Several questions are raised by the announcement of the development of a new charter to set out the principles underpinning “sound research practice” in New Zealand.
Whether this is a solution looking for a problem is one question. Another is to ask who decided this is necessary and for what reasons – and why can’t research funders be relied on to set their own standards for the appropriate use of their money?
Then there’s the prospect of another layer of bureaucracy being added to the science domain – potentially one that will gear funding to the satisfying of “political” considerations.
Whatever the reasons, a working group has been formed, with support from research funding agencies, bodies representing different types of research organisations and the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Dr John Hay has been appointed independent chair of the working group.
He says the group’s task is to develop a proposed charter within 12-18 months.
“The aim of the charter is to provide clarity to all researchers and research organisations on expectations for sound research practice.
“It also seeks to foster a culture of collective responsibility for maintaining good research practice, set out what sufficient compliance looks like and also support cohesive research teams working across many research organisations.
“The charter will also provide clarity for international collaborators on the expectations on them when they are working on New Zealand-based research.
“It will support the public to have confidence in the research community by making it clear how important the public interest is and by both setting out what is expected of researchers and ensuring that poor practice is dealt with appropriately. It will meet the wider communities’ expectations for competence, balance and soundness from researchers.”
Other countries have developed a charter, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, Dr Hay said.
But rather than simply adopt one of those, it was important that New Zealand develop its own charter to include elements specific to the context of this country.
Setting out how researchers should meet their responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi was the one example Dr Hay provided, although he said the charter will be bench-marked to contemporary international good practice.
Without such a charter in place, the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Code of Professional Standards and Ethics has been used informally but it is meant to only apply to the Society’s members.
“The new charter would, through its adoption, apply to all researchers employed by or contracted to research organisations,” Dr Hay said.
“Others, such as private research funders and researchers operating without public funding and outside participating research organisations, can be encouraged to adopt it also.”
The organisations that have agreed to co-sponsor the charter’s development are Universities New Zealand, Science New Zealand, Independent Research Association New Zealand, Health Research Council of New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Royal Society of New Zealand. The society will serve as the secretariat for the working group.
The working group has been asked to consult widely across the research community.
More information on the National Research Charter development is available HERE.