Research Integrity and Compliance

Research Integrity & Misconduct Procedure

Policy Code: RS1502

Purpose

This procedure outlines the processes involved in addressing breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, breaches of University policies and with misconduct associated with or arising during research conducted under the auspices of Federation University Australia and/or by University staff. This Procedure should be used in conjunction with The Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Scope

This procedure covers all research and research training activities and applies to all research carried out by University staff and students, including:

  • All staff, including sessional staff, currently employed by the University (including those involved in research external to the University);
  • Former staff members who conducted research while employed by the University;
  • All Honorary staff, Adjunct staff and volunteers associated with the University;
  • All students, including past students of the University who engage or have engaged in research and / or research related activities. 

Definitions

Term Definition
Assessment Officer (AO) A person or persons appointed by an institution to conduct a preliminary assessment of a complaint about research.
Breach A failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code. May refer to a single breach or multiple breaches.
Collaboration Collaborative research is an umbrella term applied to researchers and or research institutions working together for a specified goal.
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.
Controlled Entity A company over which the University has control within the meaning of section 3 of the Audit Act 1994 (Vic) and which has adopted this Procedure
Designated Officer (DO) A senior professional or academic institutional officer or officers appointed to receive complaints about the conduct of research or potential breaches of the Code and to oversee their management and investigation where required.
ERA Excellence in Research for Australia
The Guide Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
Panel Refers to the person or persons appointed by an institution to investigate a potential breach of the Code.
Peer Review The impartial and independent assessment of research by others working in the same or a related field.
Procedural Fairness That a fair and proper procedure is used when making a decision.
Responsible Executive Officer (REO)  The senior officer in an institution who has final responsibility for receiving reports of the outcomes of processes of assessment or investigation of potential or found breaches of the Code and deciding on the course of actions to be taken.
Research 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.
Researcher Person (or persons) who conducts, or assists with the conduct of, research.
Research Breach A breach is defined as a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of The Code (or University Policy and Procedures) and may refer to a single breach or multiple breaches.
Research Integrity Integrity in research includes a commitment to the search for knowledge and understanding, to the recognised principles of research conduct, to the honest and ethical conduct of research, and to the honest and open dissemination of results.
Research Misconduct A serious breach of The Code which is also intentional or reckless or negligent.
Research Trainees

An individual who is enhancing their research skills through formal study  and/or  who works under the formal supervision of an independent researcher, including:

  • A coursework student engaged in research activities
  • A Higher Degree by Research candidate
  • An early career researcher, such as a postdoctoral fellow or newly appointed member of academic staff
Research Integrity Advisor (RIA) A person or persons with knowledge of the Code and institutional processes nominated by an institution to promote the responsible conduct of research and provide advice to those with concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code.
RIO Research Integrity Office.
Review Officer (RO)  A senior officer with responsibility for receiving request for a procedural review of an investigation of a breach of the Code.
The Code Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Actions

The University has assigned the following roles and responsibilities to operate within the framework for dealing with complaints and allegations:

  • All staff hold the responsibility that if concerned that a researcher has not acted in accordance with the Code, to take action in a timely manner, in accordance with The Code and the Research Integrity Policy.
  • Responsible Executive Officer (REO) – This role will be undertaken by the Vice-Chancellor.  The Vice-Chancellor will have the final responsibility for receiving reports of the outcomes of processes of assessment or investigation of potential or found breaches of the Code and deciding on the course of action to be taken.
  • Designated Officer (DO) – This role will be undertaken by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (R&I).  The Deputy Vice-Chancellor will be responsible for receiving complaints about the conduct of research or potential breaches of the Code and will oversee their management and investigation where required.
  • Assessment Officer (AO) – This role will be undertaken by a senior staff member appointed by the University to conduct a preliminary assessment of a complaint about research.
  • Research Integrity Advisor (RIA) -  An RIA is appointed within each School, and is generally the Associate Dean Research.  An RIA must be a person with knowledge of the Code and University processes who will promote the responsible conduct of research and provide advice to those with concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code.
  • Research Integrity Office (RIO) – Staff with responsibility for management of research integrity at the University.
  • Review Officer (RO) – This role must be undertaken by a senior officer of the University not fulfilling any of the roles described above.  The Review Officer will have responsibility for receiving requests for a procedural review of an investigation of a breach of the Code.

The management and investigation of potential breaches of The Code will be conducted in adherence to principles of procedural fairness. Investigations will be proportional, fair, impartial, timely, transparent and confidential.

A visual guide to managing and investigating complaints of a potential breach of the Code can be found in Appendix A.

Making and receiving a complaint

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
1. Complainant may discuss complaint with their supervisor or Dean before lodging a formal allegation. Complainant

If a conflict of interest exists or is perceived to exist, an RIA may be the point of contact.

Contacting a supervisor or Head/s of Department does not limit or preclude the Complainant from lodging a formal allegation.

2. If approached, RIA provides advice on the process. RIA

The RIA must explain to the Complainant the options available to them, including:

  • referring the matter directly to the person against whom the allegation is made
  • not proceeding with or withdrawing an allegation if discussion resolves the concerns
  • referring the matter to a supervisory level or Head of Department level 
  • making a formal allegation to the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

The RIA must not:

  • have a conflict of interest
  • be involved in investigating or assessing the merits of the allegation
  • make contact with the person who is the subject of the proposed allegation
  • be involved in any subsequent inquiry
3. The person receiving the concern assesses the complaint.

Supervisor

Dean

RIA

The person receiving the concern, working with the Dean, must assess whether:

  • the matter is not serious and can be resolved informally,
  • the matter may be serious, or
  • the matter requires further inquiry.

This decision must be documented.

4. DVC (R&I) informed of informal outcome Dean

The DVC (R&I) must be advised if any informal action is taken to resolve the matter at a local level.

The DVC (R&I) must confidentially record the outcome of any informal allegation.

5. Decision not to lodge a formal allegation

DVC (R&I)

Complainant

Dean

RIA

In the event that the complainant decides not to proceed with the matter but the RIA, the Supervisor, Dean or DVC (R&I) believes the allegation to be sufficiently serious to constitute a protected disclosure, a determination must be made as to whether the allegation warrants further investigation.

Should a protected disclosure be decided as an appropriate course of action, all reasonable efforts must be made to avoid identifying the source of the information.

6. Referral of a serious matter

DVC (R&I)

Complainant

Dean

RIA

Where the matter may be serious and requires further inquiry, the matter must be referred to the Designated Officer (the DVCR&I), in writing, and the matter will be pursued in accordance with this procedure.

Formal allegation of Research Misconduct

Initial Stage
  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
1. Complainant must lodge a written allegation with the Designated Officer (DVC R&I). Complainant

This document must:

  • clearly identify each allegation, including the place or places and date or dates on which the conduct in question is alleged to have occurred
  • state the identity of the person/s alleged to have engaged in the relevant misconduct  or the policy, procedure or practice, the subject of the allegation, and
  • identify and attach (in as much detail as possible) any supporting evidence
  • The DO, DVC (R&I) discusses the allegation with the Director, Human Resources.
2. The Designated Officer (DVCR&I) receives an allegation DVC (R&I)
  • DO determines whether the complaint relates to a potential breach of the Code and, if it does, the matter proceeds to preliminary assessment. If it does not, then it may be dismissed or referred to another institutional process.
  • Ensures appropriate communication with the complainant occurs.
3. The Designated Officer (DVC R&I) advises relevant staff of the allegations against them. DVC (R&I)

The Designated Officer (DVC R&I) will advise the staff member against whom the allegations have been made, in writing.

The welfare of the complainant and respondent is a key concern for the institution and support should be offered where available.

Preliminary Assessment Stage

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
1. Establishment of preliminary assessment DVC (R&I)

The Designated Officer will:

  • Assign a suitably qualified AO
  • Oversee the preliminary assessment
2. Preliminary assessment AO

The AO will:

  • Conduct a preliminary assessment
  • Consult with DO, others in the institution  and external experts where necessary
3. Determination of appropriate course of action DVC (R&I) The Designated Officer (DVC R&I) will decide whether a complaint is referred to an investigation, resolved without need for investigation, referred to
4. Vice Chancellor is notified DVC (R&I) The Designated Officer (DVC R&I) will advise the Vice Chancellor or delegate, in writing, of recommended course of action
5. Vice Chancellor assesses intial findings Vice Chancellor or nominee

If the Vice Chancellor or nominee determines that  a research misconduct inquiry is needed, the Vice Chancellor or delegate must decide whether to initiate an

  • internal institutional investigation or
  • independent external investigation

This decision and the reasons supporting it must be documented

Investigation Stage

The purpose of the investigation is to make findings of fact to allow the REO to assess whether a breach of the Code has occurred, the extent of the breach and the recommended actions. This is done by examining the facts and information from the preliminary assessment, and gathering and examining further relevant evidence if required. The Investigation stage will be conducted as advised by The Guide.

  ACTIVITY RESPONSIBILITY STEPS
1. Investigation preparation DVC (R&I)

After the DO determines an investigation is required, they will:

  • Prepare a clear statement of allegations
  • Establish terms of reference for the investigation (as per The Guide)
  • Nominate the investigation Panel (Panel) and Chair when the Panel is more than one person. The DO should consider the expertise and skills required, the appropriate number of members, the need for members to be free from conflicts of interest or bias and the gender/diversity of members.
  • Seek legal advice on matters of process where appropriate.
2. Notification of panel composition DVC (R&I) Once potential panel members have been selected, the DO will advise the respondent of the Panel's composition and provide an opportunity for the respondent to raise concerns.
3. Conduct of investigation Panel

During the investigation, the Panel must:

  • Follow the principles of procedural fairness
  • Ensure that relevant interests are disclosed and managed

Where the Panel is of the view that a party may be unable to represent themselves adequately due to the complexity of the matter, the Panel may need to take extra steps to ensure a fair investigation.

Where the process includes a support person, their role is to provide personal support, within reasonable limits, to the respondent and/or complainant. Their role is not to advocate, represent or speak on the other person’s behalf.

The RIO will support the Panel throughout the process, as per The Guide.

4. Outcome of investigation

Panel

Panel Chair

DVC (R&I)

  • Panel and the RIO prepare draft written report of investigation for the DO
  • DO and RIO provide respondent with the draft report for comment.  The draft report, or a summary of the information, may also need to be provided to the complainant if they will be affected by the outcome.
  • Following consideration of any additional feedback, the report is finalized.
  • The DO considers the extent of the breach, the appropriate corrective actions and if referral to disciplinary procedures is required.
  • The DO provides the final report to the REO with recommendations.
5. Further action VC (REO)

Finding no breach of the Code

The REO should consider the following:

  • If the allegation has no basis in fact then efforts must be taken to restore the reputations of those alleged to have engaged in improper conduct
  • If an allegation is considered to have been frivolous or vexatious, action to address this with the complainant should be taken under appropriate institutional processes
  • The mechanism for communication with, and support for, the respondent and complainant.

Finding a breach of the Code

The REO:

  • Decides the institution’s response, in consideration of the submitted findings and in accordance with University policy and, where relevant, with Clause 67 of the University Collective Agreement. These determinations must be documented
  • Communicates with the respondent and the complainant.
  • Informs relevant parties, such as other institutions and funding bodies (as per NHRMC and ARC policies)
  • All efforts should be taken to correct the public record of the research, including publications if a breach of the Code has affected the accuracy or trustworthiness of research findings and their dissemination.
6. Review of Investigation VC (REO)

Only requests for a review of a Code investigation on the grounds of procedural fairness should be considered.

The Vice Chancellor will determine how a review will be conducted and advise the DO, RIO, respondent and complainant.

Responsibilities

Research Integrity

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) has overall responsibility for ensuring that research is carried out in accordance with The Code, this Policy and accompanying Procedures.

Others who have responsibility for ensuring research integrity compliance include:

  • Federation University Australia Research Committee
  • Deans
  • Associate Deans of Research
  • Research discipline leaders and Research Directors
  • Research Services

Breach or Research Misconduct

The Vice Chancellor has overall responsibility for any investigations undertaken following an allegation of a breach of The Code or of research misconduct.

Supporting Documents

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Research Integrity Policy

Research Data Management Procedure

Authorship Procedure

Forms/Record Keeping

Title Location Responsible Officer Minimum Retention Period
Formal Allegation of a Breach or Research Misconduct      
Records documenting misconduct or complaints resulting in a reprimand being given Office of the DVC (R&I) DVC (R&I) Destroy 7 years after date of decision
Records documenting misconduct or complaints resulting in discipline or other penalties being incurred Office of the DVC (R&I) DVC (R&I) Destroy 15 years after date of decision
Breach or Misconduct Investigation File      
Records documenting misconduct or complaints resulting in a reprimand being given Office of the DVC (R&I) DVC (R&I) Destroy 7 years after date of decision
Records documenting misconduct or complaints resulting in discipline or other penalties being incurred Office of the DVC (R&I) DVC (R&I) Destroy 7 years after date of decision

Implementation

The Responsible Conduct of Research Procedure will be implemented throughout the University via:

  1. an Announcement Notice under ‘FedNews' and through the University Policy - ‘Recently Approved Documents’ and ‘Policy Search’ webpages to alert the University-wide community of the approved Procedure,
  2. inclusion on the University's online Policy Library; and
  3. training sessions held for higher degree by research students, higher degree by research supervisors and early career researchers.