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Research Integrity Breaches procedure

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Procedure is effective from 22 September 2017.

(2) This Procedure includes the following schedule(s):

  1. Schedule A: Outcomes for Student Serious Research Code Breach.
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Section 2 - Purpose

(3) This Procedure documents the processes that apply to handling allegations and instances of breaches to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code).

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Section 3 - Scope

(4) This Procedure applies to allegations of research code breach and serious research code breach by University staff or students conducting research in Honours, coursework or higher degrees by research (HDR). Allegations involving students which relate to academic integrity involving coursework units and additional HDR program content will usually be addressed according to the Student Academic Integrity procedure.

(5) Where an allegation concerns a staff member who is also a student, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Twill determine which process is the most appropriate in all the circumstances.

(6) This Procedure does not limit a person's ability to lodge a protected disclosure where an allegation concerns dishonest conduct by a staff or student researcher, serious enough that if proven it could constitute a criminal offence or provide reasonable grounds for dismissal. Any protected disclosure should be made in accordance with the Protection of Persons from Detrimental Action procedure.

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Section 4 - Policy

(7) Refer to the Research Conduct policy.

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Section 5 - Procedure

Education and support for student researchers

(8) Course Directors and Faculty Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) Coordinators will ensure that students enrolled in courses involving research are provided with information about research integrity as part of their orientation to the University.

(9) Information about research integrity will be included in all relevant unit sites, HDR candidature agreements and websites as appropriate. This will include a statement on research integrity incorporating definitions, sources of support and penalties that may apply to research code breaches and serious research code breach.

(10) Supervisors and Supervision team will provide students with genuine opportunities to learn how to conduct research with integrity in accordance with expected discipline conventions when they commence research units or courses at the University, with reminders provided throughout their course.

(11) A member of staff in each Academic Unit will be nominated to ensure that:

  1. new supervisors are informed about the Research Conduct policy and related guidelines as part of their induction
  2. all supervisors are reminded of policy requirements about research integrity at least annually and provided with links to relevant information.

(12) A Faculty, Institute or Academic Unit staff member or group will be nominated to support new and existing staff to improve relevant practices relating to research code breach or serious research code breach.

Advice available prior to making a formal allegation

(13) Anyone considering making an allegation/s of research code breach or serious research code breach may obtain advice on integrity from an Adviser in Research Integrity appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research. The advice is confidential except as set out in clause 14. Advisers provide advice on research matters, research integrity breach processes and options for reporting a research code breach and serious research code breach. They will not attempt to assess or investigate an allegation/s or contact the person(s) who is the subject of the allegation/s.

(14) Where the allegation/s is serious enough to constitute a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 and the person considering making the allegation/s decides not to proceed, the Adviser in Research Integrity will determine whether the allegation/s warrants further investigation. The Adviser may also choose to make a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosure Act 2012. In this case, the Adviser will make all reasonable efforts to avoid identifying the source of the information.

Allegation of research code breach

(15) Anyone who believes a research code breach has taken place must act in a timely manner and formally report the allegation/s in writing to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee.

(16) All allegations of suspected research code breach/es will be entered into an Incident/Breach Register held by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee. This register will include the following:

  1. date the report was made
  2. how the report was made and to whom
  3. date and times or timeframe of the alleged incident
  4. obligation/policy/process that was breached
  5. description of the alleged incident
  6. name and position of those alleged to be involved
  7. name and role of any other persons relevant to the incident
  8. approximate financial value involved, if appropriate
  9. name of the committee or person conducting investigations or assessments relating to the breach/s
  10. action taken following discovery of the incident
  11. outcome of investigation (to be included at the conclusion of the investigation).

(17) On receipt of an allegation/s of research code breach, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will determine whether the allegation relates to following:

  1. a research code breach relating to animal ethics, human ethics or biosafety approval and if so, refer the matter to the appropriate Ethics Committee or Responsible Officer for investigation
  2. a research code breach not related to ethics or biosafety approval (including failure to meet research standards, data management, authorship, publication, supervision, conflicts of interests), and if so refer the matter to the Head of Academic Unit for investigation
  3. a serious research code breach, and the matter be pursed in accordance with clause 20 onwards.

Outcome of research code breach investigation

(18) Where the matter is referred for investigation as research code breach, the Responsible Committee, Responsible Officer or Head of Academic Unit will determine:

  1. there is no reasonable grounds for an allegation of research code breach and recommend the matter be dismissed; or
  2. the allegation/s amounts to a research code breach and determine corrective action proportional to the breach; or
  3. there are reasonable grounds for an allegation of serious research code breach and the matter be pursued in accordance with clause 20 onwards.

(19) A report on the outcome of a research code breach investigation must be provided to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee to be included in the incident/breach register.

Allegation of serious research code breach

(20) Anyone who believes a serious research code breach has taken place must act in a timely manner and formally report the allegation/s in writing to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee.

(21) On receipt of an allegation/s of serious research code breach, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee must consider whether there are likely significant risks to human, animal safety, the environment or national security. Where it is determined a significant risk has been identified, appropriate protective or precautionary action must be taken by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research.

(22) Where an allegation of serious research code breach relates to student academic integrity involving coursework units and additional HDR program content, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research will refer matter to the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Training and Performance Enhancement who will seek the advice of the Dean of Students as to whether the matter should be heard according to this Procedure or the Student Academic Integrity procedure.  The Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Training and Performance Enhancement may refer the matter to be heard according to the Student Academic Integrity procedure.

(23) All reports of suspected serious research code breach will be entered into an Incident/Breach Register held by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research in accordance with clause 16.

Preliminary assessment

(24) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will notify the staff or student against whom the allegation/s have been made, in writing, that they are the subject of allegation/s of serious research code breach, the nature of the allegation/s, and that a preliminary assessment of the allegation/s will be conducted.

(25) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will appoint an Assessment Officer who will receive the written allegation/s and conduct a preliminary assessment. The Assessment Officer must meet the following criteria:

  1. be independent from the allegation/s
  2. have appropriate experience or expertise
  3. have no conflict of interest or bias.

(26) The Assessment Officer will review the allegation/s, seek a response to the allegation/s from relevant parties, and gather relevant documents, evidence, and any additional information to inform their decision.

(27) For the purposes of the preliminary investigation, the Assessment Officer may:

  1. seek advice on any technical matters from an appropriate person or persons whether from within or outside the University provided that such person or persons has no conflict of interest or bias; and
  2. seek legal advice.

(28) The Assessment Officer will prepare a preliminary assessment report within 40 working days and advise the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee if there are reasonable grounds for the allegation/s of serious research code breach and whether there is scope for further investigation.

Outcome of the preliminary assessment

(29) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will consider the preliminary assessment report and within 10 working days of receiving the report and should determine:

  1. there are no reasonable grounds for an allegation of serious research code breach and recommend the matter be dismissed; or
  2. the allegation/s refers to research code breach and refer the matter in writing to the Head of Academic Unit where the matter may be pursued in accordance with clause 68.3 of the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017, or where relevant to the Responsible Committee or Responsible Officer if the matter relates to animal, human or biosafety approval, for corrective or disciplinary action proportional to the breach; or
  3. there are reasonable grounds for an allegation of serious research code breach and the matter be pursued in accordance with:
    1. clause 68.4 of the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017 for allegations relating to staff
    2. clause 34 of this Procedure for allegations relating to students.
  4. the allegation/s refers to matters not dealt with in this procedure and recommend that the matter be pursued in accordance with other University policies or procedures.

Actions

(30) Both the complainant and staff or student against whom the allegation is made shall be informed in writing of the outcome of the preliminary assessment.

(31) Where the matter is referred to the Head of Academic Unit, Responsible Committee or Responsible Officer, a report of the action taken must be provided to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee. The Vice-Chancellor may also have regard to actions being taken in accordance to clause 68.3 of the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017.

(32) Where it is determined there are reasonable grounds for serious research code breach, the matter will be either:

  1. referred to the Vice-Chancellor to be managed in accordance with clause 68.4 of the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017 for allegations relating to staff; or
  2. referred to the Pro Vice-Chancellor Researcher Development and Integrity for a formal hearing in accordance with clause 34 for allegations relating to students.

(33) Where the allegation also involves academic or general integrity, the Director, Internal Audit is to be notified and will make a decision on the appropriate action to be taken.

Formal hearing of allegation of student serious research code breach

(34) Where a formal hearing of an allegation of student serious research code breach is required under clause 29(c), a Student Research Integrity Committee will be appointed to hear the case.

(35) The Student Research Integrity Committee shall consist of:

  1. the Pro Vice-Chancellor Researcher Development and Integrity or nominee who will be the Chair. Where a nominee is appointed, they will be a senior member of the professoriate with significant experience in research
  2. an academic member of the Research and Research Training Committee, not from the faculty or Academic Unit of the student
  3. an expert in the field of research, not involved in the supervision of the student
  4. any person co-opted to the Committee by the Chair.

(36) The Chair will nominate the other members of the Committee.

(37) Committee members will not have any conflict of interest in hearing the case. The Chair is able to make a decision concerning the allegation under clause 29 as well as hear the case.

(38) Deakin Research will notify the student at least 10 working days before the hearing of:

  1. the date and location of the hearing
  2. details of the allegation and evidence supporting it
  3. the opportunity to respond to the allegation in writing up to two days prior to the hearing and/or attend the hearing in person and to call witness/es to the hearing
  4. the right to bring a support person to the hearing according to clause 41
  5. the opportunity to ask questions of the Committee and to answer questions asked by the Committee during the hearing
  6. the hearing still being held even if the student does not respond or attend the hearing. In this case, a decision (and penalty if appropriate) will be made in their absence.

(39) Where further evidence is received it will be provided to the student as soon as possible.

(40) The Committee may request the attendance of staff, students and other relevant people at the hearing to help them to make a decision.

(41) Students may bring a support person to any meetings associated with the investigation or management of the case, provided that the person is not a practising lawyer. Where the support person has expertise likely to assist the Committee on procedural, technical or factual matters or if the student requires reasonable adjustments, the Committee will allow the support person to speak on the student’s behalf.

(42) At the hearing, the Committee will review the evidence of the allegation and will give the student the opportunity to respond and interview any staff, students or other relevant people as required. The Committee will:

  1. act fairly and impartially
  2. exercise independent judgement
  3. conduct themselves in an unbiased, professional and courteous manner.

(43) The Committee will make a decision at the end of the hearing or as soon as possible afterwards. The Committee Chair may adjourn the hearing if appropriate.

(44) The Committee will decide whether it is more likely than not that:

  1. the allegation is not supported and dismiss it, or
  2. make a finding of research code breach, or
  3. make a finding of serious research code breach.

Outcomes of student formal hearing

(45) Where the Committee decides that serious research code breach has occurred, it will decide the outcomes using Schedule A: Outcomes for Student Serious Research Code Breach.

(46) The Committee will notify the student within five working days of the outcome being made, reasons and right to appeal the decision. Deakin Research will coordinate the implementation of the outcome. The decision will be implemented immediately, except where the decision relates to suspension or exclusion and the student appeals the outcome to the University Appeals Committee, in which case the decision will not be implemented until the appeal process is completed.

(47) Deakin Research will record the decision and outcome in the incident/breach register and the student’s record after the conclusion of any appeal process.

(48) Deakin Research will notify Deakin International if the matter involves an international student.

(49) The Student Research Integrity Committee will report outcomes to the Pro Vice-Chancellor Researcher Development and Integrity.

Continuing student study and enrolment

(50) Students will remain enrolled throughout the management of an allegation and internal management of a breach of research integrity, including the University appeals process. The Pro Vice-Chancellor Researcher Development and Integrity will decide whether the student can continue to conduct research during this time.

(51) Allegations will be heard and decided even if the student withdraws from the unit or course.

Student appeal

(52) A student may appeal to the University Appeals Committee according to the Student Appeals procedure against the decision only on one or more of the following grounds:

  1. there is new evidence that was not available or not known to the student at the time the allegation was heard
  2. the penalty imposed was too severe
  3. there was a misapplication of procedures resulting in some disadvantage to the student
  4. the decision was unreasonable in the circumstances or cannot be supported by the evidence that was available at the time the decision was made
  5. relevant evidence was not considered or irrelevant evidence was relied on in reaching the decision.

(53) The appeal must be lodged by email within 20 working days of being notified of the outcome of the hearing according to the Student Appeals procedure.

Reporting outcomes of serious research code breach

(54) Written documentation of the preliminary assessment, investigations, the outcome and reasons for it and reports on actions must be provided to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research to be included in the Incident/Breach Register.

(55) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will inform all relevant parties of the decision and outcome. Relevant parties may include but not limited to affected staff, research collaborators including those at other institutions, all funding organisations, journal editors, ethics committees and professional registration bodies.

(56) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee will report annually to the Risk and Compliance Office on the occurrence and nature of allegations and any actions to address the underlying causes. The Pro Vice-Chancellor Researcher Development and Integrity will report biannually on decisions and trends to Academic Board and University Council through relevant committees.

(57) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research will notify the Director, Academic Governance and Standards where an allegation/s of serious research code breach has been substantiated. The Director, Academic Governance and Standards will ensure that the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is notified where required under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011.

Correction of the public record

(58) Where a research code breach or serious research code breach has resulted in incorrect information being placed upon the public record, action will be taken by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research or nominee to correct the public record, including Deakin Research Online.

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Section 6 - Definitions

(59) For the purpose of this Procedure:

  1. academic integrity: acting in accordance with the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility in academic settings.
  2. Academic Unit: includes a School, Department or Institute.
  3. contract cheating: A student requesting someone else to produce all or part of an assessment task that is submitted as their own work, including arrangements through a third party.
  4. faculty: includes any institute that is approved under University Regulations to offer courses.
  5. notify: email the student to their Deakin and last known personal email addresses.
  6. research code breach: Conduct that breaches the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research that are considered less serious, that may be minor or technical deviations that are honest or accidental errors.
  7. research integrity: a commitment to honesty, accuracy, efficiency and objectivity in research which meets the requirements of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
  8. responsible committee: the Deakin committee responsible for administering or providing ethical oversight in accordance with the relevant Codes, standards and guidelines (e.g. Animal Ethics Committee, Human Ethics Committee and Laboratory and Biosafety Committee).
  9. serious research code breach: (previously known as ‘research misconduct’): refers to more serious or deliberate research code breach that involves:
    1. intent or deliberation, recklessness or gross and persistent negligence; and/or
    2. serious consequences, such as false information on the public record, or adverse effects on research participants, animals or the environment.
      A serious research code breach includes fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out or reporting the results of research, and failure to declare or manage a serious conflict of interest. It includes avoidable failure to follow research proposals as approved by a research ethics committee, particularly where this failure may result in unreasonable risk or harm to humans, animals or the environment. It also includes the wilful concealment or facilitation of serious research code breach by others.
      Repeated or continuing instances of research code breaches may also constitute a serious research code breach, and do so where these have been the subject of previous counselling or specific direction. A serious research code breach does not include honest differences in judgment in management of the research project, and may not include honest errors that are minor or unintentional.
  10. supervision team: a team of at least two suitably qualified supervisors appointed by the faculty to supervise research students.
  11. supervisor: the staff member who provides advice and guidance about research during a unit or course.