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Review of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research Submission

Personal Details
This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
Tasmania University Union
Specific comments
Specific comments: 
Responsibilities for Researchers in Code

2          Consideration to the host environment

2.1          Principle Five

Principle Five (Page 2 of the Draft) aptly strives for Australian research to be conducted with respect for the research participants, the wider community, animals, and the environment. However, effective research ought to consider the host environment, and the impact that could occur within these climates. We believe it is important that the host environment’s expectations should also be met.

This proposed change to Principle Five is essential to enable research to be on an even playing field. Social science research often involves working with groups, leaders, and vulnerable individuals. With strong media and public scrutiny of bad practices, organisations which regularly work in such a space are likely to understand the industry practice of acceptable treatment. Their procedures for acceptable treatment should be specifically considered in ethical research applications. Further to this, observational research of social structures can be complex when organisations have mandatory-attendance events, sessions, and meetings. Such requirements can prevent an academic researcher from conducting research in these climates, which is likely to result in practitioner researchers consuming the said market share. The solution to many of the social issues in organisations lie in group processes, and this requires a degree of flexibility within these climates.

This demonstration of respect, we believe, would enable a number of beneficial outcomes:

  • Graduate students seeking industry references or employment within their research host environment would be able to work with host environments to ensure their needs and requirements are met. The same is true for academic researchers;
  • Host environments would be more likely to support future research opportunities based on a good experience with previous researchers; and,
  • Organisations are likely to have a higher regard for academic research, if they feel their own environment is respected.

2.2          Proposed amendment to Principle Five

We propose, by explicitly including the host environment, that Principle Five read as:

Respect for research participants, the wider community, the host environment, animals, and the environment.

Subsequently, adding in the following sub-clause dot-point:

The requirements, rules, and expectations of the host environment of the research (such as a school, employer, or institution) will be respected.

Responsibilities for Institutions in Code

3          Responsibilities of institutions

3.1          Inconsistencies in ethics committee decisions

As the TUU has observed from discussions with graduate researchers, the paradigm and culture of ethics committees can be counterproductive to researchers beginning their careers. As one of the primary instruments for enabling ethical research in institutions, we will focus solely on the ethics approval and ethics committees in this section. The complexity of ethics structures is driven by autocracy and risk aversion rather than with the aim to provide ethical clearance. 

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The third example is evidence of how we believe an ethics committee should behave; with the ultimate agenda of approving every study possible (within reason). Where ethics committees add unnecessary red-tape and bureaucracy, the inclination for researchers to conduct research, above and beyond their normal requirements, is reduced. Ethical committees should work collaboratively, proactively, and constructively with their applicants; with the mindset of trying to bring applications to approval. This change could be sufficient to drive a refresh of the culture – and critically, of the manner of behaviour it shapes – of the governance and administration of research ethics.

3.2          Proposed change to Responsibility One

We propose that Responsibility One (R1: page 8) be amended to:

Promote a research culture and environment that supports researchers, proactively and collaboratively, in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. 

Page reviewed: 17 September, 2018