Materials from research integrity workshops at Sheffield

Most recent workshop:
'Much to be gained - many ways to get into trouble' in collaborative research

In January 2015 researchers came together to explore the challenges that can and do arise in research collaborations with respect to issues around integrity. A report and blog post were created. Two videos from the event can be viewed: Introduction from Professor Paul Martin (Head of Sociological Studies) and an Overview of the wider policy landscape from Mr Richard Hudson (R&I Services). The University's expectations regarding the minimum acceptable practices that all its researchers must practice in research collaborations are spelt out in the University's GRIP Policy (sub-section 2.2 of Section 2).

Is collaboration like a marriage? or a purely transactional relationship? We enter collaborations with a set of assumptions about how we envisage the collaborations to work yet in practice the partner(s) may not share these assumptions. We may have to negotiate variations in practice and behaviour, but to what degree? Not  at the expense of our own professional standards (e.g. what we consider constitutes acceptable research data management practices or fair authorship). Researchers have a power to say 'No' before agreeing to collaborate.

Trusting your collaborator is fundamental to an effective relationship. Introduce too much formality early on (e.g written agreements covering aspects of the proposed collaboration) and the effort invested in trying to nurture a strong professional relationship may be weakened. But leaving it all to gut instinct, chance and informality, in the hope that collaborating partners understand each other, increases the risk of serious problems arising through misunderstandings or different interpretations of what has actually been agreed informally.

Some examples of problems that can arise in collaborations (influenced by wider institutional contexts, disciplinary cultures and the personalities of individuals): 
- Poor communication and misunderstanding
- Different styles of working (personal or disciplinary) if partners aren't willing to accept those styles (e.g. some people are much more open than others, for instance in sharing data or engaging with the public)
- Lack of transparency in how partner is undertaking the research
- Lack of shared understanding over acceptable professional standards (e.g. who should be a named author)
- Lack of clear shared understanding of what each partner is accountable for
- If multi-disciplinary, a lack of sufficient shared understanding of each other's different disciplinary norms (for example, accepted norms of publication practice)
- conflicts of interest (e.g. around intellectual property rights)