Responsible conduct of research

All researchers and organisations we fund and collaborate with must conduct their research responsibly. We expect organisations to have policies, structures and training in place to enable all researchers to carry out their research responsibly.

Our grant conditions and associated funding policies outline specific requirements we have of researchers and organisations we fund. They provide the basis for carrying out research responsibly. These policies may form part of any organisational audit by Wellcome and if not adhered to may result in sanctions.

The responsible conduct of research is more than compliance with Wellcome policy and relevant legal and ethical frameworks.

The UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity and the Singapore Statement describe the principles fundamental to the responsible conduct of research guidance and outline expectations of those involved in research. The guidance here is intended to give researchers and organisations further support to develop their practices beyond the formal frameworks but is not exhaustive. Whilst we may ask at audit how institutions are evolving practice in these areas we will not introduce sanctions as a consequence.

Research design 

Researchers should employ appropriate research methods, base conclusions on critical analysis of the evidence, and report findings and interpretations fully and objectively. Researchers must take care to determine and report appropriate controls and replicates, and specify how bias in data collection and analysis will be managed.

Safeguarding researchers and research participants 

Researchers and organisations must ensure they take all reasonable means to prevent harm, exploitation, abuse and harassment occurring because of their work. This includes all participants conducting the research as well as those who are participants in the research. See our Research Involving Human Participants and Bullying and Harassment policies for more information.

Research that involves clinical trials should follow the Good Clinical Trials Collaborative’s Guidance for Good Randomised Clinical Trials.

Research involving animals 

Researchers should be trained in all relevant aspects of research involving animals including, but not limited to ethics and inclusive experimental design. Researchers should consider use of tools such as the Experimental Design Assistant, a free online tool from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.

Research records 

Researchers should keep clear, accurate records of all research in ways that will allow verification and replication of their work by others including methodologies, procedures and the approvals granted. These should be reported clearly including in any publications and where appropriate a unique, persistent identifier sought. Research records or laboratory notebooks should include clear cross-referencing to electronic data sources. Organisations should publish to their research staff standard procedures for signing off and archiving laboratory records and notebooks

Researchers can also record methodology and statistical analysis plans through Wellcome Open Research or an independent registry such as protocols.io.

Sharing research outputs 

For full instructions on sharing research outputs please refer to our Open Access policy.

Authors must have had significant input into the research. This could be through the design, execution or interpretation of the research. They must also accept accountability for the content of the publication. Publications must properly acknowledge the contributions of collaborators and funders.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides guidance on how to determine authorship and the CASRAI website provides guidance on credit in publications.

Keeping your research secure 

The most benefit can be gained from research when the outputs are made freely available whenever possible and used responsibly.

Researchers’ work should be treated with privilege, and as intended, before and after its general release. We recommend you refer to the guidance published for the academic community by the UK government’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure on how to protect your research data and outputs.

Data generated during a research project should be kept securely in electronic format unless it's not technically possible.

Data and related materials must be stored for at least 10 years after the study ends. If the research is based on clinical samples or findings that relate to public health, it should be stored for 20 years.

Promoting a positive research culture 

Researchers and organisations should encourage practices that promote responsible research and an environment in which research can flourish. Institutions should recognise and reward researchers for behaviour that supports research integrity and a positive research culture. These could include:

  • providing support for collaborations
  • undertaking and recognising peer review and advisory board activities
  • demonstrating commitment to diversity and inclusion.

You may find the Hong Kong Principles for research assessment a useful reference. We consider bullying and harassment of any kind, in any context, to be unacceptable. Our policy sets out what we expect from the organisations we fund and the people involved in our funding.

Maximising the impact of research 

We want the outputs, knowledge and discoveries that research generates to have as much impact as possible. Researchers should explore ways to do this both within and beyond traditional routes.

Organisations should have mechanisms in place to enable and reward these activities. This could be, for example, by translation, public engagement or informing policy.

These guidelines were updated in March 2022.

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