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Responsible research

At ECU, our approach to Research Integrity and meeting the principles and responsibilities of the Australian Code, is addressed through three components of world class research and underpinned by three supporting structures. Responsible Research is a key component of this approach and encompasses:

  • Planning Research
    • Research planning and design
    • Institutional approvals
    • Research agreements
  • Conducting Research
    • Data characteristics and data management plans
    • Storage and security of research data
    • Retention of research data
    • Access and reuse of research data
  • Presenting Research
    • Analysing data & publishing responsibly

Planning Research

Good, early research planning can save time and avoid problems later in your research timeline. Although research planning is discipline specific, there are some key concepts that all researchers should consider when embarking on a research project:

  • Developing a proper research plan;
  • Getting necessary institutional approvals; and
  • Confirming research agreements before the project begins.

Researchers have a responsibility under the code to ensure that methods are adopted appropriate to the aims of the research and ensure that conclusions are justified by the results.

You may already have some idea of your research topic or the kinds of questions you’d like to answer before you start your research. Even if this is the case, it’s essential that you put a lot of time and thought into your research design. Involving your research team in your planning and design phase is critical.  You must be rigorous in your approach to undertaking your research. By the time you’re ready to collect data you should be confident that you’re asking the right questions and applying the right methodologies.

If you are seeking research funding, all applications (research grants and tenders) must be reviewed by the Research Services Pre-Award team who will then submit your application to the funder on your behalf.

These steps need to be built into the timeline of your project.

Every discipline will have different conventions for developing a research plan.  Broadly speaking a research plan should include:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Review of the current problem and how it has been researched / addressed in the past, including the gaps in the science
  • Your research aim and research questions
  • Hypotheses you would like to test
  • Study design
  • Methods
    • Population / sample
    • Instruments / measurement to be used
    • Recruitment strategies
    • Consent strategies
    • Data collection, storage and management
    • Analysis
    • Reporting
  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Dissemination of research findings.

Researchers must ensure that they comply with relevant laws, regulations, disciplinary standards and institutional policies and ensure that appropriate approvals are obtained and adhered to during the course of the research.

At ECU you should consider the following institutional requirements for your research:

Funded Research

Before developing a grant application, the lead ECU Chief Investigator should submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) on the ECU Research Management System (RMS) for approval by the School Associate Dean Research. Research Administration Officers (RAOs) within Research Services are responsible for monitoring your grant application from the EOI stage up until review and submission. They carry out eligibility checks and compliance with the funding rules. RAOs will also proofread your application, coordinate a budget review and obtain approval by the relevant School Finance Coordinator.

Further information and support with the funding application process.

Ethics approvals

Researchers also have a responsibility to ensure that the ethics principles of merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect are applied to human research and that the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement) are considered at all stages of animal research.

Your project should be tested in ECU’s Research Ethics Management System (REMS) to determine if human or animal ethics approvals are required.  Even if you know your project does not require review, you are still required to test this in REMS so you have the institution’s formal approval that ethics review is not required.

For more information see the research ethics webpage.

Data Management

Researchers have a responsibility to retain clear, accurate, secure and complete records of all research, including research data and primary materials and where possible allowing access and reference to these by interested parties. The management of data needs to be considered, planned, reviewed and updated, when necessary.

A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a requirement for all research and ECU have recently developed an online DMP to ensure that these plans are living documents that can be added to and refined as you move through your project.

Risk Assessment and Management

Before starting a project, researchers must identify the hazards and risks associated with their work and plan for management and mitigation of those risks. ECU’s integrated risk management framework provides a consistent approach to identifying and managing risk to enhance the University’s ability to prevent harm to personnel, effectively manage opportunities and adverse effects that may be involved in the process of its work.

To ensure good governance and the ability to monitor and review risks, ECU has adopted an online solution, RiskWare which enables staff and students to record, assess, monitor, review and report on risks. Your research plan should be added to RiskWare to ensure all risks are identified, mitigated and
reviewed regularly.

Research involving radiation, biosafety and hazardous substances

Before commencing research, researchers must conduct a health and safety hazard risk assessment in ECU’s online risk management system – Riskware. If any radiation, biosafety or hazardous substance (RBHS) hazards are identified in this risk assessment and they meet the criteria for approval from ECUs Radiation, Biosafety and Hazardous Substances Committee (RBHSC), then before the research commences, they will need to follow ECU's RBHS application and approval process set out on the RBHSC webpage.

When a proposal for external funds becomes successful it is essential that the Chief Investigator acknowledge that they have read and accepted the conditions of the award before the University enters into a formal agreement with the funding agency.

Research agreements are required under ECU Policy, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, and Higher Education Research Data Collection and funding organisations. They are typically prepared after the grant has been awarded however must be completed before the Finance and Business Service Centre will open the project code and funds can be accessed.

Please see the Research Services webpages for more information on accepting awards and research contracts.

Conducting Research

Researchers have a responsibility under the Code to conduct research that complies with the ethical principles of research merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect and for animal research, the 3R’s are considered and applied.

All research must be conducted using methods which are appropriate to the aims of the research and clear, accurate, secure and complete records of all research, including research data and primary materials are retained and where possible access is provided to interested parties.

Researchers should describe the features and identifying attributes of the data they are collecting or generating as part of their research and consider the sensitivity and identifiability of the data.

All research activity conducted at ECU should be supported by a robust plan for the management of data collected and generated throughout the project, which should be considered, planned, reviewed and updated, when necessary.

For further information see the Data Management Plan webpage.

Researchers should manage the storage of research data according to ethical protocols and relevant privacy legislation, ensuring the security of research data and maintaining the confidentiality of research data when required.

Researchers must ensure that digital research data is kept safe (free from risk), secure (being protected against danger or losses) and backed-up during the active phase of the research. ECU centrally provisions research data storage space to ensure safe and secure storage of research data.

For further information on data security, including the Five Safes Framework, see the Data Management Plan webpage.

Research data retention is the outline of ongoing storage and archiving requirements of the research data after the project has been completed to ensure federal and state compliance.

The WAUSDA retention schedule is the WA University Sector Disposal Authority Listing. This was a combined work collaboration with other universities in WA, specific to universities to facilitate the authorised and lawful disposal of all records.

Information Management and Archive Services staff at ECU can support researchers in understanding more about retention periods and the retention process along with folder structures, naming conventions and version control.

For further information on access and reuse of data, include F.A.I.R data see the Data Management Plan webpage.

Due to the recent trend towards increasing the transparency and reproducibility of research, more data sets are being made available to be reused by other researchers.

Researchers should consider the benefits of making the research data openly accessible and discoverable, including the potential for future reuse of the data by other researchers. ECU Library – Research Services staff can support researchers with their use of Research Online – ECUs Institutional Repository and Open Access Library Guide.

For further information on access and reuse of data, including F.A.I.R data see the Data Management Plan webpage.

Researchers also have a responsibility to ensure that the ethics principles of merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect are applied to human research and that the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement) are considered at all stages of animal research.

Your project should be tested in ECU’s Research Ethics Management System (REMS) to determine if human or animal ethics approvals are required.  Even if you know your project does not require review, you are still required to test this in REMS so you have the institution’s formal approval that ethics review is not required.

For more information see the research ethics webpage.

Researchers have a responsibility to report and breaches to the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research (breaches include but not limited to; not meeting required research standards, fabrication, falsification, misrepresentation and plagiarism).

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 principles of procedural fairness.

Presenting Research

Data collection and analysis techniques vary widely by discipline. It’s important you become familiar with the expected and accepted practices, techniques and measures that are used within your field of research.  The Australian Code requires you to adopt methods that are appropriate to the aims of the research and make sure the conclusions you make about your research are justified by the results.

Researchers have a responsibility to their colleagues and the wider community to disseminate a full account of their research and to acknowledge those who have contributed to it. The University promotes an environment of collegiality, honesty, integrity, accuracy and responsibility in the authoring, reviewing and publication of research findings. The Publishing Library Guide can provide further information for researchers.

Responsible Research: Planning Research; Conducting Research; and Presenting Research.Research Services are continuing to develop this responsible research domain which includes:

Further information will become available throughout the year, however in the meantime if you wish to discuss further, please contact:

Research Integrity & Data Coordinator
Claire Blankley
Email: c.blankley@ecu.edu.au

Manager, Research Governance
Stacey Waters
Email: Stacey.waters@ecu.edu.au

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