Code of good practice in research
This Code of Practice sets out standards of performance and conduct expected of all staff, students and contracted personnel engaged in research at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is designed to ensure that research carried out at the Museum is conducted in accordance with the highest standards of integrity. It aims to ensure the delivery of high quality research, to safeguard all stakeholders, to meet the requirements of relevant funding bodies and to manage risk in relation to research misconduct.
All Museum staff, students and those contracted to undertake research for the Museum must familiarize themselves with the Code and ensure that its provisions are observed. Line Managers and project managers have a responsibility to seek to ensure compliance by their staff. The Museum will draw attention to the code in its induction process for newly appointed researchers. Supervisors of students engaged in research will aim to ensure compliance with the Code by such students.
Research is understood to involve original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. This definition includes the following:
Scholarship: the analysis, synthesis and interpretation of ideas and information.
Pure Research: work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without a particular application in view.
Strategic Research: work which is carried out to discover new knowledge which might provide for an envisioned future application.
Applied Research: work which is undertaken to discover new applications of existing or new knowledge.
Action Research: the development of new knowledge through engagement in practice.
Within the Museum setting some of the above work takes place within the context of research informing the identification, selection and acquisition of objects into the Museum's collections and exhibitions. Research may also focus on collections, or audiences, or both. Audience research may address (for example), the diversity of audience needs and behaviour; the effectiveness of exhibits, programmes and other public provision; and issues of cultural policy. Research also plays an active part in the conservation, presentation and interpretation of objects in the galleries and is essential in providing appropriate levels of documentation.
All research supports the creation of knowledge whereby information about objects in the Museum's collections is enriched by a broader comprehension of their wider historical context and their social, intellectual, technological and aesthetic significance. The central types of knowledge required by the Museum are the ability to identify and care for objects in the collections and to enhance the interpretation of their meanings for diverse audiences. Members of staff and students must, therefore, maintain a constant dialogue between the objects, archival material and the relevant secondary literatures, between data and methods of care and interpretation, and between the Museum and its users. Audiences may themselves be active researchers, as students, academics, or specialist professionals, as well as informed participants.
The Nolan Committee's report on Standards in Public Life identified the following principles: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. As a general rule, Museum staff and students are expected to adhere to these principles in all aspects of their research. In particular they should:
demonstrate integrity and professionalism;
observe fairness and equity;
avoid, and/or declare, conflicts of interest;
ensure the safety and well-being of those associated with the research;
observe all relevant legal and ethical requirements;
be open to scrutiny and debate.
Good research practice should also include:
securing and storing primary data appropriately;
documenting results clearly and accurately;
attributing and acknowledging the contributions of others;
co-operating with other researchers;
taking special account of the needs of young or inexperienced researchers.
Purchasing and expenditure for research
Purchasing and other expenditure of funds should take place in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Museum's financial regulations and staff Code of Conduct and of any grant or contract held for research.
Researchers should observe the standards of practice set out in this code and take all reasonable measures to ensure compliance with sponsor, institutional, legal, ethical and moral obligations in managing research projects. This applies to the whole range of research work including methodological planning, generating and analyzing data, publishing results and acknowledging the contribution of others.
Working with participants
Research may involve members of the public as subjects or participants. Researchers must ensure that all participants in a research project understand the process in which they are to be engaged, including who is undertaking and financing it, why it is being undertaken, and how it is to be disseminated and used. Participation should be based on the freely given, informed consent of those studied and participants should be made aware of their right to refuse participation for any reason. Researchers should always strive to protect the rights of those they study, their interests, sensitivities and privacy.
Training and leadership
Senior researchers and managers should create an environment of mutual co-operation in which all researchers are encouraged to develop their skills and in which the open exchange of ideas is fostered. They must also ensure that appropriate direction of research and its supervision are provided through normal project management procedures, mentoring and the Museum's Performance Management scheme.
Research data must be recorded in a durable and auditable form, in accordance with the Museum's Records Management and Archives Policy, so that it can readily be discovered. It must be retained intact for a period of at least five years from the date of any publication, gallery scheme or exhibition which is based upon it (Staff Handbook part 3). It is the duty of the principal investigator to comply with the Data Protection Act, and to ensure that copyright is not breached in line with the guidelines laid down in the Staff Handbook (section E1).
In general, research requires openness, but restrictions relating to publication and dissemination may apply in circumstances where the Museum or its partners have made or given confidentiality undertakings to third parties or confidentiality is required to protect intellectual property rights. It is the duty of the researcher to enquire of the Project Manager, with reference to the Head of Research, as to whether confidentiality provisions apply and of the Project Manager and/or Head of Research to inform researchers of their obligations with respect to these provisions.
For the purposes of this Code, 'publication' can be taken to mean book, article, lecture, web content, gallery or exhibition output. All publications must report research accurately and with appropriate references to the contribution of all contributors.
Conflicts of interest
A researcher must make full disclosure of any potential or actual conflict of interest in research. Conflict of interest includes personal or familial affiliation to or financial involvement with, any organization sponsoring or providing financial support for a project undertaken by a researcher. Financial involvement includes direct personal financial interest, receipt of personal benefits (including travel and accommodation) and receipt of material or facilities for personal use. Where it is unavoidable that a purchase is made from a company in which a researcher has a direct or familial financial interest, the researcher is required to disclose that interest to the Project Manager, with reference to the Head of Research, and will be barred from authorizing the purchase him or herself.
Submitting grant applications
Principal Investigators should take all reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy
of information contained in applications for funding.
Misconduct in research is defined as non-compliance with the Museum's Code of Good Practice in Research and includes, but is not restricted to:
Plagiarism - the copying or use of ideas, data or text without permission or acknowledgement.
Fraud - deliberate deception, involving the invention of data or the fabrication of results.
Collusion - aiding or attempting to aid, or obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from another person in an examination, and aiding in the concealment of research misconduct by others.
Interference - intentional damage to, or removal of, the research-related property of another.
Non-compliance - the deliberate failure to comply with obligations to the Museum, sponsor, funding body, professional body or partner, including accounting requirements, ethics, and health and safety regulations.
Staff , students and those contracted to undertake research for the Museum are required to report research misconduct, where they have good cause to believe it is occurring, to their line manager, with reference to the Head of Research. The Museum will investigate allegations or complaints about misconduct in research in line with the disciplinary procedures laid down in the Staff Handbook (section C1 and F2).