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Managing and reporting breaches of the Code

In Australia, all researchers and research students are required to comply with The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code). The Code sets out the principles that characterise an honest, ethical and conscientious research culture that facilitate high quality research and includes 13 responsibilities for institutions who have an obligation to encourage and support responsible research conduct. It also provides 16 responsibilities for researchers to uphold in all aspects of their research.

Consistent with the University’s values of integrity, respect, rational inquiry and personal excellence, researchers must ensure that their research conduct and practice reflects the principles and responsibilities set out in the Code.

Research conduct which fails to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code (including; not meeting required research standards, fabrication, falsification, misrepresentation and plagiarism), may be defined as a breach. ECU manages these breaches primarily through the Research Misconduct Policy and Research Misconduct Assessment procedures, supported by the ‘Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018’, one of the companion guides to the Code.

The Code - responsibilities for institutions and researchers

The code sets out a number of responsibilities for researchers and institutions when preventing, detecting, reporting and investigating potential breaches to the code.

The responsibility for researchers to report potential breaches of the Code is;

A breach is defined as a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code, including but not limited to; not meeting required research standards, fabrication, falsification, misrepresentation and plagiarism.

ECU has developed an online reporting form to raise research concerns or complaints. Any complaint received will be investigated and resolved in line with the university’s Research Misconduct policy and associated procedures. Research Integrity Advisors have been identified and trained, who assist in the promotion and fostering of responsible research conduct and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Code. Professional Learning and a communication strategy support these initiatives to ensure all staff identify and report suspected breaches of The Code.

The responsibilities for institutions to facilitate prevention and detection and investigate potential breaches of the Code are;

ECU has developed a communication plan and online and face to face professional learning for the research community on breaches of The Code including what is a potential breach and encouraging and facilitating reporting. Research Integrity Advisors have been identified and trained to assist in the promotion g of responsible research conduct and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Code. Data collected through the complaints process will assist in targeting professional learning.

A breach is defined as a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code, including but not limited to; not meeting required research standards, fabrication, falsification, misrepresentation and plagiarism. ECU has developed an online anonymous form to facilitate the reporting of research concerns or complaints. Any complaint received will be investigated and resolved in line with the University’s Research Misconduct policy and associated procedures. Research Integrity Advisors have been identified and trained, who assist in the promotion of responsible research conduct and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Code.

ECU has aligned its Research Misconduct policy and procedures to the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, to ensure investigating concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code is timely, effective and in accord with procedural fairness. Principles of procedural fairness have been included in the updated Research Misconduct policy.

ECU has aligned its Research Misconduct policy and procedures to the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research to ensure the welfare is supported of all parties involved in an investigation;

  • Respondents are provided with an opportunity to bring a support person to any meeting;
  • Employee Assistance Program or Student Counselling Service to be offered in all cases;
  • Complainants will always be protected from any adverse consequences for having made the complaint; and
  • Research Integrity Advisors have been identified and trained, who assist in the promotion and fostering of responsible research conduct and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Code.

ECU has aligned its Research Misconduct policy and procedures to the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research to ensure any investigation findings are based on the balance of probabilities, and any actions are commensurate with the seriousness of the breach.  The welfare of all parties is supported within any investigation;

  • Panel terms of reference developed to set out the spectrum of breach and balance of probability test;
  • Central database of complaints developed to ensure consistency across breach and action spectrum.

Reporting research concerns or complaints

You may wish to lodge a formal complaint of a breach to the Code. Please see the ‘Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018’, which contains examples of breaches of the code.

Formal complaints must be lodged through ECU's Research Concerns and Complaints Reporting System.

ECU's approach to managing breaches

Once lodged through ECUs Research concerns or complaint lodgement form, ECUs Designated Officer determines whether the complaint relates to a potential breach of the Code and if it does, refers the matter to Preliminary Assessment. The specific approach to investigating research misconduct is outlined in ECU’s Research Misconduct Policy and Procedures, which is grounded in the advice contained within the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

ECU manages potential breaches to the Code in line with the Research Misconduct Policy and Research Misconduct Assessment procedures:

ECU manages potential breaches to the Code in line with the Research Misconduct Policy and Research Misconduct Assessment procedures:

ECU have developed a number of practices to ensure any potential breach to the Code is managed in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness (National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Universities Australia (2018) Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research)

  • Any concern or complaint can be reported through the online Research Complaints Report form, ensuring those complaints are dealt with confidentially, consistently, in line with the policy and principles of procedural fairness;
  • ECU has provided all ECU staff and students access to online Research Integrity Professional Learning program delivered by Epigeum, which raises awareness of research integrity and provides researchers guidance on meeting their responsibilities of the Code.
  • All approved ethics projects are monitoring and audited to ensure the projects are being conducted in line with the original approvals.

Contact for advice or further information

For further information about ECU's position on managing breaches to the Code, please contact research.integrity@ecu.edu.au

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