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

ID: 
52
Personal Details
This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
Curtin University
Specific comments
Specific comments: 
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?: 
Curtin welcomes a principles based document which is succinct and clearly describes the responsibilities of the institution and the researcher. A transition to a principles based document also aligns Australia with the US 42 CFR Parts 50 and 93, and the UK Research Integrity Office’s Code of Practice for Research principles based approach. Curtin queries the statement in the preamble on page 1 that states “Compliance with this Code is a prerequisite for receipt of National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council funding”. While Curtin understands this prerequisite, we suggest that this statement may be better placed in National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council funding rules and guidelines, rather than being represented in the Code. Curtin would like to highlight a potential addition to the responsibilities of researchers and institutions relating to ‘risk informed’ approaches to research. A risk informed approach relates to appropriate risk assessment and ensuring risk mitigation. Ensuring research is conducted within a risk informed framework is an essential responsibility for both institutions and researchers.
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?: 
As the Code is now a principles based document, the principles and responsibilities can be applied to all disciplines of research.
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.: 
Reference to a breach of the Code, rather than drawing distinctions between a breach and research misconduct enables institutions to determine appropriate action based on the seriousness of the breach rather than using a relatively arbitrary term to describe behaviour, which in the current Code requires three ‘rules’ to be met. Also, Enterprise Agreements tend to use the word “misconduct” rather than “research misconduct” as research misconduct refers to specific deviations relating only to research. Curtin welcomes the change in terminology and believes reference to a breach of the Code is clear and is implementable. Curtin sees no issues with this approach.
Question 4: Do you think the process described for investigating and managing potential breaches of the Code is clearly described and practical?: 
Curtin agrees that the processes described are clear and practical. However we would like to raise some specific concerns and queries. Definition of a breach of the Code (Section 3.1) gives examples of breaches of the Code. While the lead statement say breaches “include but are not limited to”, there are concerns that the list provided will be seen as an exhaustive list. Further, Curtin queries the addition of Supervision in the list of examples of breaches ( section 3.1 (iv)). The guidance and mentorship of researchers involves processes of line management. The guidance and mentorship of research trainees is often framed (e.g. in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements) as a teaching function rather than as a research function. While good guidance and mentorship are critical in ensuring good research and research training outcomes, we question whether these supervision activities can be described as research activities. On page 4, Curtin would like to recommend “Examples of mitigating or aggravating circumstances” as opposed to “Examples of mitigating or extenuating circumstances”. Section 4.2 on page 6, describes keeping information confidential as “Information should not be shared unless required”. Curtin would like further clarification on requirements by whom, or perhaps a statement regarding sharing “only on an as needs basis” would be more appropriate. Section 5.1 on page 10 and section 6.4 on page 13 mention complaints made in “bad faith”. Curtin feels that references to these types of complaints should be more substantial.
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.: 
Case studies may be useful, however they tend to be specifically related to selected issue/s and can outline ‘exceptions’ rather than ‘rules’. Hence, there is potential danger in case studies becoming standards.
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?: 
Appeals may or may not be part of current institutional process. This may be due to the number of avenues outside of the institution available for people to appeal University level decisions, for example ARIC, Fair Work and the Ombudsman. Curtin considers that this section should be replaced by assurance of procedural fairness, rather than appeal mechanisms.
Question 7: Please comment on which three topics you would nominate as being the highest priority and why.: 
Curtin sees authorship as the main priority for the development of further guidelines. This is due to the number of complaints regarding authorship exceeding that of any other complaint regarding research. Second to this is data management as we consider this to be a poorly understood area with low levels of compliance. Finally, the changing landscaping both nationally and internationally around data, particularly regarding open access to raw data needs to be explored further.
General comments
Comments: 

Thank you for opportunity to take part in the public consultation phase of the revised Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (“revised Code”).

 

Overall Curtin University welcomes the revision of the Code and congratulate all involved on their efforts.

Page reviewed: 17 September, 2018