UCT’s commitment to strengthening responsible research practices

15 June 2021 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear colleagues

A part of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) commitment to broaden the assessment of research impact, addressed in my November 2020 DVC Desk, is to recognise and reward behaviours that strengthen research integrity. The landscape of research norms, values and behaviours is changing in response to both local and international demands and our drive to realise Vision 2030. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) works to support the adoption of responsible research practices by researchers and institutional structures. Through this work we seek to promote the values of honesty, accountability, professional courtesy and fairness and good stewardship of research, as put forward in the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity. These values, in line with UCT’s drive to achieve excellence and transformation toward sustainability, support researchers in their contribution towards “solving Afrika’s problems through research” by engaging in responsible research practices.

Empowering researchers with appropriate responsible conduct of research (RCR) training

The ORI has developed online training modules to address the growing needs of the research community. The current modules cover:

  1. Introduction to Research Integrity
  2. Research Misconduct and Questionable Research Practices
  3. Responsible Authorship and Publication
  4. Research Using Human Participants.

Further modules are in development, including one on ethical data management. This module also includes a section on the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which comes into full implementation on 1 July 2021. Each module, once successfully completed, will trigger a certificate of attendance, which can be used in support of funding applications or supplied as proof of training. The modules can be taken individually or as a programme. After a short pilot-testing phase in 2020, the modules have been revamped to incorporate the feedback of the research community. The new versions of the modules are now available for permanent, T1 and T2 staff to access via the SuccessFactors Learning Management System. A solution for student access will be forthcoming.

The ORI chose to develop the modules internally to take into account the needs and contexts of local researchers. The content is grounded in international best practice, research integrity values and driven by local contexts. It makes use of learning strategies which encourage participants to evaluate their own disciplinary background and work environment, their personal values and the interplay between these. We know that responsible research practices may look different in different disciplines and so we have taken a broad approach in presenting the content. The modules were developed to empower researchers at all career stages and across all disciplines with the knowledge and tools they need to practice research responsibly and ethically.

Funder requirement

The RCR ecosystem continues to grow at UCT. It includes supportive policies and structures through the ORI and various institutional and faculty resources. The updated institutional RCR policy was approved in November 2020 and speaks to the importance of RCR. Internationally, many funders already require (US Federal funding) or will soon require (EU Horizon Europe) proof of training in the responsible conduct of research, or evidence that such training is built into a research project. UCT recognises that ethical and responsible conduct of research is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in research. Consequently, education in the responsible and ethical conduct of research is essential in the preparation of academic, research staff, research ethics committee members, postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students.

I encourage you to engage with the online modules – the first of their kind in Africa. I look forward to working with the UCT research community and the Office of Research Integrity to promote training and education in the responsible conduct of research and research integrity values and to ‘walk the talk’, directing these towards achieving excellence, transformation and sustainability of research.


Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

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