Thoughts around “Research Culture: Environments & Accountability”

On Wednesday, 22nd February 2023 the UK Research Integrity Office hosted one of its free webinars in association with GuildHE, titled Research Culture: Environments & Accountability. A huge thank you to the organisers as it was an excellently organised webinar and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it.

You can find an outline of the webinar on this webpage:

I offered a contribution titled, “Reflections on what researchers are accountable for…”:

In this short talk, Verity discussed a series of reflections from conversations with people in academic, student, professional services and industry roles about accountability. She highlighted notable trends in responses, in particular thoughts on accountability being influenced by the career stage of the researcher, the environment rather than the discipline the researcher is in, the researcher’s demographic and standpoint on research, and then exposure to other industries and their ways of being accountable. Verity raised these points to further reflect on differences in opinion around accountability and how this phrase can be better understood and operationalised.

You can view the session via the UKRIO’s YouTube playlist on Research Culture (or through the window below): the contributions are parcelled off into different videos.

Following my talk and contributions from the other speakers, an engaged online audience offered some fascinating questions and comments. For example:

  • Do we consider confidential peer review to be a helpful practice for research integrity?
  • How important is it for research culture to be explicitly called out in the strategy document, rather than just being seen as an expected underpinning aspect to excellent research?
  • How do you feel engaged research enhances accountability?
  • How do you reconcile the “publish or perish” philosophy that’s present in many research cultures with the onus of accountability. Do you feel that responsibility lies with the researcher, or with institutions to drive change here?
  • As a member of the professional services rather than an academic I am always looking at ways to engage academics in these discussions. What have you seen work best in achieving this?
  • How can we foster positive aspects of accountability with a lessons learned approach and avoiding a blame culture?
  • Are we talking culture or embodied values (or are they the same?!)?

I answered some of these verbally and via the chat function on Zoom, some really interesting questions which need extended thinking and discussion. I am always happy to pick these up, and grateful for the continued opportunities through the UKRIO and GuildHE to listen to others speak about topics around accountability and culture. Hopefully, the swell of activity and sharing will contribute to driving positive cultural change in and across higher education.


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