Research Integrity at Keele

Research integrity is defined as maintaining high quality and robust research practices throughout a research project.  It is about ensuring that, from idea conception through design, conduct, collection and recording of data, reporting and dissemination of findings, to the application and exploitation of findings, all practices are conducted in an honest and transparent manner.  For a more detailed definition of research integrity please see page 6 of the revised Concordat to support research integrity.


Reproducibility is a key component of robust research in many disciplines and is one of the drivers of Open Research. It features initiatives such as open access and making protocols and datasets available for others to review or use.  Keele University is a formal institutional member of the UK Reproducibility Network.

Research integrity and publications

Public and academic trust in publications has been eroded over time due to poor practice and integrity. The China’s Publication Bazaar article (Science 2013 (342) 1035-39) and other articles have highlighted the practices of ghost writers, authorship, data and papers for sale as some of the main issues. In some countries large financial rewards have been provided to authors of high-impact articles as described in a Nature article. Dr Irene Hames gave a presentation, at a UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) event, which covereds publication ethics. The majority of issues which arise are related to authorship, peer review and images. This PubMed report has a useful figure (figure 2) describing misconduct in relation to publications. 

Expand the sections below for further information and resources on particular topics.

Issues around authorship occur in all disciplines and are not confined to the biomedical sciences.  

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has published guidance on integrity and authorship and has a database of cases that can be searched as guidance and as an educational tool.   

It is recommended that the research lead outlines authorship order at the start of the project and highlights that it may be updated due to changes in contribution as the project progresses.  This should be an ongoing dialogue that continues throughout the project.  The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) authorship guidelines can be too rigid and are open to abuse but McNutt et al (2018) have suggested alternative authorship policies. 

If a PhD student contributes the majority of the work for a publication they must be the primary author and not replaced by the research lead or head of the research group.  It does not matter what career stage an author is at, it is their contribution to the research that determines their place in the author list. 

The Bullied into Bad Science campaign is aimed at supporting early career researchers.   If you are an early career researcher and feel that it is difficult to directly challenge a more senior academic, the authorship guidelines from COPE and the McNutt et al (2018) article may be useful tools to indirectly engage in dialogue.  Please remember you can contact your Faculty Research Integrity Champion, our Academic Lead for Research Integrity and Improvement or the institutional lead for Research Integrity for support. 

Ghost writers, those that write a paper and are not listed as an author or ‘guest writers’ that appear in the author list without any contribution to the work, are not acceptable practices and are not supported by Keele University. 

The Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations is a useful standard when dealing with authorship in research collaborations. The Contributors Roles Taxonomy is a useful tool that can help to define an individual's contribution to a publication and is becoming more widely adopted by journals and publishers. 

It is recommended that all researchers register with ORCiD to get an ORCID iD which is your unique digital identifier as a researcher. 

Dr Jane Alfred gave a presentation, at a UKRIO event about publication ethics, which highlights some of the issues with the peer review system.  Peer review must be ethical and robust. Again, trust in the peer review system has been eroded due to poor conduct and integrity.  The classic peer review system lacks transparency, for example authors can suggest reviewers that they have worked with introducing bias into the review process.  Occasionally academics are asked to review an article or application in a field that is not aligned with their expertise, if this happens to you it is ok to reject the request you should never feel pressured to complete a review.  

Image manipulation to falsify results is an unacceptable practice and yet is often reported.  Jana Christopher gave a presentation, at a UKRIO publication ethics event, which highlights some of the practices that have been identified during her role as an Image Data Integrity Analyst.  Journals are moving towards routine screening of images following publications such as Bik et al 2018 highlighting the extent of the problem.  It is recommended that you work as much as possible with the primary data to create images and to keep the primary data in an unadulterated format so that it can be provided to the journal at submission or is available if requested.  Some alterations are acceptable for example using contrast to improve the quality of an image but it is not acceptable to increase the contrast to a point where data are obscured.  If you are unsure, there are ethical guidelines and resources Cromey (2010).  In a move to prevent the publication of altered images PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology updated their submission policy in 2019, so that raw gel and blot data must be provided at submission. 

Predatory publishers and journals suffer from a lack of transparency and quality, and generally cannot be trusted.  You may have received an email from one asking for you to submit an article or promising faster publication turnaround times.  If you are unsure of a journal or have been approached to publish in a journal you do not recognise, you can use to help to check if a journal is trusted or speak to others in your area or to your Faculty Research Integrity Champion.   

Cambridge University Library produced a useful video on ‘How to spot a predatory publisher’. 

Research talks

The Research Talks series is a regular series of presentations on a variety of research topics, ranging from individual research projects to research processes and insights into different research teams.  Presentations will be delivered by a mixture of internal and external academic colleagues and professional services colleagues.  All staff are welcome to attend, and academics, PGR students and PSS staff working in research will in particular find these presentations useful.

For more information, or to speak to someone to arrange a presentation please contact