The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Code of Practice in Research

1. General

As stated in the Gallery’s Strategic Plan, one of its six strategic objectives is ‘to increase the understanding of and engagement with the Collection and the art of portraiture through outstanding research, exhibitions and displays, publishing, regional and digital programmes’.

Underpinning this is a commitment to the highest standards of scholarly and professional practice.  The same level of integrity will apply whether it is in the storing and conservation of its collections (the prime instruments of research at the Gallery); the processes whereby research is conducted; and its results, whether through printed publication, display and exhibition, or through electronic publication.

The Gallery expects individual members of staff engaged in research, or those it commissions from outside to conduct research, to abide by the following guidelines which in themselves will be subject to review by its Audit and Compliance Committee.  The possibility of misconduct arising would, if appropriate, be subject to the Gallery’s risk management and disciplinary procedures. 

2. Principles of Good Practice

In accordance with the guidelines of the former Office of Science and Technology, the Gallery accepts the following principles, adapted to its particular circumstances:

  • fundamentals of research such as: maintaining professional standards; documenting results; questioning one's own findings; attributing honestly the contribution of others;
  • leadership and co-operation in research groups;
  • taking special account of the needs of young researchers; and
  • securing and storing primary data.

It seeks to avoid misconduct according to the following definitions:

  • piracy – defined as the deliberate exploitation of ideas from others without proper acknowledgement
  • plagiarism – defined as the copying or misappropriation of ideas (or their expression) text, software, data (or some combination thereof) without permission and due acknowledgement
  • misrepresentation – defined as deliberate attempt to represent falsely or unfairly the ideas or work of others, whether or not for personal gain or enhancement
  • fraud – defined as deliberate deception (which may or may not include the invention or fabrication of data)

3. Implementation

Members of staff or those conducting research for the National Portrait Gallery will be made familiar with its code of good practice in research.  This will be disseminated via the Gallery’s internal Allstaff drive or given to those contracted to conduct research in connection with the Gallery’s exhibition, publication or research programmes.  It should be incorporated in training programmes for all staff likely to conduct research.

4. Leadership and Organisation

The Gallery’s Director and Senior Management Team, reporting to the Trustees, are responsible for ensuring that a climate of fairness, honesty and openness exists in accordance with good research practice.  Responsibility for specific research projects will be that of the project leader. 

5. Education of Young Researchers

Senior members of the Gallery’s curatorial and research teams will pay particular attention to the needs of young researchers.  This will involve mentoring, adequate supervision and setting a good example in the conduct of their own research.

6. Maintenance of data

All those engaged in research at the Gallery should maintain clear and accurate records of the procedures followed and results obtained so as to show that their work was achieved independently and does not infringe the rights of any third party.  Primary data should be securely stored for an appropriate period of time in accordance with the Gallery’s Records Management policy and its statutory obligations.

7. Procedures for Allegations of Misconduct

The Gallery defines research misconduct as knowingly committing piracy, plagiarism, misrepresentation or fraud as set out in Section 2 of this code of practice.  Those responsible will be subject to the Gallery’s Disciplinary procedures as established by the Personnel Department and published on the Gallery internal Allstaff drive.  No disciplinary action shall be taken against an employee until the case has been fully investigated in order to maintain the presumption of innocence.  Even-handed treatment of a complainant in such circumstances will be in accordance with the Gallery’s ‘whistle-blowing’ arrangements as set out in the Employee’s Handbook.

8. Research Council Support

The Gallery will ensure the accuracy of all information submitted in support of applications for funding and will abide by the code of good practice promulgated by Arts and Humanities Research Council with which it is registered as an Independent Research Organisation.   It will complete the annual report on good research practice issued by Research Councils UK.

Documents consulted in compiling this code of good practice include the statement on ‘Safeguarding good research practice’ issued by the former Office of Science and Technology and the codes of good practice issued by King’s College, London, Tate and the Royal College of Art.

Peter Funnell                                                                        
Head of Research Programmes

Sandy Nairne