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Research Integrity - Research Misconduct and Breach of the Australian Code Procedure

Section 1 - Summary

(1) This Procedure describes the University’s processes in relation to alleged breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018) (The Code).  The processes the University will follow to manage a potential breach of the Code are outlined within the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 (hereafter referred to as the Investigation Guide) and further clarified within this Procedure.

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Section 2 - HESF/ASQA/ESOS Alignment

(2) HESF: 4.1 Research; 4.2 Research Training; 5.2 Academic and Research Integrity.

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Section 3 - Scope

(3) This Procedure applies to research integrity breach allegations or complaints about any Victoria University researcher (student or staff) and/or any research conducted under the auspices of Victoria University. This scope includes situations where Victoria University researchers collaborate in research projects that are based at other institutions.

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Section 4 - Definitions

(4) Breach:  A breach is a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code, and may refer to a single breach or multiple breaches.

(5) Complainant(s): Person or persons making a complaint or allegation about a potential breach of the Code.

(6) Investigation: The action of investigating an allegation of a breach of the Code by the Panel, following the Preliminary Assessment. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a breach of the Code has occurred, and if so, the extent of that breach, and to make recommendations about further actions.

(7) Investigation Panel: A panel is appointed to conduct the Investigation. The Panel should comprise 1-3 members including a Chair as appointed by the Designated Officer.

(8) Preliminary Assessment: The purpose of the Preliminary Assessment is to gather and evaluate facts and information and assess whether the complaint, if proven, would constitute a breach of the Code.

(9) Research Misconduct: Research misconduct is a serious breach of the Code which is also intentional, reckless, wilful, repetitive or negligent.

(10) Respondent(s): Person or person’s subject to a complaint or allegation about a potential breach of the Code.

(11) Support Person: Provide personal support, within reasonable limits, to the Respondent(s) and/or Complainant. Their role is not to advocate, represent or speak on the other person’s behalf.

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Section 5 - Policy/Regulation

(12) Research Integrity Policy

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Section 6 - Procedures

Part A - Summary of Roles and Responsibilities

Roles Responsibilities Role Holder
Responsible Executive Officer (REO) Final responsibility for receiving reports of the outcomes of processes of assessment or investigation of potential or found breaches of the Code and deciding on the course of action to be taken. Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor
Head, Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity (who may also take on the role of Designated Officer) 
Receives and considers complaints and determines if they go forward to the Preliminary Assessment Phase.
Appoints Designated Officer. 
 
Head, Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity
Designated Officer (DO)
Appoints Assessment Officer.
Instructs the Assessment Officer to conduct a Preliminary Assessment if the complaint represents a potential breach of the Code. 
Oversees the Preliminary Assessment.
As determined on a case by case basis as designated in writing by the Responsible Officer.
Assessment Officer (AO) Conducts and reports on the Preliminary Assessment of the complaint and provides a report to the Designated Officer. As determined on a case by case basis.
Research Integrity Advisors (RIAs) A person or persons with knowledge of the Code and institutional processes nominated by the institution  to promote the responsible conduct of research and provide advice to those with concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code. Person(s) nominated by the University.
Research Integrity Officer (RIO) Staff member with the responsibility for the management of research integrity. Receives complaints about potential breaches of the Code, provides administrative support for Preliminary Assessments and Investigations. Manager, Research Ethics and Integrity
Review Officer (RO) Senior Officer with responsibility for receiving requests for a procedural review of an investigation of a breach of the Code. Senior Officer of the University not fulfilling any other role within this Procedure. 

Part B - Principles

(13) This Procedure and any Preliminary Assessment and Investigation will be conducted in accordance with the principles of confidentiality, transparency and procedural fairness, and in accordance with the Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Policy.

(14) Any decision maker under this procedure who has a conflict of interest (whether potential, perceived or actual) must disclose it so that it can be managed appropriately.

(15) During the conduct of a Preliminary Assessment or Investigation, the Designated Officer may direct immediate action be taken to safeguard the welfare of humans, animals or the environment.

(16) Relevant stakeholders will be regularly updated as required and in line with VU’s Privacy Policy.

Part C - Lodgement of Complaints

(17) Anyone can make a complaint under this Procedure.

(18) Complaints are to be made in writing addressed to the Head, Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity and emailed to (ResearchIntegrity.Compaints@vu.edu.au), in accordance with Section 5.2 of the Investigation Guide. Complaints can also be mailed to Head, Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity (P.O. Box 14428, Melbourne Victoria, 8001 or phoned through to the Manager, Research Ethics and Integrity at 03 9919 4781 either anonymously or identifying an individual who wishes to be confidentially followed up with.

(19) The Head, Office for Researcher Training, Quality & Integrity will then appoint the Designated Officer (in line with the Investigation Guide). This role will be assigned on a case-by-case basis. The Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) must be advised of the contact details for their appointed Designated Officer.

(20) Complaints may be anonymous; however, anonymous complaints may not be able to be investigated.

Part D - Preliminary Assessment

(21) If the Designated Officer determines that the complaint represents a potential breach of the Code, the Designated Officer will appoint and instruct an Assessment Officer to conduct a Preliminary Assessment. The Assessment Officer then considers whether the matter:

  1. relates to an alleged breach of the Code, and an investigation of the complaint should take place;
  2. should be dismissed; or,
  3. should be handled by another procedure, including but not limited to the Staff Complaints Resolution Procedure or the Student Complaints Procedure.

(22) The nature of the Preliminary Assessment will be determined by the Assessment Officer and will be shaped by the:

  1. specifics of the case;
  2. proportional to the seriousness of the matters involved; and,
  3. the degree of organisational exposure.

(23) The time taken will depend upon the complexity of the matter of the complaint.

(24) If the Assessment Officer deems it necessary to discuss the matter with the Respondent(s) during a Preliminary Assessment to clarify facts and/or information the Assessment Officer must notify the Respondent in writing, providing:

  1. sufficient detail for the Respondent(s) to understand the nature of the complaint; and
  2. an opportunity to respond in writing within a nominated timeframe.

(25) If a meeting between the Assessment Officer and the Respondent(s) occurs, the Respondent(s) is/are entitled to bring a support person.

(26) A summary record of the meeting must be prepared by the Assessment Officer and the Respondent(s) provided with a copy.

(27) The Assessment Officer will provide the Designated Officer with a report on the findings of the Preliminary Assessment in line with the Investigation Guide requirements.

(28) The Designated Officer will decide the next steps based upon the Assessment Officer’s report.  The Designated Officer will advise the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) of the progress of the matter. The Preliminary Assessment must be concluded within 60 days. When this is not possible, the Designated Officer will inform the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) in writing of the delay and the reasons for it, and the expected timeframe for completion.

Part E - Determination

(29) At the conclusion of the Preliminary Assessment the Designated Officer will determine whether the complaint should:

  1. be investigated under Part F of this procedure,
  2. not be investigated, and no further formal action taken, as the Preliminary Assessment has not revealed a prima facie case of research misconduct; or,
  3. be referred to other University processes for investigation as set out below.
Determination Action Required
No Prima Facie Breach of the Code No further action required
Likely Breach of the Code. The Breach is one of either a), b) or c). a) Does the Breach appear to constitute Student Misconduct, as defined in the Student Misconduct Regulations 2019? If yes, follow steps contained in that regulation.
  b) Does the Breach appear to constitute Staff Misconduct, as defined in the Victoria University Enterprise Agreement? If yes, refer to People and Culture for investigation under that agreement.
  c) Does the Breach warrant a further investigation, despite being neither Student Misconduct of Staff Misconduct? If yes, please follow the steps outlined in Part F- Investigation (below).

Part F - Investigation

(30) If the Designated Officer determines a further investigation is required, the following steps will be taken:

  1. prepare a clear statement of allegations;
  2. develop the terms of reference for the Investigation;
  3. nominate the Investigation Panel (Panel) and a chair when the Panel is more than one person;

(31) The nature and conduct of an investigation will be consistent with the process outlined in section 7 of the Investigation Guide.

Composition of the Panel

(32) The Panel should comprise 1-3 members including a Chair as appointed by the Designated Officer.

(33) In selecting members for the Panel, the Designated Officer will consider a range of factors as discussed in the Investigation Guide, including:

  1. the expertise and skills required
  2. selection of a person appropriately qualified as Chair
  3. appropriate level of experience and expertise in the relevant discipline(s)
  4. the need for a person with prior experience of similar investigation panels or relevant experience
  5. knowledge and understanding of the responsible conduct of research
  6. appropriate number of members
  7. the need for members to be free from conflicts of interest or bias
  8. gender/diversity of members.

(34) The Designated Officer will advise the Respondent(s) of the Panel's composition and provide an opportunity for the Respondent(s) to raise any concerns (for example, a conflict of interest).

Panel preparation

(35) Once the Panel is established, it should be provided with all relevant information and documentation.

(36) All Panel members must be appointed in writing and external members must be appropriately indemnified.

Panel Responsibilities

(37) Members of the Panel are expected to:

  1. work within the institution’s processes
  2. follow the procedure established for the Panel
  3. work within the terms of reference for the Panel
  4. respect any undertakings of confidentiality
  5. adhere to the principles of procedural fairness
  6. complete the investigation in a timely manner
  7. prepare a written report of its findings to the Designated Officer under Part G of the Procedure.

Panel Deliberations

(38) As part of the Investigation, the Respondent(s) should be provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegation and relevant evidence, and to provide additional evidence upon which the Panel may rely. If the Respondent(s) choose/chooses not to respond or appear before the Panel where requested, the investigation continues in their absence.

(39)  The Complainant(s) may also be given the opportunity to make submissions at the discretion of the Panel.

(40) A report of the Panel’s findings will be sent to the Responsible Executive Officer (REO) by the Designated Officer, including any recommended actions (see section ‘7.6 Outcomes from the investigation’ of the Investigation Guide).

Part G - Findings of the Investigation

Research Misconduct 

(41) If the REO decides that research misconduct has occurred after considering the report and any recommendations provided, the REO may:

  1. refer the matter to People & Culture for appropriate action under the University’s enterprise agreement for research misconduct undertaken by a staff member;
  2. refer the matter to the Integrity Office for appropriate action under the Student Misconduct Regulations for research misconduct undertaken by a student; or
  3. take any other appropriate action for research misconduct undertaken by a person who is neither a staff member or student.

Matter Dismissed

(42) If, as a result of a full investigation, it is recommended that a matter be dismissed, the Designated Officer must consider, in consultation with the Vice-President, People and Culture (for staff), whether the complaint was vexatious or mischievous and whether the Complainant(s) should be subject to investigation.

Part H - Review

(43) (32) Either a Complainant or Respondent may request a review of a decision.

(44) Requests for review need to be lodged within 10 business days of receipt of the outcome of an investigation. They need to be lodged in writing to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research.

(45) The Review Officer appointed at Victoria University can consider a review but only on the question of whether the process of consideration and/or investigation of an alleged breach was procedurally fair.

(46) The Australian Research Integrity Committee (ARIC) can also conduct an external review, but this review is limited to whether Victoria University followed appropriate processes in reviewing an alleged breach of the Code.

Part I - Reporting Obligations

(47) On an annual basis, a summary of Research Misconduct and Breaches of the Code will be provided to the Victoria University Research Executive Group who will then report to the Research and Research Training Committee.

(48) This report will be aggregated and de-identified and will include non-identifying information such as the discipline area, the type of breach and whether it involved staff or students.

(49) At the conclusion of an Investigation (or a Preliminary Assessment if a case is concluded at this stage) a summary report will be provided to the REO.

(50) The University will report to the NHMRC and ARC in relation to any research which is funded through these bodies in accordance with the – ARC Research Integrity Policy and the NHMRC Research Integrity and Misconduct Policy which we must abide by in terms of any research that is funded through these bodies.

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Section 7 - Supporting Documents and Information

(51) Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018

(52) Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018)

(53) Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2007

(54) Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018

(55)  Authorship: A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

(56) Management of Data and Information in Research: A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

(57) Peer Review - A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible

(58) Disclosure of interests and management of conflicts of interest - A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

(59) Academic Integrity Guidelines

(60) Academic Integrity Policy

(61) Privacy Policy

(62) Privacy Procedure

(63) Protected Disclosure Act 2012

(64) Protected Disclosure Policy

(65) Protected Disclosure Procedure

(66) Student Misconduct Procedure

(67) Student Complaints Policy

(68) Student Complaints Procedure

(69) Staff Complaints Resolution Policy

(70) Victoria University Enterprise Agreement 2013