Quality assurance in research
The Food Standards Agency, together with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has developed a Code of Practice to ensure that the results of the research it commissions will stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
The Agency bases its policies and advice on the best scientific evidence available and public confidence in the evidence is essential. The Code of Practice will help to ensure that research commissioned by the Agency is of a high and reliable quality.
For a number of years, the Agency and other research funders have implemented procedures for assessing the scientific quality of research proposals. However, some recent incidents have shown that this research is not always undertaken in a rigorous, controlled manner, which naturally creates doubts on the validity and reliability of the findings. It is important that the Agency has complete confidence in the research it commissions and, if necessary, is able to go back to the contractors at a later date to verify the results.
The Code of Practice will ensure that research contractors have correct procedures in place to track all records of their research. Indeed, a key recommendation in the 2001 Review of the Food Standards Agency's Research Portfolio and Research Management Systems (see below), was that, as a general rule, by 2006 we should be contracting research only at laboratories that had implemented QA schemes acceptable to the Agency.
From June 2004 we expect a declaration of compliance with the Code. Agency application forms and guidance issued with research calls have been amended to take account of this. This is intended as a step to a longer term position where most Agency funded contractors assure the quality of their research process using a formal system that is audited by independent third parties against a relevant international standard.
In late 2003, Defra commissioned the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to undertake baseline assessments of a selection of its contractors. The assessments sought to identify how close contractors were to full compliance with the JCoPR and the implementation problems that they might be facing. Defra has now analysed UKAS's assessments and produced a summary report (see document (4) below), which offers guidance on common opportunities for improvement.
Whilst the assessments were tailored towards Defra's needs, the Food Standards Agency has maintained an active interest throughout the process. We hope that many of the issues identified in the report should be just as relevant to Agency research contractors. As such we recommend that anyone considering bidding for Agency research contracts and existing contractors working towards full compliance read this document.
The Joint Code of Practice, the accompanying announcement letter (May 2003) and a follow-up letter (February 2004) can be downloaded as Adobe Acrobat Files. (see documents (1) (2) and (3) below.)
Mr Alisdair Wotherspoon
Chief Scientist Team
Room 202c, Aviation House
London WC2B 6NH
tel: 020 7276 8786
Quality Assurance in Research Update - Auditing against the Joint Code of Practice for Research (JCoPR) in 2006/07
This notice is to all current/potential future contractors for FSA/Defra research projects. It outlines FSA and Defra's next steps in implementing the Joint Code of Practice for Research (JCoPR). The FSA and Defra have jointly initiated an audit programme to determine whether research projects, funded after 1 June 2004 are being carried out in compliance with the JCoPR.
To read the notice
The notice can be downloaded as an Adobe Acrobat File (see document (5) below).
Proposed FSA/DEFRA workshop to disseminate the outputs of the Joint Code of Practice (JCoPR) 2006-2008 audit series
This invitation is to all quality assurance managers (or staff with responsibility for quality assurance) of current contractors for FSA / Defra research projects. It outlines the FSA and Defra's next steps in disseminating the outputs of the joint audit programme. The programme was carried out from 2006 to 2008 by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to determine whether research projects, funded after after 1 June 2004, are being carried out in compliance with the provisions of the JCoPR. As the audit series draws to a close, we are considering holding an Autumn workshop with QA managers from across our research contractor base, to disseminate the generic outputs of the audits.
SEE DOCUMENT (6) LISTED BELOW, DEADLINE FOR RESPONSE CLOSE OF PLAY FRIDAY 8TH AUGUST 2008
Important Update: re proposed workshop to disseminate the outputs of the Joint Code of Practice (JCoPR) 2006-2008 audit series
Please read the update below (SEE DOCUMENT (7) LISTED BELOW) regarding the proposed FSA/Defra workshop to discuss the outputs of the JCoPR QA audits.
Mr Asif Chowdhury
Chief Scientist Team
Head of Research Management Branch
Aviation House (Room 3B)
London WC2B 6NH
tel: 0207 276 8994