UK universities will work together to improve research quality and reproducibility

The University of Aberdeen is one of 10 UK universities which will collaborate to improve the quality of UK academic research output, it was announced today.

Aberdeen – alongside Bristol, Edinburgh, Keele, Newcastle, Oxford Brookes, the Royal Veterinary College, Sheffield, Surrey, and UCL – has joined the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) in order to better work in partnership to improve research rigour, robustness and quality.

The universities will form a group of institutional leads within UKRN. Each institution has created a senior academic role focused on research improvement.

While the UK is at the leading edge of research globally, there is a need to constantly strive to improve in order to retain that position. Crucially, research that is rigorous, robust and of high quality must be produced to ensure that the UK retains its reputation for producing world-leading research.

Professor Marion Campbell, Vice-Principal (Research) described the UKRN as an important development and one which universities should support.

“The University of Aberdeen is very pleased to be part of the UKRN, which we believe is a step in the right direction of supporting a positive research culture,” she said.

Dr Jessica Butler, research fellow in the Aberdeen Centre for Health Data Science, leads the Open Research Working Group at the University of Aberdeen. She said it was important that researchers, university administrations, public and private funders, and academic journals unite to work collectively in order to raise the standard and quality of research.

The UK is already driving continuous improvement in this area through policy initiatives such as the UUK Research Integrity Forum and the more recently formed UKRN, an initiative supported by research funders and led by researchers.

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 grass-roots 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, 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.”