Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research Procedure
Institutions that conduct research, train and employ researchers have primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, investigation and resolution of complaints about the conduct of that research. This Procedure forms a critical framework to underpin, enact and respond to breaches of the principles of the James Cook University Research Code of Responsible Conduct of Research (Research Code) and in compliance with the NHMRC Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Research Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Guide). It provides a framework for managing, investigating allegations and resolving breaches under the Research Code. Some definitions and other text in this Procedure are reproduced from the NHMRC Guide.
This Procedure applies to all persons engaged in research under the auspices of the University.
This Procedure outlines the steps that must be followed when an allegation of research misconduct is made.
In the event that a staff member is found to have engaged in research misconduct under this Procedure and the Research Code, the matter will be referred to processes outlined in the Enterprise Agreement.
In the event that a student is found to have engaged in research misconduct under this Procedure and the Research Code, the matter will be referred to the Student Code of Conduct and the relevant procedure.
A claim or assertion arising from a preliminary assessment that there are reasonable grounds to believe a breach of the Research Code has occurred. May refer to a single allegation or multiple allegations.
Australian Research Council
The James Cook University Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
A person or persons who has made a complaint about the conduct of research.
Conflict of interest
A conflict of interest exists in a situation where an independent observer might reasonably conclude that the professional actions of a person are or may be unduly influenced by other interests.
This refers to a financial or non-financial interest which may be a perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest.
These include retractions or errata of publications, training, counselling and systemic improvements.
Any document (hard copy or electronic, including e-mail, images and data), information, tangible item (for example, biological samples) or testimony offered or obtained that may be considered during the process of managing and investigating a potential breach of the Research Code.
Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Research Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
Head of Work Unit
Means the manager of a Division College, Institute, Center, Directorate or any successor structure. A Head or Work Unit would be a staff member in one of the following roles: Dean, Director, DVC, Provost or Vice Chancellor.
James Cook University
The term ‘investigation’ is used to describe the action of investigating an allegation of a breach of the Research Code by an Investigation Panel, following the preliminary assessment. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a breach of the Research Code has occurred, and if so, the extent of that breach, and to make recommendations about further actions.
James Cook University
National Health and Medical Research Council
The term ‘preliminary assessment’ is used to describe the gathering and evaluating of evidence to establish whether a potential breach of the Research Code warrants further investigation.
This includes reference to policies, procedures, guidelines and standards.
The concept of research is broad and includes the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies, inventions and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research to the extent that it is new and creative.
Person (or persons) who conducts, or assists with, the conduct of research.
Person or persons who are the subject to a complaint or allegation about a potential breach of the Research Code.
In relation to JCU Staff, a Supervisor is the line manager of JCU staff member. In relation to JCU students, the Supervisor may be an academic or is the person otherwise supervising the JCU student.
A person who accompanies a party to an interview and may be a staff member or; a delegate or staff member of a union that negotiated the JCU Enterprise Agreement and not a practicing solicitor or barrister.
James Cook University
A work unit of James Cook University, for example, Division, College or Directorate
Table of Contents
- Breaches of the Research Code
- Definition of Research Misconduct
- University Roles and Responsibilities
- Procedural Fairness
- Managing concerns, complaints and allegations
1. Breaches of the Research Code
A breach of the Research Code is the failure by a researcher to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Research Code. Breaches may range on a spectrum from minor to major. Minor breaches may be addressed at the preliminary assessment stage. There are also some minor breaches that may relate to research administration that can easily be rectified at the Work Unit level and resolved prior to a preliminary assessment. Unintentional administrative errors, clerical errors or oversights are some examples of minor breaches.
Major breaches would typically require a preliminary assessment and/or investigation.
Factors that must be considered when determining the seriousness of a breach include:
- the extent of the departure from approved or accepted practice;
- the extent to which research participants, the wider community, animals and the environment are, or may have been, affected by the breach;
- the extent to which it affects the reputation of research;
- the level of experience of the researcher;
- whether there are repeated breaches by the researcher;
- whether institutional failures have contributed to the breach; and
- any other mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
Examples of breaches of the Code by a researcher include, but are not limited to, the following:
Not meeting required research standards
- Conducting research without ethics approval, as required by the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and the Australian Research Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes;
- Failing to conduct research as approved by an appropriate ethics review body;
- Conducting research without the requisite approvals, permits or licences;
- Misuse of research funds;
- Concealment or facilitation of breaches (or potential breaches) of the Research Code by others.
Fabrication, falsification, misrepresentation
- Fabrication of research data or source material;
- Falsification of research data or source material;
- Misrepresentation of research data or source material;
- Falsification and/or misrepresentation to obtain funding.
- Plagiarism of someone else’s work, including theories, concepts, research data and source material;
- Duplicate publication (also known as redundant or multiple publication, or self-plagiarism) without acknowledgment.
Research data management
- Failure to appropriately maintain research records;
- Inappropriate destruction of research records, research data and/or source material;
- Inappropriate disclosure of, or access to, research records, research data and/or source material.
- Failure to provide adequate guidance or mentorship on responsible research conduct to researchers or research trainees under supervision.
- Failure to acknowledge the contributions of others fairly;
- Misleading ascription of authorship including failing to offer authorship to those who qualify or awarding authorship to those who do not meet the requirements.
Conflicts of interest
- Failure to disclose and manage conflicts of interest in accordance with University process.
- Failure to conduct peer review responsibly.
2. Definition of Research Misconduct
Research misconduct is a serious breach of the Research Code when it is also:
- intentional or
- reckless or
Research misconduct does not include honest differences in judgement. Unintentional errors do not constitute research misconduct unless they result from behaviour that is reckless or negligent. Repeated or persistent breaches will likely constitute a serious breach, which may be regarded as Research Misconduct.
3. University Roles and Responsibilities
Research Integrity Advisors (RIA) are persons appointed by the University to promote the responsible conduct of research and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Research Code, the relevant institutional policy and processes and available options, including how to make a complaint. An RIA must have research experience, analytical skills, empathy, good communication skills, knowledge of the University processes and the Research Code, and a familiarity with accepted practices in research. The RIA’s role does not extend to investigation or assessment of a complaint, including contacting the person who is the subject of the complaint or being involved in any subsequent investigation other than as a witness or to provide testimony. An RIA must not advise on matters where they have a potential, perceived or actual conflict of interest.
Assessment Officer (AO) is a person (or persons) appointed by the Designated Officer to conduct a preliminary assessment of a complaint about potential breach of the Research Code.
Designated Officer (DO) is the Provost of the University and is the person delegated by the University to receive complaints about potential breaches of the Research Code and will manage the investigation of these matters, including oversight of the Preliminary Assessment of a complaint and the making of recommendations in compliance with this Procedure.
Responsible Executive Officer (REO) is the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University and has final responsibility for receiving reports on the outcomes of processes of assessment, or outcomes of an investigation of potential or found breaches of the Research Code. The REO must decide on the course of action to be taken regarding these findings and informs the relevant parties involved in the matter.
Review Officer (RO) is a senior officer of the University who is instructed to conduct a review of an Investigation. The Review Officer will be appointed by the Designated Officer and must not have been involved in the original investigation of the breach in question.
Research Integrity Office (RIO) is situated in JCU Connect and has the responsibility for management of research integrity.
Investigation Panel/s conduct investigations of alleged breaches of the Research Code. The Panel must consist of a Chair and at least two other persons. The DO will select the panel members based on the nature of the alleged breach, conflict of interest and consideration of whether external panel members are required. Diversity of members is a necessary consideration in the appointment of a Panel.
4. Procedural Fairness
The principles of procedural fairness (also referred to as natural justice) apply to managing and investigating potential breaches of the Research Code. These principles contain the hearing rule (an opportunity to be heard), the rule against bias (decision-makers do not have a personal interest in the outcome) and the evidence rule (decision are based on evidence). The University must provide details of the allegation of potential breaches of the Research Code in writing to the person facing the allegation. The person must be treated fairly and given the right to be heard through the opportunity to respond to any allegation in writing.
To avoid compromising the outcome of any matter under assessment or investigation information should remain confidential and not be shared unless required, for example in compliance with funding agreement and policy requirements for bodies such as Australian Research Council and National Health & Medical Research Council.
6. Managing concerns, complaints and allegations
Concerns, complaints or allegations may be made by funding bodies, members of the public and individuals external or internal to the University.
6.1 Making a complaint or raising a concern about a potential breach of the Research Code
6.2 Receipt of a concern, complaint or allegation
Assessment Designated Officer
6.3 Preliminary Assessment
The purpose of the preliminary assessment is to gather and evaluate facts and information and assess whether the complaint, if proven, would constitute a breach of the Research Code.
Conduct of the Preliminary Assessment
Preliminary Assessment Report
Upon completion of the preliminary assessment, written advice must be prepared for the DO, which includes:
Upon review of the Preliminary Assessment Report, the DO will determine on the basis of information gathered by the preliminary assessment whether a breach of the Research Code exists and if so, the seriousness of the breach.
The DO may determine that:
The DO must advise the respondent, the complainant and other relevant parties as appropriate of the outcome of the preliminary assessment. This may include advice to funding bodies including, as required by, the NHMRC Research Integrity and Misconduct Policy and ARC Research Integrity Policy (within 2 weeks) and other organisations in accordance with obligations of funding agreements, other research agreement or requirements of regulatory bodies.
The purpose of the investigation is to make findings of fact to assess the extent of the breach and whether it constitutes research misconduct and the recommended actions. If the DO determines that an allegation of breach of the Research Code must be investigated, the DO must:
6.5 Outcome of the Investigation
6.6 Actions on Completion of the Investigation
Upon receipt of the Investigation Panel Report and the DO recommendations, the REO will determine, whether:
The REO must communicate the determination and actions taken by the University, including but not limited to:
Further Actions – refer to Section 6.8.
6.7 Review of the Investigation
The respondent or complainant may request a review of an Investigation:
6.8 Further Action
Further action may be taken as outlined below:
Related policy instruments
James Cook University Enterprise Agreement (staff only)
NOTE: Printed copies of this procedure are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.
Date for next Major Review
26/03/2021 (1yr review time frame as recommended by Research Committee (01/20))
Procedure established to support the JCU Code for Responsible Conduct of Research
Manager, Research Grants, Ethics and Integrity – JCU Connect
research code, research misconduct, research breaches, research integrity, procedural fairness
Manager, Research Grants, Ethics and Integrity – JCU Connect