Printer-friendly version
Body

1.0 Purpose and Scope

1.1 Purpose 

This procedure supports The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Responsible Conduct of Research policy by describing the processes for: 

1.2 Context

A breach is a failure to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. In the context of responsible conduct of research, a breach exists when there has been a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code and/or provisions in the Responsible Conduct of Research policy.

Research misconduct denotes a serious breach of the Code and/or the provisions in the Responsible Conduct of Research policy that is also intentional or reckless or negligent.

1.3 Scope

This procedure applies to all staff who conduct or assist with the conduct of, research at, or on behalf of, UQ.

Complaints about the conduct of research involving Higher Degree by Research Candidates will be handled in accordance with Research Misconduct – Higher Degree by Research Students.

Complaints about the conduct of research involving non-Higher Degree by Research Candidates will be handled in accordance with the Student Integrity and Misconduct policy.

 

2.0 Process and Key Controls

  1. Researchers are encouraged to self-disclose potential breaches of the Responsible Conduct of Research policy or the Code in accordance with these procedures.
  2. Making a complaint about the responsible conduct of research is detailed in Clause 3.4. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the protections under the Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure may apply.
  3. Complaints made under this procedure will be investigated and managed consistent with this procedure and:
  4. Findings of a breach may be progressed in accordance with the UQ Enterprise Agreement, a staff member’s individual contract of employment and relevant UQ PPL documentation.
  5. Complaints will be managed in a manner that is fair and consistent with the principles of procedural fairness.

 

3.0 Key Requirements

3.1 Advice on research conduct

Individuals with a concern about the conduct of research are encouraged to discuss their concern with a Research Integrity Advisor. Research Integrity Advisors can provide advice on accepted research practices, the Codethe Guide, UQ policy and procedures and other applicable codes of conduct that apply to research. A Research Integrity Advisor can help in considering:

  • Whether the concern may be related to a potential breach;
  • What other internal processes may be accessed if the concern is not related to a potential breach; and
  • How to make a formal complaint about a potential breach in accordance with this procedure.

The Research Integrity Advisor’s role does not extend to the assessment or investigation of a complaint. The Research Integrity Advisor will not make contact with the person who is the subject of concern.

Alternatively, where an individual has concerns about research conduct they may seek advice from their supervisor, Head of Organisational Unit or the Office of Research Integrity.

3.2 Confidentiality

Information relating to a complaint or proceedings will be kept confidential where possible and will not be disclosed outside the University, or to parties not involved in the proceedings, except in limited circumstances.

These limited circumstances include:

  • When the University is required to disclose the information;
  • Where disclosure is in accordance with clause 3.7;
  • When disclosure is required to progress a related process.

3.3 Precautionary actions

The University may take any reasonable temporary precautionary action to manage risks. Precautionary action may be taken in relation to:

  • The researcher concerned;
  • Any activity that could harm humans, animals or the environment;
  • Funds from external providers; and
  • Material that may be required for the assessment or investigation.

Any precautionary action taken by the University will be consistent with the principles contained in the Guide.

3.4 Making a complaint about the conduct of research

Formal complaints about the conduct of research may be submitted:

  • Verbally or in writing to the Office of Research Integrity;
  • Verbally or in writing to the Head of an Organisational Unit, with the Head referring the complaint to the Office of Research Integrity; or
  • Online through the University’s Complaints Management webpage.

Complaints will be acknowledged in writing (where possible). Anonymous complaints will be considered in the same way as other complaints based on the information provided, however, the assessment of the complaint may be limited if further information relevant to the complaint is required but cannot be obtained.

Where a complainant chooses not to proceed with a complaint or a respondent ceases to be a researcher at the University after a complaint has been submitted, the University is not prevented from progressing the complaint under these procedures. A complaint may be dismissed by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) if it:

  • Has already been considered by the University;
  • Does not represent a potential breach of the Code or the Responsible Conduct of Research policy; or
  • Is frivolous or vexatious.

Dismissal of a frivolous or vexatious complaint may occur at any point in a preliminary assessment or investigation, and action to address this with the complainant may be taken.

A complaint may be referred elsewhere if it is not within the scope of this procedure.

3.5 Preliminary assessment

A preliminary assessment includes the collection, recording and assessment of information relating to a complaint to determine whether the complaint if proven, would constitute a breach. Preliminary assessments are generally conducted by the Office of Research Integrity.

Where it is necessary to discuss the matter with the respondent they will be notified of the complaint and be provided with:

  • Sufficient detail to understand the nature of the complaint; and
  • An opportunity to respond in writing. This may include an invitation to meet with the option to bring a support person.

At conclusion, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) will be provided with preliminary assessment advice from the Office of Research Integrity. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) may determine that the complaint be:

  • Dismissed;
  • Referred back to the Office of Research Integrity for further assessment;
  • Referred elsewhere internally;
  • Dealt with as a minor breach and corrective instructions issued (in which case the respondent will have been provided with an opportunity to respond to the evidence); or
  • Referred for investigation.

Depending on the outcome, the nature of the complaint, and the level of involvement and impact on either the complainant or respondent, a summary of the decision made by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) may be provided to the complainant and the respondent.

3.6 Investigation

The purpose of an investigation is to make findings of fact to allow the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) to assess whether a breach has occurred, the extent of any breach and the recommended actions. When the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) refers a matter for investigation they will:

  1. Set the terms of reference for the investigation, which establishes its objectives and scope;
  2. Provide the respondent with written notification that outlines the process, the nature of the complaint and the terms of reference for the investigation; and
  3. Appoint a person or persons (investigation panel) in accordance with the Guide to conduct the investigation.

The investigation should be conducted within a reasonable timeframe, fairly, impartially and free from bias.

Where the respondent or complainant elects to have a support person, their role is to provide personal support, within reasonable limits, during an interview.

The respondent will be provided with an opportunity to respond in person and in writing to the complaint and the evidence (which may be de-identified) relevant to the terms of reference. This may occur at different points during an investigation.

The investigation process may include the investigation panel:

  • Reviewing the initial complaint and records associated with the preliminary assessment;
  • Obtaining evidence from relevant witnesses, including experts; and
  • Collecting and examining relevant documentary evidence.

The investigation panel will prepare a written report that addresses the terms of reference. A draft of the written report or a summary of the relevant information will be provided to the respondent with a reasonable opportunity to comment before the report is finalised and provided to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research). If the respondent does not participate in the process the investigation will continue in their absence, including finalisation of the report.

Following consideration of the investigation report and recommendations of the panel, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) will provide the investigation report to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) with recommendations. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may accept or reject all or some of the conclusions and recommendations and may decide:

  • To refer the matter back to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) or the panel for further investigation;
  • That there has been no breach, in which case the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may:
    • Dismiss the matter;
    • Refer the matter elsewhere internally;
    • Issue corrective instructions.
  • That there has been a breach, in which case, taking into account the extent of the breach, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may:
    • Refer the matter elsewhere internally;
    • Issue corrective instructions;
    • Determine that the breach constitutes research misconduct;
    • Refer the matter for appropriate action under the misconduct/serious misconduct provisions of the UQ Enterprise Agreement or a staff member’s individual contract of employment.

The respondent will be provided with a summary of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)’s decision and the complainant will be notified of the conclusion of the investigation. Depending on the nature of the complaint and the level of involvement and impact on the complainant, a summary of the decision may be provided to the complainant.

3.7 Further actions

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) or Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may disclose the results of an assessment or investigation and any action taken by the University to relevant third parties. This may include other research institutions, external funding bodies, affected staff and students, research collaborators, professional registration bodies, journal editors and the general public. If the respondent ceases to be a researcher at the University, the University may refer the results of an assessment or investigation and any action taken by the University to any new institution that employs the respondent.

The public record, including publications, may need to be corrected if it is established as a result of an assessment or investigation that research findings and their dissemination have been affected.

 

4.0 Roles, Responsibilities and Accountabilities

4.1 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) or other nominee of the Vice-Chancellor fulfils the role of Responsible Executive Officer in the Guide. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) has final responsibility for receiving reports of the outcomes of an investigation and deciding on the course of actions to be taken.

4.2 Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) or other nominee of the Vice-Chancellor fulfils the role of Designated Officer in the Guide. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) is responsible for:

  • Overseeing the preliminary assessment of a complaint and deciding on the course of actions to be taken;
  • The appointment of an investigation panel;
  • Determining the terms of reference for the panel and investigation;
  • Consideration of the investigation report and recommendations from the investigation panel; and
  • Providing the final investigation report and their recommendations to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

4.4 Office of Research Integrity

The Office of Research Integrity fulfils the role of the Assessment Officer in the Guide.

The Office of Research Integrity is responsible for receiving and managing complaints about the conduct of research and supporting the conduct of preliminary assessments and investigations.

4.5 Head of Organisational Unit

The Head of Organisational Unit is responsible for notifying the Office of Research Integrity if a complaint about research conduct has been received.

4.6 Research Integrity Advisor

Research Integrity Advisors are responsible for the provision of advice to individuals with a concern about the conduct of research.

 

5.0 Monitoring, Review and Assurance

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) is responsible for continuously monitoring the effectiveness and application of this procedure or whenever there is a change in the Code and/or the Guide.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) is responsible for the management of the application and function of the Office of Research Integrity as it relates to this procedure. The Office of Research Integrity is responsible for receiving and managing complaints about the conduct of research at UQ.

 

6.0 Recording and Reporting

6.1 Records

The Offices of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Research Integrity will retain records and materials related to matters assessed and investigated in accordance with this procedure. These records shall be retained and disposed of in accordance with the University’s Records Management policy.

Where a complaint is dismissed, no records of any preliminary assessment or investigation will be kept on a staff member’s Human Resource file.

6.2 Reports

When required, reports containing aggregate data on complaints assessed and investigated in accordance with this procedure must be provided to the relevant senior executive or committee.

 

7.0 Appendix

7.1 Definitions

Complainant – a person or persons who has made a complaint about the conduct of research.

Researchers – any University staff member who conducts, or assists with the conduct of, research at, or on behalf of, the University. University staff member means all officers and employees of the University, persons acting in an honorary or voluntary capacity for or at the University.

Respondent – a person or persons subject to a complaint or allegation about a potential breach of the Code and/or the provisions in the Responsible Conduct of Research policy.

Support person – a person who accompanies a party to an interview. The support person must not be legally qualified. 

7.2 Flowchart

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council, taken from the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research 2018.

Custodians
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Bronwyn Harch