IUA Deans and Vice-Presidents for Research Groups, and its Deputy Chair is the Director of Research and Development in THEA. The IUA provides some secetariat support to the Forum but most substantive work is done on a voluntary basis by members of the Forum. There are no limits on the term of appointment of a nominated representative by the member organisation in question. Organisations can change these nominated representatives at any time, by writing to the Chair. The representatives can send an alternate to meetings when they are unable to attend themselves. The Forum forms sub-groups to work on specific issues such as (i) issues of implementation in RPOs (RPOs only), (2) strengthening of application guidelines, Terms and Conditions and monitoring by research funders (RFOs only) and (3) revision of the 2014 Policy Statement (RFO and RPO members).
Scope and remit
The scope of the Forum is restricted to Ireland and to publically-funded research performing organisations. Its remit is broader as it aims to (i) monitor international developments in the field of research integrity (ii) monitor the development of (inter)national standards in educational programmes, and (iii) share knowledge and understanding of good practice based on experience in Ireland and internationally. In national aspect, it co-ordinates further development of ‘good practice guidelines’ appropriate and specific to Ireland, and shares experiences on the number and type of instances of research misconduct that have been dealt with through formal mechanisms within the institution.
The Forum has established a number of guidelines to assist members to harmonise their policies and practices: the Guidelines for the Investigation of Misconduct in Research (see https://www.iua.ie/research-innovation/research-integrity/).The document is not mandating the adoption of a single standardised procedure, but provides overarching principles and guidelines for the investigation of misconduct in research. According to these guidelines, a Research Integrity Officer within RPOs needs to do a preliminary review on the basis of a written (anonymous) complaint, which is followed by a formal investigation in cases of suspected serious misconduct cases in which it is determined whether the allegation is, or is not, upheld. The procedure must be independent, integer, uniform, fair, transparent and expedient and carried out with appropriate confidentiality without detriment to the respondent or claimant. The primary responsibility of establishing a procedure including the sanctioning lies with the RPOs. The Forum has also developed Research Integrity Offcier Role and Reporting Structure guidance to help RPOs when appointing such a person.
Definition of research misconduct
The Statement adopts and adapts the definitions of research misconduct and unacceptable practices from the OECD document Best practices for ensuring scientific integrity and preventing misconduct to be (1) core research misconduct (fabrication, falsification, plagiarism); (2) research practice misconduct, e.g. using inappropriate research methods; (3) data-related misconduct, e.g. not preserving primary data; (4) publication-related misconduct, e.g. denying authorship to contributors; (5) personal misconduct in the research setting, e.g. inadequate mentoring, and (6) financial, and other misconduct, e.g. misuse of research funds.
Decisions and appeal
The Statement in this respect refers to the Universities Act of 1997and the Technological Universities Act of 2018, that apply to RPOs. That is that the findings of the formal process on the local level will be reported in accordance with the statute concerned, as will the recommendation on appropriate disciplinary measures to be taken. Where a formal investigation has been carried out by an investigation committee, and where a disciplinary sanction has been imposed, then an appeal needs to be made in accordance with the statute of the organisation.
Follow-up and monitoring
The Forum updates its Statement in line with (inter)national developments when needed and monitors the impact of the online research integrity training. Moreover, to provide oversight of research misconduct cases in Ireland, in April 2016, the Forum agreed to publish an annual consolidated report about formal investigations of research misconduct concluded within its member research performing organisations (RPOs) in the preceding calendar year. These include the seven universities, one technological university and 12 institutes of technology, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Teagasc and the Marine Institute.
The exercise of publishing annual national statistics reports on research misconduct investigations represents an important step towards improving transparency around the investigation of instances of research misconduct reported within the Irish RPOs and provides an indication of where particular issues might need to be addressed through strengthened policies and training. The report contains information on (i) the number of formal research misconduct investigations completed in the preceding calender year (ii) the number of those investigations where the allegations were upheld (iii) an overview of the types of misconduct seen in those investigations. A consolidated national report will be published annually by the Forum. The reports, positions papers and other relevant documents of the Forum are published on the its page of IUA’s website.
For further information, see: www.iua.ie/research-innovation/research-integrity/
For questions, send an e-mail to Catherine Gill (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Maura Hiney (email@example.com)
Last update: May 2019