Research misconduct hinders the progress of research and damages the public’s trust in researchers. Wellcome is committed to working with organisations to ensure high standards of research integrity and practice in the research it funds.
The concordat to support research integrity defines misconduct as:
'behaviour or actions that fall short of the standards of ethics, research and scholarship required to ensure that the integrity of research is upheld.'
This includes fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in performing or reviewing research, and in reporting research outputs.
We use the concordat’s definition of research misconduct, and we expect the organisations we fund to do the same. Read the concordat to support research integrity on the Universities UK website(opens in a new tab).
Research misconduct can include:
It does not include:
We expect research organisations in the UK to follow the Universities UK concordat to support research integrity(opens in a new tab).
Organisations outside the UK should follow appropriate guidelines of a similar standard, such as the Singapore statement on research integrity(opens in a new tab).
When an organisation submits a grant application to us, they must confirm that the lead applicant (and sponsor and supervisor if relevant), has not had an allegation of research misconduct upheld against them for which there is either a current formal disciplinary warning or an active sanction.
If they have, we may reject the application. In such circumstances we encourage potential applicants to contact Wellcome's Director of Grants, in confidence, to discuss their situation before they apply.
We recommend that the organisation’s application submission sign-off process includes someone who would be aware of any such warning or sanction. If the applicant has been at the organisation for less than 12 months, we expect the organisation to check with the previous employer.
It is the organisation’s responsibility to:
1. Have a policy in place that clearly sets out:
The policy should be available to all staff and ideally published on the organisation’s intranet.
2. Make sure there is an equivalent policy in place at any sub-awardee organisation. If this is a problem, contact us for advice.
3. Investigate allegations of research misconduct in an impartial, fair and timely manner. It must:
The UK Research Integrity Office’s recommend procedure for investigation(opens in a new tab) provides a detailed model that may be helpful to organisations in and outside the UK.
4. Tell Wellcome’s Director of Grants, when a formal investigation has been opened into an allegation of research misconduct. This should include information on the category of research misconduct and the investigation process.
If there is a full investigation, the organisation must tell Wellcome the name of the respondent, in confidence.
This applies to any employee at the organisation who is associated with:
5. Keep Wellcome informed during the investigation process. Investigations should conclude within one year of receiving the allegation.
6. Contact Wellcome’s Director of Grants again when the investigation has been completed and any final appeal has been heard, and provide us with the final investigation report. This should confirm:
Wherever possible, organisations should see an investigation through to its conclusion. This includes:
While we recognise that the requested disclosures under this policy may include personal data, we consider that we have a legitimate interest handling this data.
During the application stage, we need to be aware of upheld allegations or those currently under investigation, so that we can make responsible funding decisions. Informing us about an investigation will not affect how we process or review an application, but we may, for example, delay issuing an award until an investigation is completed. This is to:
After an award has been made, the organisation must tell us when a formal investigation into research misconduct has been opened. This is so that we can:
The information you send us at any point should not include:
Any information you send to us will be:
If an organisation upholds a research misconduct allegation, we may apply our own sanctions. Sanctions may vary in length, depending on the seriousness of the case and any remedial action already in place.
These will be independent of any set by the organisation. We may:
Where allegations of research misconduct are upheld, we expect organisations to implement appropriate disciplinary procedures.
We may apply sanctions against a Wellcome-funded organisation if we find that it has failed to:
Sanctions we apply against organisations may include:
Allegations of research misconduct should always be reported to the employing organisation of the person against whom the allegation is being made. It is the organisation’s responsibility to investigate, not Wellcome’s.
If an allegation is made directly to a member of Wellcome staff rather than to the employing organisation, we will:
We will respect an informant’s wish to remain anonymous, unless:
We will tell the informant if we need to reveal their identity.
The employing organisation is then responsible for following its own allegation procedures.
We will reserve any judgement about an allegation until the investigation is complete. We will only provide information to our staff or external advisors on a need-to-know basis.
It is the host organisation's responsibility to investigate allegations of research misconduct. This is our preferred course of action, but we reserve the right to:
This may be done as part of our organisation audits.
If an investigation has been completed and an individual has concerns about the process, Wellcome will ask the organisation to confirm that it has adhered to its published policy. We are not able to challenge the outcome of the investigation.
Formal allegations, reports of allegations or complaints about process, should be reported to Wellcome, as outlined in this policy, and within ten years of the alleged misconduct having taken place.
Where we exercise our right to see the above information, we expect organisations to be able to share it. We strongly discourage the inappropriate use of non-disclosure agreements that might prevent organisations from sharing this information with us.
In exceptional cases, we may undertake our own investigation into alleged cases of research misconduct that concern Wellcome-funded researchers (for example, where our reputation is at risk or we are dissatisfied with the investigation undertaken by the host organisation).
Any investigation will only be undertaken following consultation with the appropriate representative(s) of the host organisation.
This policy was last updated in February 2021.