Malcolm Macleod

University of Edinburgh
Malcolm Macleod

Malcolm Macleod is Academic Lead for Research Improvement and Research Integrity at the University of Edinburgh, and Professor of Neurology and Translational Neurosciences. He pioneered the application of systematic review and meta-analysis to data from animal research modelling human diseases, demonstrating low levels of reporting of study design features which might reduce risks of bias. Working with several fantastic colleagues in Edinburgh and beyond, he has worked to improve the reporting of animal research, has extended the approach to include in vitro research, and has used systematic review and meta-analysis of preclinical data to design and implement clinical trials in stroke, multiple sclerosis and motor neuron disease.

Talk: What institutes can do to foster responsible research practices: Embedding a culture of improvement.
Research Performing Organisations have different objectives, but most have a stated ambition to foster responsible research practices. However, this is often perceived – not least by researchers – to be in conflict with some of their other objectives, such as publication in journals of high impact, or placement in University league tables. How might improving responsible research practice be given due weight in RPO management decision making?
Since 30% of all European research funding (€311bn in 2020) comes from government sources, there is an understandable desire to show value the value obtained for the taxpayer. However, this is “audit for accountability” is often reduced to crude measurement of activity or involves cumbersome, resource intensive systems of peer appraisal. An alternative approach is “audit for improvement”. Here, an RPO asserts the criteria against which it would wish to be judged; then asserts what constitutes success against these criteria. This is likely to be most effective when these criteria for success are co-created by researchers themselves. Having established what success looks like, we then measure current performance; seek to improve that performance; and then continually repeat these cycles of measurement and improvement, learning at each stage. Crucially, because we see improvement as a continuing process, it is not necessary for an individual intervention to be transformative. Rather, we can make small incremental steps. Malcolm Macleod will discuss the application of this approach to life sciences research at the University of Edinburgh.

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