The Science and Technology Committee today concludes that in order to allow others to repeat and build on experiments, researchers should aim for the gold standard of making their data fully disclosed and made publicly available.
In the report examining the current peer-review system as used in scientific publications and the related issues of research impact, data management, publication ethics and research integrity, the MPs say that it should be a fundamental aim of the peer-review process that all publications are scientifically sound.
The Committee found that the integrity of the peer-review process can only ever be as robust as the integrity of the people involved.
Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Committee, said,
"Although it is not the role of peer review to police research integrity and identify fraud or misconduct, it does, on occasion, identify suspicious cases. While there is guidance in place for journal editors when ethical misconduct is suspected, we found the general oversight of research integrity in the UK to be unsatisfactory and complacent."
The UK does not seem to have an oversight body for research integrity covering advice and assurance functions across all disciplines and the Committee recommends the creation of an external regulator. It also says all UK research institutions should have a specific member of staff leading on research integrity.
The report highlights concerns about the use of journal Impact Factor as a proxy measure for the quality of research or of individual articles. Although assured by research funders that they do not use this approach, the Committee warns that research institutions should be cautious about adopting this measure in relation to assessing researchers for promotion.
Andrew Miller explained that
"There is an element of chance in getting articles accepted in high-impact journals, depending on topicality and other factors. It is important that anyone assessing the quality of work by an individual researcher or research institution considers the value of the published articles themselves, rather than relying on Impact Factor."
Innovative ways to improve current pre-publication peer-review practices are highlighted in the report, including the use of pre-print servers, open peer review, increased transparency and online repository-style journals.
The growth of post-publication peer review and commentary also represents an enormous opportunity for experimentation with new media and social networking tools, which the Committee encourages.
There should also be greater recognition of the work—sometimes considered to be a burden—carried out by reviewers, by both publishers and employers. In order to do this, publishers need to have in place systems for recording and acknowledging the contribution of those involved in peer review.