Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Policy Research Management Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

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Intent

This Code has been adapted from the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research [“the National Code”], developed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Universities Australia, and published in 2007.

Scope

The Code consists of two parts:

  • Part A describes the principles and practices for encouraging the responsible conduct of research, for the University and its researchers.

  • Part B provides a framework for resolving allegations of breaches of this Code and research misconduct, addressing the responsibilities of both the University and its researchers.

This Code sets out obligations in respect of research integrity for all people engaged in research at the University, including staff, postgraduate research students and undergraduate students, and academic visitors.

The University must therefore make this Code and other guidelines and legislation relevant to the conduct of research, including procedures under the Code that are adopted at College  level, readily available to its researchers.

Researchers in senior, supervisory or mentoring positions have a responsibility to ensure that all researchers, and particularly trainee researchers, within their sphere of influence are aware of, understand and comply with this Code.

Research Committee will require reporting, at University and College level, in respect of implementation of and adherence to the Code.

Departures from this Code are not made acceptable on the ground of claimed discipline-based practice. Any practice that is apparently inconsistent with this Code must be documented and submitted to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor for consideration – and, if necessary, approval by the Vice-Chancellor – before it is undertaken.

Definitions

The meaning of ‘research’, as used in this Code, is original investigation undertaken to gain knowledge, understanding and insight.

‘Responsible conduct’ and ‘research integrity’ are treated synonymously within this Code. ‘Research ethics’ is used more narrowly, to describe obligations under the following (and any successor or associated documents):

  • National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC 2007),

  • Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (NHMRC 2003),

  • Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (NHMRC 2004).

Where research involves the participation of humans or the use of animals, research ethics obligations must be met in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures.

Policy and Procedures

PART A

PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES TO ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH CONDUCT

1.    General Principles of Responsible Research

Responsible research is encouraged and guided by research culture. The University is committed to maintaining a strong research culture, which demonstrates:

  • honesty and integrity;

  • respect for human research participants, animals and the environment;

  • good stewardship of public resources used to conduct research;

  • appropriate acknowledgment of the role of others in research;

  • responsible communication of research results.

The University therefore undertakes to:

  • actively encourage mutual cooperation with open exchange of ideas between peers, and respect for freedom of expression and inquiry;

  • maintain a climate in which responsible and ethical behaviour in research is expected;

  • ensure a safe working environment in which to conduct each research project;

  • ensure that documents that guide good research governance, conduct and management, including this Code, are readily available to all researchers (including through the online Policy Library).

The University must provide training and promote effective mentoring and supervision of researchers and research trainees. This should include advising on research ethics, research design and methods, and the responsible conduct of research in accordance with this Code.

Researchers are expected to foster and maintain a research environment of intellectual honesty and integrity, and scholarly and scientific rigour. Accordingly researchers must:

  • conduct their research with honesty and a respect for the truth;

  • disseminate research findings responsibly;

  • respect the rights of those affected by their research;

  • conduct their research so as to minimise adverse effects on the wider community and environment;

  • manage conflicts of interest so that ambition and personal advantage do not compromise ethical or scholarly considerations;

  • adopt methods appropriate for achieving the aims of each research proposal;

  • follow proper practices for safety and security;

  • cite awards, degrees conferred and research publications accurately, including the status of any publication, such as under review or in press;

  • promote adoption of this Code and avoid departures from the responsible conduct of research.

A staff member or student who considers that research misconduct may have occurred must act in a timely manner and in accordance with part B of this Code.

2.    Management of Research Data and Primary Materials

2.1    Introduction

The responsible conduct of research includes the proper management and retention of the research data that represents the evidential basis for the research outcomes. Retaining the research data is important because it may be all that remains of the research work at the end of the project. While it may not be practical to keep all the primary material (such as ore, biological material, questionnaires or recordings), durable records derived from them (such as assays, test results, transcripts, and laboratory and field notes) must be retained and accessible.

The researcher must decide which data and materials should be retained, although in some cases this is determined by law, ethics code, funding agency, publisher or by convention in the discipline. The central aim is that sufficient materials and data are retained to provide evidence that justifies the outcomes of the research and can be used to defend them if they are challenged. The potential value of the material for further research should also be considered, particularly where the research would be difficult or impossible to repeat.

Research data should be made available for use by researchers other than those who generated it, unless this is prevented by ethical, privacy or confidential considerations.

2.2   Ownership of data and materials

As a general rule the materials and data retained at the end of a research project carried out under the auspices of the University are the property of the University. [To the extent that there is intellectual property in research data, this is consistent with the University’s Intellectual Property Policy.]

This general rule may be subject to the contractual arrangements for a project. For any project that spans several institutions, an agreement should be developed at the outset covering the ownership, control and storage of research data and primary materials.

2.2.1   Students

A student’s principal supervisor and Head of Academic Group have overall responsibility for the retention and storage of the student’s research data and materials. They must also ensure that the student is aware of his/her obligations as a researcher in respect of research data and materials, in particular those set out in section 2.7.

The College retains its responsibility for the management of a student’s data and primary materials after the student’s departure.

Unless a student has executed a relevant intellectual property assignment to the University, s/he will own copyright in their data.

2.2.2   Departing staff

When researchers leave the University, they may take with them copies of any research data they have generated. However, unless the University and a researcher reach an agreement to the contrary, the University retains primary responsibility for the ongoing management of the research data and primary materials generated by the researcher whilst employed at the University.

Any agreements with other institutions covering the ownership and storage of research data and primary materials should be reviewed whenever there is movement or departure of relevant research staff.

2.3   Access to data

The University agrees with principles and goals of open access to research data, subject to matters of privacy and confidentiality, and of first use for publication by the researcher who creates the data, such as:

  • the routine deposition of data into stable, accessible and sustained data management and preservation environments;

  • the enhancement of researcher expertise in the creation, management and sharing of high-quality research data;

  • the capacity for researchers to discover, exchange, reuse and combine data from other researchers and other domains within their research in new ways;

  • the ability to share data easily and seamlessly to support multidisciplinary research teams.

The University will therefore work towards the development and implementation of research data repository capacity at an institutional level. At least until such a repository is in place, the primary responsibility for data storage remains at College level.

2.4   Retention and storage of data and materials – School responsibilities

Each College must:

  • establish procedures for the retention of research data;

  • provide facilities for the safe and secure storage of research data;

  • maintain records of where the research data are stored.

Wherever possible, original data should be retained in the College in which they were generated. Arrangements for material held in other locations must be documented and signed off by the researchers and their Heads of Academic Group. It is recommended that Colleges hold more than one copy of data sets to safeguard against loss.

Individual researchers are permitted to hold copies of the data for their own use.

Subject to privacy and confidentiality provisions, procedures must permit research data to be accessible by persons other than the researcher.

Data (including electronic data) must be recorded in a durable and appropriately referenced form.

Computing systems must be secure, and information technology personnel must understand their responsibilities for network security and access control, particularly in respect of confidential data and materials.

2.5   Retention periods

Data must be held for a reasonable time to allow it to be accessed by potential users. For data that are published this may be for as long as interest and discussion persist following publication.

In general the minimum period for retention of data is 5 years from the end of the year of publication of the last refereed publication or other form of public release to an audience outside of the University that is based on the data.

However, in any particular case the period for which data should be retained should be determined by the specific type of research. For example:

  • for short-term research projects that are for assessment purposes only, such as research projects completed by students, retaining research data for 12 months after the completion of the project will normally be sufficient;

  • for areas such as gene therapy, research data must be retained permanently (e.g. patient records);

  • if the work has community or heritage value, research data should be kept permanently, preferably within a national collection.

Rules in respect of the retention of specific types of materials and data include:

  • signed consent forms for any research project cleared through the University’s human ethics process must be retained for 15 years;

  • records relating to the management, maintenance and care of animals (i.e. animal housing and welfare records, records of disposal) must be retained for 7 years;

  • data in support of a patent application should be retained until 7 years after expiry of the patent (i.e. a minimum of 27 years);

  • data from a clinical trial must be retained for 15 years from completion of the trial and 10 years after the last patient service provision or medico-legal action.

2.6    Data and confidentiality

Data management should comply with relevant privacy protocols and ethics obligations.

Project agreements may contain confidentiality provisions in respect of research data, or projects may be subject to confidentiality agreements. Any such agreement must be drafted or vetted by Research Services in consultation with the project leader and other researchers, and be executed in accordance with Council’s Delegations.

It is the responsibility of the project leader to ensure that confidentiality obligations are met during the course of the project, and of the Head of Academic Group to ensure safe and secure storage of research data and materials.

For projects with the potential to generate commercialisable intellectual property, or subject to commercial arrangements, the Guidelines on Confidentiality in Commercial Projects should be adhered to.

2.7   Researcher responsibilities

Researchers must manage research data and primary materials in accordance with this Code and College procedures. To achieve this, researchers must:

  • keep clear and accurate records of the research methods and data sources, including any approvals granted, during and after the research process;

  • ensure that research data and primary materials are kept in safe and secure storage provided, even when not in current use;

  • provide the same level of care and protection to primary research records, such as laboratory notebooks, as to the analysed research data;

  • retain research data, including electronic data, in a durable, indexed and retrievable form;

  • maintain a catalogue of research data in an accessible form;

  • manage research data and primary materials according to ethical protocols and relevant legislation;

  • comply with confidentiality or privacy obligations in respect of research data or primary materials.

3.    Supervision of Research Trainees

3.1    Introduction

The primary safeguard against research misconduct is the example set by senior researchers. Researchers and supervisors must ensure that the role model they provide to junior colleagues is positive and conducive to a research culture of excellence, integrity, professionalism and mutual respect.

In return, research trainees must understand that in undertaking research they are joining an endeavour that requires dedication and accountability.

In this section, a ‘research trainee’ is: a higher degree by research student or an early career researcher.

3.2   University responsibilities

The University must ensure that each research trainee has an appropriately qualified and trained supervisor, and that the ratio of research trainees to supervisors is low enough for effective intellectual interaction.

The University must provide induction and training for all research trainees. This training should cover research ethics, this Code and other research policies of the University, occupational health and safety, environmental protection and the University’s mechanisms for dispute resolution, as well as technical matters appropriate to the trainee’s discipline.

This training should have high priority for completion early in research trainees’ studies and/or careers.

3.3   Supervisor responsibilities

Supervisors of research trainees should ensure that training starts as soon as possible in the career of a researcher. Training 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 research supervisor should guide the professional development of research trainees. This involves providing guidance in all matters relating to research conduct and overseeing all stages of the research process, including identifying the research objectives and approach, obtaining ethics and other approvals, obtaining funding, conducting the research, and reporting the research outcomes in appropriate forums and media.

Supervision includes oversight of the research outcomes from those under supervision. A supervisor must be satisfied that the research methods and outcomes of researchers and research trainees under their supervision are appropriate and valid.

Researchers and supervisors must ensure that research trainees receive appropriate credit for their work.

3.4   Trainee responsibilities

A research trainee must demonstrate a professional attitude towards the research. Frequent sessions with the supervisor are important, requiring the cooperation of both parties. The trainee should not wait until approached by the supervisor but should play an active part in maintaining an appropriate schedule of meetings.

A research trainee should complete all induction and training courses as soon as practical after starting research in the University.

4.   Publication and Dissemination of Research Findings

4.1   Introduction

Dissemination of research findings is an important part of the research process, passing on the benefits to other researchers, professional practitioners and the wider community. There are many ways of disseminating research findings. Formal publication of the results of research will usually take place in academic journals or books, but this is not always the case. This section of the Code applies to all forms of dissemination, including non-refereed publications, such as web pages, and other media such as exhibitions or films, as well as professional and institutional repositories.

4.2   Researcher responsibility to disseminate

Researchers have a responsibility to their colleagues and the wider community to disseminate a full account of their research as broadly as possible:

  • the account should be complete, and, where applicable, include negative findings and results contrary to their hypotheses;

  • publication activities must take account of any restrictions relating to intellectual property or culturally sensitive data;

  • researchers must, where feasible, also provide research participants with an appropriate summary of the research results.

4.2.1   Accuracy in publication

Researchers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their findings are accurate and properly reported. If they become aware of misleading or inaccurate statements about their work, they must correct the record as soon as possible.

Researchers must ensure that they cite other relevant work appropriately and accurately when disseminating research findings. Use of the work of other authors without acknowledgement is unethical.

A publication must include information on all sources of financial and in-kind support for the research and any potential conflicts of interest. Researchers must acknowledge the host institution and funding sources of the research.

4.2.2   Multiple submissions and republishing

It is not acceptable to include substantially the same research findings in several publications, except in particular and clearly explained circumstances, such as review articles, anthologies, collections, or translations into another language. An author who submits substantially similar work to more than one publisher, or who submits work similar to work already published, must disclose this at the time of submission.

Researchers must take all reasonable steps to obtain permission from the original publisher before republishing research findings.

4.2.3   Public communication of research findings

Subject to the requirements of contractual arrangements, researchers should seek to communicate their research findings to a range of audiences, which may include the sponsor, professional organisations, peer researchers, policy makers and the community. Researchers may be interviewed by the media, invited to participate in debates, and approached by individuals for comment.

However, while it is straightforward to discuss research findings with peers, it is harder to do so effectively with other groups and the media, where the scope for misunderstanding is much greater and frequently there is no opportunity to review the report of discussions before it becomes public. Therefore:

  1. Discussing research findings in the public arena should not occur until the findings have been tested through peer review. (The public arena does not include professional conferences.)

  2. To minimise misunderstanding about research outcomes, researchers should undertake to promptly inform those directly impacted by the research, including interested parties, before informing the popular media.

  3. In discussing the outcomes of a research project, special care should be taken to explain the status of the project – for example, whether it is still in progress or has been finalised.

All public comment must be made in accordance with the University’s Code of Conduct and the Code of Conduct Explanatory Statement.

4.2.4   Restrictions on publication – private reporting of research findings

The University will only seek to delay publication in extraordinary circumstances, such as to permit the lodgement of a patent application.

The responsibility to disseminate research findings may be subject to contractual obligations to a research sponsor. The University undertakes to make all reasonable efforts to negotiate terms that do not restrict a researcher’s capacity to publish research findings.

In the event that contractual obligations prevent or delay peer review until after the research results are delivered to a sponsor, the researcher must explain to the sponsor that the work has not been subject to peer review.

Where there is private reporting of research that has not yet been exposed to peer-review, especially when it is reported to prospective financial supporters, researchers have an obligation to explain fully the unreviewed status of the work and the peer-review mechanisms to which it will be subjected.

4.3   Deposition of publications into the University’s repository

Publicly available research and scholarly output of the University is located in the central digital institutional repository known as ResearchOnline@JCU at http://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/eprints/

Mandatory deposit applies to HERDC recognised publications that are authored or co-authored by members of the JCU community including staff, students and adjunct staff; and to JCU higher degree research theses.

In addition to mandatory deposit, JCU staff and students are encouraged to also deposit refereed and un-refereed research literature.

Material to be commercialised, or which contains confidential materials, or of which the promulgation would infringe a legal commitment by the University and/or the author including copyright; or materials restricted due to cultural sensitivity should not be included in the repository.

Authors are encouraged to retain copyright in their work where possible, and where a publisher insists on a transfer of copyright, to assert their right to deposit their work in the JCU institutional depository.

It is recommended that the post-print version of a publication be deposited in the institutional repository where a publisher does not allow deposit of the published version but does allow deposit of the post-print version.

5.   Authorship

5.1   Introduction – authorship criteria

The outcomes of research may be disseminated in a variety of ways but enduring forms, such as journal articles, are particularly important. To be named as an author, a researcher must have made a substantial scholarly contribution to the work and be able to take responsibility for at least part of the work they contributed.

Attribution of authorship depends to some extent on the discipline, but in all cases, authorship must be based on substantial contributions in a combination of:

  • conception and design of the project;

  • analysis and interpretation of research data;

  • drafting significant parts of the work or critically revising it so as to contribute to the interpretation.

None of the following contributions, in and of themselves, justifies including a person as an author:

  • being head of department or holding some other position of authority;

  • general supervision of the research team;

  • personal friendship with the authors;

  • providing a technical contribution but no other intellectual input to the project or publication;

  • providing routine assistance in some aspects of the project;

  • being involved in the acquisition of funding for the project;

  • providing data that has already been published or materials obtained from third parties, but with no other intellectual input.

The right to authorship is not tied to position or profession and does not depend on whether the contribution was paid for or voluntary. Substantial intellectual involvement is required.

Collaborating researchers should agree on authorship and authorship order for a publication at an early stage in the research project and should review their decisions periodically.

Authorship must be offered to all people, including research trainees, who meet the criteria for authorship listed above.

Where a work has several authors, one should be appointed executive author to record authorship and to manage communication about the work with the publisher.

Sometimes the editor of a significant collective work or anthology has responsibilities analogous to those listed above for authorship and, in such cases similar criteria apply to ‘editor’ as to ‘author’. However, the term ‘editor’ should be applied only to a person who has played a significant role in the intellectual shaping of a publication.

5.2   Acceptance of authorship – writing requirement – College responsibility

A person who qualifies as an author must not be included or excluded as an author without their permission. This should be in writing, and include a brief description of the person’s contribution to the work. This applies not only to journal articles but also to published conference abstracts and similar publications.

The College of a JCU executive author must retain the written acknowledgments of authorship in the form of an original hand-written signature, or faxed or emailed consent.

If an author is deceased or cannot be contacted following reasonable efforts, the publication may proceed provided that there are no grounds to believe that this person would have objected to being included as an author.

5.3   Acknowledgments of other contributions

Authors must ensure that all those who have contributed to the research, such as research students and assistants and technical officers, are properly acknowledged. Courtesy demands that individuals or organisations providing facilities or materials should also be acknowledged.

Where individuals are to be named, their written consent must be obtained (readers may infer their endorsement of data and conclusions).

5.4   Disputes over authorship

Disputes over authorship between or involving University researchers should in the first instance be mediated by the relevant Associate Dean(s) Research, with escalation to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Such disputes would not normally involve research misconduct, however where they do, the procedures in Part B of the Code must be followed.

6.   Peer Review

6.1   Introduction

The term ‘peer review’ describes impartial and independent assessment of research by others working in the same or a related field. Peer review has a number of important roles in research and research management, in the assessment of grant applications, in selecting material for publication, in the review of performance of researchers and teams, and in the selection of staff.

Participation in peer review processes should be encouraged. Peer review provides expert scrutiny of a project, and helps to maintain high standards and encourage accurate, thorough and credible research reporting.

Peer review may also draw attention to deviations from the principles of this Code, such as double publication, errors and misleading statements. Peer review has been important in the detection of fabrication and fraud in research. However, on its own, it cannot ensure research integrity.

6.2   Participation in peer review

Researchers in receipt of public funding have a responsibility to participate in peer review processes.

Supervising researchers have a responsibility to assist trainee researchers in developing the necessary skills for peer review and understanding their obligation to participate.

6.3   Conduct of peer review

It is important that participants in peer review:

  • are fair and timely in their review;

  • act in confidence and do not disclose the content or outcome of any process in which they are involved;

  • do not permit personal prejudice to influence the peer review process, and do not introduce considerations that are not relevant to the review criteria;

  • do not take undue or calculated advantage of knowledge obtained during the peer review process;

  • ensure that they are informed about, and comply with, the criteria to be applied;

  • do not agree to participate in peer review outside their area of expertise;

  • give proper consideration to research that challenges or changes accepted ways of thinking.

Peer reviewers must declare all relevant conflicts of interest.

6.4   Non-interference in the peer review process

Researchers whose work is undergoing peer review must not seek to influence the process or outcomes.

7.   Conflicts of Interest

7.1   Introduction

A conflict of interest exists where there is a divergence between the individual interests of a person and their professional responsibilities such that an independent observer might reasonably conclude that the professional actions of that person are unduly influenced by their own interests.

Conflicts of interest in research are common and it is important that they are disclosed and dealt with properly. Conflicts of interest have the potential to compromise judgments and decisions that should be made impartially. Such compromise could undermine community trust in research.

Financial conflicts of interest are foremost in the public mind but other conflicts of interest also occur in research, including personal, professional and institutional advantages.

7.2   General principles – University policy

Where circumstances constitute a conflict of interest, or may lead people to perceive a conflict of interest, the person concerned must:

  1. make a full disclosure of the circumstances, and

  2. not take part in decision-making processes.

Record must be kept of how the conflict is managed in the proceedings, even if confidential information must be omitted.

In accordance with Principle 2: Act with Integrity of the Code of Conduct, staff must “take reasonable steps to avoid, or disclose and manage, any conflict of interest (actual, potential or perceived) in the course of employment”.

The Explanatory Statement for the Code of Conduct details what is required of staff in order to effect this.

7.3   Researcher responsibilities

Researchers frequently have a conflict of interest that cannot be avoided. Decision making processes in research often need expert advice, and the pool of experts in a field can be so small that all the experts have some link with the matter under decision. An individual researcher should therefore expect to be conflicted from time to time, and be ready to acknowledge the conflict and make disclosures as appropriate.

Researchers should use the following approach to manage conflicts of interest:

  • maintain records of activities that may lead to conflicts, for example: consultancies; membership of committees, boards of directors, advisory groups, or selection committees; and financial delegation or in receipt of cash, services or equipment from outside bodies to support research activities;

  • when invited to join a committee or equivalent, review current activities for actual or apparent conflicts and bring possible conflicts of interest to the attention of those running the process;

  • disclose any actual or apparent conflict of interest as soon as it becomes apparent.

8.   Collaborative Research Across Institutions

8.1   Introduction

Research can involve a wide range of collaborations within institutions, between institutions, and internationally. Collaborative research raises specific issues, such as sharing intellectual property, managing research findings, managing conflicts of interest, and commercialising research outcomes.

Compliance with this Code is required during all forms of collaboration, even when conducting research with overseas institutions.

8.2   Collaborative agreements

All major research collaborations should be governed by a written agreement that is drafted or vetted by Research Services, and researchers are encouraged to have a written agreement with collaborators in all circumstances.

The agreement should cover intellectual property, confidentiality and copyright issues; sharing commercial returns, responsibility for ethics and safety clearances; and reporting to appropriate agencies. It should address the protocols to be followed by the partners when disseminating the research outcomes, and the management of primary research materials and research data.

The agreement may take various forms, including a legal contract, an exchange of letters or emails, or a research management plan. Agreements involving the transfer of funds or restrictions on the use of or commercial dealings with intellectual property must be signed in accordance with Council’s Delegations.

Researchers must ensure that they are familiar with and understand the agreement, seeking advice from Research Services as required.

PART B

BREACHES OF THE CODE, RESEARCH MISCONDUCT, AND THE FRAMEWORK FOR RESOLVING ALLEGATIONS

9.   Principles and Responsibilities

9.1   Basic concepts

In this Part B, ‘Breaches of the Code’ are specific actions or omissions that lack the seriousness of consequence or wilfulness to constitute research misconduct.

Such breaches can be remedied by counselling or advice. Their repetition or continuation may, however, lead to more serious consequences and may constitute research misconduct.

‘Research misconduct’ involves serious breaches of the Code that are sufficiently substantial to warrant formal allegation, investigation and denial or admission.

If proven, such misconduct may lead the Vice-Chancellor to believe that disciplinary action is required. This action will be in accordance with the “Misconduct or Serious Misconduct” provisions of the Union Collective Agreement.

A complaint or allegation relates to research misconduct if it involves all of the following:

  • an alleged breach of this Code;

  • intent and deliberation, recklessness or gross and persistent negligence;

  • serious consequences, such as false information on the public record, or adverse effects on research participants, animals or the environment.

Research misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out or reporting the results of research, and failure to declare or manage a serious conflict of interest. It includes avoidable failure to follow research proposals as approved by a research ethics committee, particularly where this failure may result in unreasonable risk or harm to humans, animals or the environment. It also includes the wilful concealment or facilitation of research misconduct by others.

Repeated or continuing breaches of this Code may also constitute research misconduct, and do so where these have been the subject of previous counselling or specific direction.

Research misconduct does not include honest differences in judgment in management of the research project, and may not include honest errors that are minor or unintentional.

9.2   Relationship to other policies

9.2.1   Staff

The University has procedures that deal with misconduct by staff, most particularly its procedures on Misconduct and Serious Misconduct (which form part of the Enterprise Agreement). This Code introduces preliminary processes that are to be applied when research misconduct by a member of staff is alleged to have occurred.

The findings of fact and any determination of research misconduct reached through the processes in this Code must then be used if the University decides to progress with disciplinary action in accordance with the University’s separate provisions regulating employment conditions, as noted above.

9.2.2   Students

Research misconduct alleged to have been perpetrated by a student is to be dealt with in accordance with the policies: Student Conduct Policy or Student Academic Misconduct Requirements, as appropriate.

9.3   Positions and responsibilities

9.3.1   Advisers in Research Integrity

The University, through the Research Committee, must appoint two senior staff members at each of the Cairns and Townsville campuses as advisers in research integrity.

Each adviser will be able to advise a staff member who is unsure about a research conduct issue and may be considering whether to make an allegation. Advisers should be people with research experience, wisdom, analytical skills, empathy, knowledge of the institution’s policy and management structure, and familiarity with the accepted practices in research.

An adviser should not be involved in a case if he or she has a relevant conflict of interest.

The adviser in research integrity should explain the options open to the person considering, making, or having made an allegation. These options include:

  • referring the matter directly to the person against whom the allegation is being made;

  • not proceeding or withdrawing the allegation if discussion resolves the concerns;

  • referring the allegation to a person in a supervisory capacity for resolution at the College level;

  • making an allegation of research misconduct in writing to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

The adviser’s role does not extend to investigation or assessment of the allegation.

The adviser must not make contact with the person who is the subject of the allegation, and he or she must not be involved in any subsequent inquiry.

9.3.2   Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor

In the terms of the National Code, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor is the University’s ‘designated person’.

The role of the designated person is to receive a written allegation, conduct a preliminary investigation, and advise the Vice-Chancellor whether allegations appear to be justified and whether a prima facie case exists. The designated person must maintain full records of all matters that relate to allegations of research misconduct.

When undertaking a preliminary assessment of allegations, the designated person should take into account the requirements of this Code. He or she should also consider whether any immediate action should be taken, such as referral of allegations not related to research to other institutional disciplinary processes. Where necessary, the designated person must ensure that arrangements in the local workplace are fair to all parties until the allegations are resolved. The designated person must have authority to secure all relevant documents and evidence so that they are available if it is decided that the allegations are to be investigated.

The designated person must advise the Vice-Chancellor whether the allegations should be dismissed, dealt with under misconduct provisions unrelated to research misconduct, referred back to the departmental level with instructions as to how they are to be handled, or investigated further through a research misconduct inquiry. If the advice is to investigate the matter further, the designated person should also advise how the inquiry should be constituted. After providing advice to the Vice-Chancellor, the designated person should not play any further role in the matter, except that he or she may be called to give evidence or expert opinion.

9.4   Procedural fairness

A person who is the subject of an allegation must be treated fairly and provided with opportunities to respond to allegations in writing. The allegation of research misconduct must be stated clearly in writing, the person facing the allegation has a right to be heard, and the persons inquiring into the allegation (including the members of any inquiry panel) must be free from bias or preconception and must conduct themselves in a manner that demonstrates this.

A person who makes an allegation must also be treated fairly and according to any legislative provisions for whistleblowers during and following investigation of the allegation.

10.   The Framework for Resolving Allegations

Section 10 must be read and implemented in conjunction with relevant university industrial instruments and policies.

10.1   The framework

The framework for receiving and investigating allegations of research misconduct is set out in the National Code as follows:

(1)   The University has appointed a number of senior staff to act as advisers in research integrity. An adviser can be approached in confidence to discuss the issue of concern. The adviser will discuss the matter, the Code and the University’s policies, and explain the options for taking action.

(2)   It is preferable that, in the first instance at least, complaints and allegations are dealt with at the College level. However, if circumstances make this difficult or not possible, the adviser will suggest other approaches.

(3)   If the complaint cannot be handled to everyone’s satisfaction at the College level, a formal complaint or allegation must be made in writing to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, either directly by the original complainant or by the College Dean.

(4)   The Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor must advise the Vice-Chancellor whether a prima facie case exists, and how to proceed. Options include:

  • dismissing the allegations;

  • instructing the College on how to deal with the allegations where no formal misconduct process is required;

  • dealing with the complaint under provisions unrelated to research misconduct;

  • investigating the matter further through a research misconduct inquiry.

If the Vice-Chancellor decides that a research misconduct inquiry is needed, he or she must decide whether to use an internal institutional research misconduct inquiry or an independent external research misconduct inquiry.

(5)   Upon completion of its tasks, the research misconduct inquiry must advise the Vice-Chancellor of its findings of fact and what, if any, research misconduct has occurred.

(6)   The Vice-Chancellor must then determine the actions to be followed, according to the Enterprise Agreement and University policy.

(7)   Subsequent actions may, as appropriate, include informing relevant parties of the outcome and correcting the public record of the research.

10.2   The Research Misconduct Inquiry

10.2.1   Decision by the Vice-Chancellor

The decision taken by the Vice-Chancellor on the advice of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor must be notified in writing to those making the allegation, the person who is the subject of the allegation, the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and any other parties as required under any relevant agreement (for example a funding, collaborative or industrial agreement).

In making the decision to proceed to an inquiry, and if so, whether the inquiry should be conducted internally or externally, the Vice-Chancellor should consider the gravity of the allegation, the potential consequences of the allegation being upheld, and the need to maintain public confidence in research. In the event that these are likely to be serious, the Vice-Chancellor should establish an external research misconduct inquiry.

10.2.2   Internal research misconduct inquiry

The panel that conducts an internal institutional research misconduct inquiry should include at least one member with knowledge and experience in the relevant field of research and at least one member who is familiar with the responsible conduct of research. Members may be drawn from external sources. All members must be free from bias or conflicts of interest.

Legal representation of parties should not be allowed, but a person appearing before the research misconduct inquiry may be accompanied by a support person.

Additional criteria for panel membership and conduct of business should be drawn from the Enterprise Agreement.

10.2.3   Independent external research misconduct inquiry

Panel members who conduct an independent external research misconduct inquiry must not be employed by the University, have other current or recent dealings with the University, or otherwise be subject to a reasonable perception of bias.

The panel should normally be constituted with a minimum membership of three people. At least one member should be legally qualified or have extensive experience as a member of a tribunal or similar body. At least one member should have knowledge and research experience in a relevant, related field of research, but not directly in the research area of the allegations. Procedural fairness demands that the person subject to the inquiry be able to hear and respond to any and all material to be used by the panel in its decision-making process.

Therefore, it is preferable that any expert knowledge that may be required is provided to the inquiry by witnesses rather than members of the panel. This will allow the witnesses to be questioned by both the panel and the person subject to the inquiry. If a panel member has relevant expert knowledge, it must be put to the defendant.

To be consistent with the general practice of tribunals, there are standard practices that should be followed. The panel should normally be assisted by a legally qualified person acting as ‘counsel assisting’, whose role it is to prepare the material to be put to the tribunal and to examine (question) witnesses on behalf of the panel. This person is not a member of the inquiry panel but may provide the panel with legal advice during the hearing. The person facing the allegations should be entitled to legal representation. The inquiry is not bound by the rules of evidence but its procedures must be consistent with the principles of natural justice and due process. In making findings, the inquiry should apply the civil standard of proof, although the standard of proof in serious cases will be higher than the mere balance of probabilities. Counsel assisting the inquiry will normally advise on this issue, as there is long-standing legal precedent.

Whether an external research misconduct inquiry by people external to the University is open to the public or conducted in private should be determined by the panel itself on the basis of public interest. The panel has the responsibility to hear the views of all parties on this matter before such a decision is made.

When conducting an independent external research misconduct inquiry, the person subject to the inquiry may have an entitlement to appeal to a higher authority, most usually the courts.

10.3   Subsequent actions

Where the University believes that disciplinary action is required, the Vice-Chancellor must act on the findings of a research misconduct inquiry in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement.

The Vice-Chancellor must inform all relevant parties of the research misconduct inquiry findings and the actions taken by the University. Relevant parties may include affected staff, research collaborators including those at other institutions, funding organisations, journal editors, and professional registration bodies. The public record, including publications, may need to be corrected if research misconduct has affected the research findings and their dissemination.

The findings of an independent, external research misconduct inquiry should be made available to the public.

If the allegations are shown to be unfounded, the University should make every effort to reinstate the good reputation of the accused researcher and their associates. Persons making mischievous complaints in regard to research conduct should face disciplinary action.

Related documents, legislation or JCU Statutes

Enterprise Agreement

Student Conduct Policy

Student Academic Misconduct Requirements

Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct Explanatory Statement

Guidelines on Confidentiality in Commercial Projects

Intellectual Property Policy

National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC 2007)

Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (NHMRC 2003)

Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (NHMRC 2004)

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Approval authority:

Academic Board

Version no:

16-1

Date for next Major Review (in accordance with the Policy Handbook):

31/08/2014

Modification History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

16-120/07/201628/07/2016Minor (consequential) amendments made to delegations throughout the Code to reflect the 14 July 2016 Council approved Academic and Student Delegation Register. Contact Quality, Standards and Policy Office for details.

09-1

31/08/2009

01/09/2009

There are no related procedures.

There are no other related documents.