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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: 
University of Technology Sydney
Specific comments
Specific comments: 
Responsibilities for Institutions in Code

UTS considers the principles around research data management to be less useful for institutions than the current Code. We acknowledge that some of our concerns may be addressed by the underpinning Guide for research data management, however in the absence of that more detailed document, we would suggest that R7 be re-drafted as follows: “Provide facilities for the safe and secure storage, preservation and management of research data, records and primary materials, make these findable and, where possible and appropriate, allow access and reference to these by interested parties.”

The rationale for this comment is that “access” is only one of four concepts in the global trend towards FAIR research data or data FAIRport which refers to data being findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

Responsibilities for Researchers in Code

UTS considers the principles around research data management to be less useful for institutions than the current Code. We acknowledge that some of our concerns may be addressed by the underpinning Guide for research data management, however in the absence of that more detailed document, we would suggest adding an additional Researcher Responsibility: "Facilitate the management of research data by your institution or an appropriate institutional data custodian for the appropriate minimum retention period."

We also believe that the current Code more appropriately addresses data accessibility issues with respect to ethics, privacy and confidentiality. To support the sharing and reuse of research data without compromising security or ethics, we would propose that R20 be re-drafted as follows: “Retain clear, accurate and complete records of all research including research data and primary materials and allow access and reference to these by interested parties except when it is necessary to maintain the confidentiality for ethical or commercial reasons


R23 does not provide sufficient detail around authorship. We acknowledge that some of our concerns may be addressed by the underpinning Guide for authorship, however we propose that consideration be given to a statement around author order reflecting both the norms of the discipline and relative contribution to the output.

Guide Section 5

It would be helpful for Section 5 of the Guide to provide clarity around what constitutes a formal or informal complaint. There will be many instances where a complainant wishes to address a concern with, say, a Research Integrity Adviser but does not wish to proceed formally. Where advice from the adviser resolves the concern there may be no need to progress further. However, what is the responsibility of the institution or Adviser to act on a legitimate concern where the complainant chooses not to lodge a formal complaint?

Guide Section 7

Section 7.3 of the Guide is clear in its guidance around how legal counsel may or may not be used. UTS understands from previous consultation discussions that the rationale behind this relates to the investigation of integrity breaches being a peer review process rather than a legal one, and the concern around creating an adversarial environment. Whilst we support this approach, we suggest that the rationale be outlined in the Guide, to give institutions greater guidance in the development of their own processes for conducting investigations.

Section 7.4 of the Guide (para 2) recommends that the draft written report prepared by the investigation panel be provided to the respondent for feedback on factual inaccuracies. This does not seem to be a reasonable requirement, and may lead to appeals by the respondent and delays to the investigation before the Responsible Executive Officer has had an opportunity to review any findings or recommendations. The respondent has the opportunity to respond to claims and address factual inaccuracies during the preliminary assessment and the investigation, and would also have an opportunity to appeal any decisions that were made by the REO. Asking the respondent to review the draft written report solely for factual inaccuracy would be unreasonable, and may also lead to personal distress to the respondent before a decision is reached.

Guide Section 8

It would be helpful for Section 8 of the Guide to address approaches for institutions who may inherit an integrity breach, either through the transfer of a research project or an employee from another institution. What are the privacy laws around sharing of information between institutions, either for past or current integrity issues?

Specific consultation questions
Question 1: Do you like the new approach to the Code, namely the principles-based document being supported by several guides that provide advice on implementation?: 
UTS welcomes and supports the proposed revised Code and it’s more “common sense”, pragmatic approach that caters for a broader range of research scenarios.
Question 2:The draft Code is intended to be used by all research disciplines. Do the principles adequately capture the expectations for responsible research across all research disciplines?: 
Question 3: The draft Guide refers to breaches of the Code rather than providing a definition of research misconduct, and states that institutions can decide whether or not to use the term research misconduct in their own processes.: 
Yes, the guidance is clear and implementable, and is useful for revising institutional policies regarding responsible research and potential breaches of the Code. For UTS the new Guide will clarify requirements for investigations under the Code, versus Enterprise Agreements. UTS does not foresee any negative or challenging issues created by this approach.
Question 4: Do you think the process described for investigating and managing potential breaches of the Code is clearly described and practical?: 
Yes. However, the Guide does not provide any direction for breaches of the Code created by Institutions not fulfilling their responsibilities. This becomes a concern for researchers where they are unable to meet their own responsibilities (R13-R28) due to a failure in any of the institutional responsibilities (R1-R12). Treating an institutional breach as a “mitigating or extenuating circumstance” (Clause 3.2, Box 1, page 7) may not provide sufficient guarantee to the individual. Will ARIC have a role to play in investigation breaches of the Code by institutions?
Question 5: The Code Review Committee and working group are considering what additional resources should be developed to support implementation of the Code and Guide.: 
Extra resources would be of more value to complex or unusual breaches, rather than more common breaches that have clearer processes to follow. Therefore case studies may not provide the most useful support, given privacy issues. Rather, some mechanism to share experiences between institutions in order to understand why potential breaches occur and how they are investigated could be of great value.
Question 6: Are the mechanisms for review of an investigation clearly and correctly described in Section 7.6 of the Guide? If not, where are the inaccuracies?: 
Question 7: Please comment on which three topics you would nominate as being the highest priority and why.: 
UTS supports the intention to focus the next two guides on Research Data Management and authorship. Data management in particular is an area that is not adequately covered by policies and procedures in many research institutions, and with increasing types and quantities of data to be managed, it is an area that has the potential to lead to breaches of the Code or other legislative requirements. Following those two, UTS proposes that the next highest priority areas should be: 1. Conflicts of interest 2. peer review 3. intellectual property and copyright 4. clinical trials We nominate these as areas which commonly cause disagreement or misunderstandings within the research community, and where national guidance would be of great value to institutions in clarifying matters.

Page reviewed: 17 September, 2018