Code of Practice in Research


As stated in the Corporate Plan 2017-2027, one of the Gallery’s eight Strategic Objectives is ‘to increase the understanding of and engagement with the Collection and the art of portraiture through outstanding interpretation, research, exhibitions and displays, learning, 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 and those it commissions from outside to conduct research, to abide by this Code of Practice including both Principles of Good Research Practice and Standards. This Code of Practice will be published on the Gallery’s website and will be updated periodically; the version current at the date of research will apply. The Code of Practice will be disseminated via the Gallery’s intranet and made available to those contracted to conduct research in connection with the Gallery’s exhibition, publication or research programmes.

Principles of Good Research Practice

In accordance with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, of which Research Councils UK (RCUK) was a founding signatory and which UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) continue to endorse, the Gallery adopts the following commitments:

  • maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research
  • ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards
  • supporting a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity and based on good governance, best practice and support for the development of researchers
  • using transparent, robust and fair processes to deal with allegations of research misconduct should they arise
  • working together to strengthen the integrity of research and reviewing progress regularly and openly

The Gallery recognises that good research practice includes:

  • 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
  • securing and storing primary data

In accordance with the RCUK Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research Conduct, the Gallery seeks to avoid misconduct according to the following definitions:

  • Fabrication – the creation of false data or other aspects of research, including documentation and participant consent
  • Falsification – the inappropriate manipulation and/or selection of data, imagery and/or consents
  • Plagiarism – the misappropriation or use of others’ ideas, intellectual property or work (written or otherwise), without acknowledgement or permission
  • Misrepresentation – of data, interests, qualifications and experience, and involvement
  • Breach of duty of care – including breach of confidentiality, reputational danger, informed consent, improper conduct in peer review

Where there is suspicion that misconduct has occurred, this will be investigated and considered in line with the Gallery’s Disciplinary Policy.


Members of staff or those conducting research for the National Portrait Gallery should make themselves familiar with the following standards of Good Research Practice.

1. Integrity

Research should be conducted to the highest levels of integrity, including appropriate research design and frameworks, to ensure that findings are robust and defensible. Researchers should adhere to the highest levels of research ethics, in line with requirements set out by national and international regulatory bodies, professional and regulatory research guidance and research ethics frameworks issued in appropriate areas. Researchers should report any conflict of interest in line with Gallery procedures (personal, academic, or commercial) that arises in the course of their work.

2. Openness

The research process should be transparent to colleagues, peers and potential users, and the Gallery expects researchers to be as open as possible in discussing their work with other researchers and the public. The Gallery recognises that publication of research may need to be delayed for a reasonable period pending protection of intellectual property arising from the research; however, this delay should be kept to a minimum.

3. Legislation

All researchers should be aware of the legal requirements that regulate their work, particularly data protection and intellectual property requirements.

4. Leadership

The Gallery’s Director and Director’s Group, 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 lie with the project leader.

5. Dissemination

The Gallery encourages publication and dissemination of the results of high-quality research, always ensuring that this reflects the individual’s own research and analysis in an honest and complete manner, placing it appropriately within the context of prior and existing knowledge. All funding sources must be acknowledged in any publication or publicity.

6. 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. The Gallery’s Senior Curator of Research will provide information, advice and training on the codes of practice, expectations, and on managing and monitoring student performance.

7. 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 in accordance with the Gallery’s Records Management policy and its statutory obligations.

8. Procedures for Allegations of Misconduct

The Gallery defines research misconduct as knowingly committing fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, misrepresentation of data or a breach in duty of care, as set out in the Principles of Good Research Practice in this document. Any concerns in relation to research misconduct will be investigated and considered in line with the Gallery’s Disciplinary Policy. 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 Whistleblowing Policy.

9. 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.

Documents consulted in compiling this code of good practice include the Code of Good Practice issued by the British Museum; the Code of Conduct issued by The National Archives; RCUK Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research; and The Concordat to Support Research Integrity.

Dr Alison Smith
Chief Curator

Dr Nicholas Cullinan

November 2019