Policy Academic Governance Researcher Supervision Procedure

Researcher Supervision Procedure

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Supervision plays a critical role in the responsible conduct of research. Supervisors must ensure that the role model they provide to Research Trainees is positive and conducive to a research culture of excellence, integrity, professionalism and mutual respect. Research Trainees must also recognise and understand that undertaking research requires dedication and accountability.

In compliance with the principles of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Research Code), especially Principles 4, 7, 8 and Responsibilities 5, 15 and the Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research Procedure, Authorship Procedure, Publication and Dissemination of Research Procedure, this Procedure provides advice to understand the best practice in research supervision. Some of the definitions and other text in this Procedure are reproduced from the NHMRC Supervision Guide.


This Procedure applies to supervisors of and persons who conduct, or assist with the conduct of research under the auspices of the University.


Research Trainee

Early-career researchers, Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student, persons who assist with the conduct of research and other researchers under supervision


A person who mentors, directs or oversees the research of a research trainee**

**in regard to information about HDR candidature, please refer to the Graduate Research School and the relevant JCU HDR Codes and Policy. Under HDR policy the preferred term for Supervisor is Advisor.


1.  University Responsibilities


James Cook University (JCU) will ensure that Supervisors:

  • are supported in providing guidance on the Research Code including training for new supervisors;
  • have current knowledge of the methods and content of research in the relevant fields or disciplines and are engaged in producing relevant research outputs in, or otherwise making original contributions to, fields or disciplines relevant to the research of those under their supervision;
  • are recognised that supervision is an essential element of research roles at JCU;
  • should have their workload managed in such a way that their ability to provide effective supervision is not impacted.

Research Trainees

JCU will provide training for all research trainees, including, but not limited to:

  • the principles and responsibilities of the Research Code and its Procedures;
  • research ethics (human ethics and animal ethics requirements);
  • research ethics where research involves Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Communities;
  • occupational health and safety and environmental protection;
  • mechanisms for dispute resolution;
  • technical matters appropriate to the trainee’s discipline.

This training should have high priority for completion early in a research trainee’s studies and/or career and before any recruitment of human participants or use of animals in research is undertaken.

2.  Supervisor Responsibilities

Supervisors are important role models to less experienced researchers and as such have obligations to maintain a high degree of professionalism and foster and promote the Research Code.

Supervisors must maintain objectivity in their relationships with those they supervise, including appropriately managing any changes in the nature of the relationship. These changes may mean necessary variation to the supervisory arrangements.

Supervisors should engage and participate in on-going professional and refresher development and actively seek out relevant training opportunities to improve their supervisory expertise.

Supervisors must support and encourage early engagement with the professional development of research trainees through every stage of the research process from conceptualisation and planning through to dissemination of outcomes and as appropriate, publication and follow-up activities.  Development should encompass discipline-based research methods and other relevant skills, such as the ability to interact with industry and to work with diverse communities. The Supervisor must guide this development in all matters relating to research conduct and process, including but not limited to:

  • identifying the research objective, approach and methodology to ensure that they are appropriate and valid;
  • obtaining ethics and other approvals;
  • obtaining funding (including the relevant funding body responsible conduct of research policies and procedures);
  • conducting the research (including appropriate engagement with end-users);
  • guidance on fostering a respectful and culturally aware engaged and effective collegial and supervisory relationship;
  • ensure that research trainees receive appropriate credit for their work; and
  • reporting the research outcomes in appropriate forums and media.

Supervisory arrangements

Supervisory arrangements for Research Trainees must be conducted in accordance with the relevant JCU policies and procedures, including Graduate Research School requirements for Higher Degree Research Advisors. Supervisors and research trainees should agree in writing on:

  • the appropriate level of oversight of the development and conduct of the research;
  • the frequency and format of meetings;
  • expectations related to contact between meetings;
  • expectations related to the involvement of the supervisor in the work of the research trainee under supervision, or vice versa, on the same project, if relevant;
  • the process for how to raise concerns and resolve disputes;
  • when and how the above matters will be reviewed during the supervisory relationship.
  • if remote supervision is provided, arrangements must ensure that the research trainee is not disadvantaged, the use of appropriate technology is encouraged;
  • if supervisory arrangements are altered or terminated the welfare of supervisors and affected HDR candidates and other trainees will be a key concern, and JCU will provide reasonable support.

3.  Research Trainee Responsibilities

A research trainee must demonstrate a professional attitude towards their research, work cooperatively with their supervisor and ensure their work is consistent with the principles of the Research Code. They should complete all training and professional development requirements as soon as possible and participate in any on-going and refresher training opportunities. Additional development and education is required of Higher Degree Research students.

Sessions with supervisors are important, requiring the cooperation of both parties. The research trainee should not wait until approached by the supervisor but should play an active part in maintaining an appropriate schedule of meetings.

4.  Potential Breaches of the JCU Research Code

Any concerns or complaints regarding the potential breach of the Research Code will be investigated in accordance with the Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research Procedure. Examples of breaches of the Research Code related to supervision include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure of a supervisor to provide adequate guidance or mentorship on the Research Code to research trainees under their supervision;
  • Demanding or accepting authorship of a research output on the basis of supervision where the individual does not also satisfy authorship criteria in the JCU Authorship Procedure.

In the case of an investigation of a potential breach of the Research Code, the University will review supervisory arrangements and manage any changes to these arrangements in consultation with Head of Work Unit and in the case of HDR candidates, the Graduate Research School.

Related policy instruments

JCU Code of Responsible Conduct of Research (Research Code)

JCU Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

JCU Authorship Procedure

JCU Code of Conduct

JCU Publication and Dissemination of Research Procedure

JCU Student Code of Conduct

JCU HDR Requirements

JCU HDR Advisor Handbook

JCU HDR Supervision Procedure


NOTE:  Printed copies of this procedure are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy DomainAcademic Governance
Policy Sub-domainResearch Management

Policy Custodian

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review


Revision History


Approval date

Implementation date






Procedure established to support the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Manager, Research Grants, Ethics and Integrity – Research and Innovation Services


Research Code, Supervision, Researcher, Research Trainee

Contact Person

Manager, Research Grants, Ethics and Integrity