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UK universities will work together to improve research quality and reproducibility

Press release issued: 10 December 2019

UK universities will collaborate to improve the quality of UK academic research output. Whilst the UK is at the leading edge of research globally, there is a need to constantly strive to improve in order to retain that positions. Crucially, institutions must produce research that is rigorous, robust and of high-quality, to ensure that the UK retains its reputation for producing world-leading research.

The UK is already driving continuous improvement in this area through policy initiatives such as the UUK Research Integrity Forum. A more recent and exciting development is an initiative supported by research funders and led by researchers, the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN). The UKRN, is currently an informal network of over 40 research institutions across the UK that works with researchers, universities, and a range of stakeholders to promote the adoption of initiatives in order to further improve research rigour, robustness and quality.  

Today [10 December] ten universities – Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Keele, Newcastle, Oxford Brookes, the Royal Veterinary College, Sheffield, Surrey, and UCL – have made the decision to join UKRN in order to better work in partnership to improve research quality. These universities will form a group of institutional leads within UKRN. Each institution has created a senior academic role focused on research improvement.

Advances in science depend on research that is replicable, and this is underpinned by high-quality training and appropriate incentives for researchers. UKRN initiatives will include developing common training across career stages, aligning promotion and hiring criteria to support open and reproducible research practices, and sharing best practices. Academic leads will liaise with grassroots networks of researchers at their institutions and with UKRN stakeholders, including funders and publishers.

Professor Marcus Munafò, Chair of the UK Reproducibility Network steering group and Professor of Biological Psychology in Bristol's School of Psychological Science, said: "Collective action by institutions can reform research culture and improve research quality. The commitment of so many universities to work together, and with the UK Reproducibility Network, represents an exciting and potentially transformative step."

Anne-Marie Coriat, Head of UK and Europe Research Landscape at Wellcome, one of the stakeholders that supports UKRN,  added: "This is an exciting commitment from institutional senior leadership and a key step in supporting a positive research culture."

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