Governance

Policies and procedures

Policy No.
UP07/4
Function
Research
Authoring Organisational Unit
Office of Research Enterprise
Date Approved
01/01/1997 Revised 04/04/2012
Approving Body
Academic Council

The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Managing Alleged Breaches of the Code of Conduct for Research and Allegations of Research Misconduct

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

This policy outlines the process for managing alleged breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) (the Australian Code) and allegations of research misconduct at the University.

This policy applies to:

  • all staff employed by the University or any controlled entity, including Adjunct, Clinical and Honorary staff;
  • all former staff of the University or any controlled entity, where the activities undertaken during their employment with the University or any controlled entity is the subject of an allegation of research misconduct;
  • any persons engaged in research under the auspices of, or in the name of, the University or any controlled entity; and
  • all students of the University who engage in research, including past students where the activities undertaken during their candidature is the subject of an allegation of research misconduct.

Adjunct, Clinical and Honorary Appointments are considered to be UWA employees for the purposes of this policy and any investigation of an alleged breach of the Code which leads to a finding of research misconduct will be referred back to their employing institution for disciplinary action. The employing institution will be notified at the commencement of the investigation.

Definitions:

For the purposes of this policy and any related procedures,

the University means The University of Western Australia

UWA means The University of Western Australia

a breach of the Code means an act that is in contravention of the requirements or a deviation from the principles outlined in the Code

a controlled entity is a company over which the University has control within the meaning of Section 50AA of the Corporations Act (2001) (Cwlth).

research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the research community for proposing, conducting or reporting research. It does not include honest errors or honest differences in interpretation or judgements of data.

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

(i) an alleged breach of the Code; and

(ii) intent and deliberation, recklessness or gross and persistent negligence; and

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

Staff Agreements refer to The University of Western Australia Academic Staff Agreement 2010 and The University of Western Australia Professional and General Staff Agreement 2010

External Inquiries include an external criminal or civil or other administrative tribunal inquiry into the same factual matters and may result in the need to suspend an inquiry, no matter what process is adopted. For example, the University has clear guidelines for dealing with fraud and corruption at: http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/87604/Fraud_Corruption_Guidelines_14Dec09.pdf

which describes how some matters should be referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission for further investigation. After such an inquiry is completed, and where it remains feasible to do so, the University may then consider and complete the research misconduct inquiry.

Complainant Protection includes 'Whistleblower' protection which is available to UWA employees and external organisations/persons under the Public Interests Disclosure Act 2003 (WA) (PID). Anonymous complaints will not be protected by the PID Act if they are made to other University representatives including the Research Integrity Advisors (see 2.1 below).

Policy statement:

1 Legislative Context

1.1 UWA's Code of Conduct for the Responsible Practice of Research was originally based on the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997), which was developed to provide a comprehensive framework of minimum acceptable standards, and was later updated to take account of the new Australian Code. The University Code is therefore synonymous with the Australian Code and this policy uses the general term ( the Code) to refer to them both.

1.2 This policy is to be read against the background of:

1.3 In the event of inconsistency, the provisions of the Staff Agreements and the University Statute 17 will prevail over this policy.

2 Appointment of responsible persons

2.1 Research Integrity Advisors

2.1.1 The Australian Code mandates the appointment of Research Integrity Advisors (RIAs).

2.1.2 Each RIA must be able to advise a staff member or student who is unsure about a research conduct issue and may be considering whether to make an allegation.

2.1.3 RIAs must be people with research experience, wisdom, analytical skills, empathy, knowledge of the UWA policy and management structure, and familiarity with the accepted practices in research. In the majority of cases, RIAs appointed in the faculties are likely to be the Associate Dean (Research) or equivalent and there may be a requirement to appoint other RIAs in selected schools, centres and institutes.

2.2 Designated Person

2.2.1 The Australian Code describes the role of the designated person as one that determines whether there is a prima facie case of research misconduct.

2.2.2 The designated person must be a senior member of UWA's management who has experience in research and research management.

2.2.3 At UWA the designated person is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

2.2.4 The role of the designated person is to advise the Vice-Chancellor as the CEO of the University, or the Vice-Chancellor's delegated officer, whether allegations of a breach of the Code or research misconduct appear justified.

2.3 Delegated Officer

2.3.1 The delegated officer at the University is the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who must decide whether a research misconduct inquiry is needed.

3 Dealing with potential misconduct or questionable research practice

3.1 Discussion with a Research Integrity Advisor

3.1.1 It is recommended that a researcher, student or other member of staff, who has concerns about potential research misconduct or other questionable research practice, first discusses these concerns with a Research Integrity Advisor (RIA).

3.1.2 RIAs have a role in guiding research staff and students in relation to the proper conduct of research, in the making of an allegation of research misconduct and in the processes that must be followed if such an allegation is made formally.

3.1.3 The RIA must not play any part in an investigation of the matter.

3.2 First Level Resolution

3.2.1 It is preferable that whenever possible, complaints and allegations of research misconduct or breaches of the Code are dealt with first, and resolved, at the school/faculty level.

3.2.2 The RIA's role must not be investigative or determinative, but may include encouraging, facilitating or participating in discussions between the complainant, the Head of School or the Dean.

3.2.3 The matter can rest at the school/faculty level provided that:

  • the alleged breach does not constitute research misconduct;
  • the researchers acknowledge the breach; and
  • the appropriate steps are taken to remedy the consequences and to prevent recurrence.

3.3 Making an Allegation

3.3.1 A researcher, student or other member of staff, after discussion of his/her concerns with a RIA, may make a formal allegation of a breach of the Code or an allegation of research misconduct.

3.3.2 Formal allegations must be made in writing to the Designated Person and must:

  • clearly identify each allegation, indicating the place(s) and date(s) on which the conduct in question is alleged to have occurred;
  • state the identity of the person alleged to have engaged in research misconduct (if known); and
  • identify and attach any supporting evidence.

3.3.3 Allegations of research misconduct made by organisations or persons external to the University may be received in any form and must be referred to the Designated Person.

3.4 Proceeding with a Formal Allegation and the Preliminary Investigation

3.4.1 Upon receipt of an allegation of research misconduct, the Designated Person must conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether a prima facie case of research misconduct exists.

3.4.2 During the preliminary investigation referred to in 3.4.1, it is recommended that advice is sought from Legal Services, Human Resources and Research Services.

3.4.3 The Designated Person must at this stage declare any actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest to the Delegated Officer, and where this is considered serious, must refer the matter to an alternative senior member of the University (See clause 3.5).

3.4.4 Procedural fairness and natural justice are important considerations in this process.

3.4.5 The person(s) against whom a formal allegation of research misconduct is made must be informed of the substance of any allegations made against them when the investigation is commissioned and must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to put their case and provide a written statement.

3.4.6 All allegations must be the subject of strict confidentiality.

3.4.7 Where an allegation of research misconduct is made against an honours student or a student enrolled in a postgraduate course not governed by the Graduate Research School, the relevant head of school/dean must be notified and consulted.

3.4.8 Where an allegation of research misconduct is made against a student enrolled in a course governed by the Graduate Research School, the Dean of the Graduate Research School must be notified and consulted.

3.5 Investigator to Assist the Designated Person

3.5.1 The Designated Person may ask an Assistant Investigator to conduct the investigation on their behalf.

3.5.2 The Assistant Investigator is authorised to secure all relevant documents and evidence so that this material may be available should it be decided that an allegation is to be further investigated.

3.5.3 The Assistant Investigator must be someone internal to the University who has considerable research or research management experience and must be as free of conflicts of interest as is reasonable.

3.6 Preliminary Assessment of an Allegation of Research Misconduct

3.6.1 The Designated Person, or the Assistant Investigator, must conduct a preliminary assessment of the allegation to determine the next appropriate action.

3.6.2 Complete records of the investigation must be kept, including relevant evidence such as experimental material, IT records, other documents and names of witnesses.

3.6.3 The Designated Person or Assistant Investigator may interview people with relevant information, and may collect and review documentation including records related to the conduct of the research in question.

3.6.4 Other actions that might assist in reaching a decision are not excluded under this policy.

3.6.5 The Designated Person must consider the allegation and evidence to determine if:

  • the substance of the allegation, if proven, would amount to research misconduct; and
  • whether a prima facie case of research misconduct exists.

3.6.6 The Designated Person must advise the Delegated Officer whether, on the basis of the investigation that has been conducted, the allegation should be dismissed, dealt with under misconduct provisions under the relevant staff agreement, or referred back to the faculty with instructions as how they are to proceed.

3.6.7 Other recommendations, dependent on the nature of the allegation, may also be appropriate and are not excluded under this policy.

3.6.8 If the allegation is not dismissed or referred to another process, then except where precluded by law, or where the Designated Person deems it otherwise inappropriate to do so because of the circumstances of the case, the Designated Person must inform the employee or student who is the subject of the allegation of the nature of the allegation and the steps the institution will take as a result of the allegation.

3.7 Delegated Officer to commission Research Misconduct Inquiry

3.7.1 Upon receipt of the Designated Person's report recommending a research misconduct inquiry, the Delegated Officer may:

(i) dismiss the allegation;

(ii) refer the allegation back to the faculty with instructions on how they are to proceed; or

(iii) commission a research misconduct inquiry.

3.7.2 The Delegated Officer must confer with the Director, Human Resources on the process for handling the research misconduct inquiry formally in accordance with the University's Staff Agreements and University Statue 17 Student Conduct and Discipline.

3.7.3 At the commissioning of an investigation, the Delegated Officer must notify in writing the person or persons who made the allegation, the person(s) who is/are the subject of the allegation and the Designated Person that a research misconduct inquiry is being conducted.

3.7.4 The Designated Person must provide all evidence collected which may include a written statement from the person against whom the allegation has been made and any investigator's report to the Delegated Officer to inform the research misconduct inquiry. At this point the Designated Person must not play any further role in the inquiry process.

3.7.5 The finding(s) of the research misconduct inquiry must be submitted to the Delegated Officer who, in the case of research misconduct having been found to have occurred, must make a decision about appropriate disciplinary proceedings in accordance with the Staff Agreements and University Statue 17 Student Conduct and Discipline.

3.7.6 A copy of decision made under 3.7.5 must be provided in confidence to the person against whom the allegation was made and to the person making the allegation.

3.7.7 Where the University is obliged to do so without breaching legal requirements, including the right of the person(s) who is the subject of the allegation to procedural fairness, the Delegated Officer must advise relevant funding agencies and other relevant parties of the allegations and the proposed nature of any disciplinary proceedings.

3.7.8 A person(s) against whom action has been taken by the Delegated Officer has the right to refer this decision to the joint NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) and ARC (Australian Research Council) established Australian Research Integrity Committee (ARIC) for review.

Related forms: (Link)

TRIM File No:

F41485

Contact position:

Director, Research Services

Related Policies or legislation:

Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997) at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/r0024

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/r39syn.htm

UWA Code of Conduct for the Responsible Practice of Research at http://www.research.uwa.edu.au/staff/research-policy/guidelines

UWA student appeals and complaints at http://www.uwa.edu.au/university/complaints/students

UWA Staff Agreements at http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/hr/erms/enterprise_bargaining

Public Interests Disclosure Act 2003 (WA) at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/wa/consol_act/pida2003295/

Corruption and Crime Commissions Act 2003 (WA) at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/wa/consol_act/cacca2003338/

UWA fraud and corruption policy and guidelines at http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/87604/Fraud_Corruption_Guidelines_14Dec09.pdf

Statute 17 and the Regulations for Student Conduct and Discipline at http://calendar.publishing.uwa.edu.au/latest/partc/stat17