What is Research Integrity?
Research integrity is a way of thinking and behaving that ensure that research undertaken is trustworthy and meets the standards expected by patients, participants in research, research funders, the research community and the wider community. The advice and guidance in this material is taken from and consistent with the NHMRC Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018) (‘the Code’).
Why is Research Integrity important?
The Australian and international community expects research to be conducted responsibly, ethically and with integrity. Research conducted in a way that does not reflect high ethical standards can lead to distrust of researchers and the results of research. It can also pose a risk to humans or animals that are involved in research, through a failure to observe correct procedures. It can lead to wasted resources which in itself is unethical. Just as importantly, in some instances where data has been falsified to justify applying for funding, it can be a serious criminal offence.
What are MNHHS’s and RBWH’s expectations with respect to research integrity and the conduct of research?
It is essential for the reputation of the HHS and for the safety of patients and participants in research that all MNHHS researchers will comply with the requirements of the Code, specifically the hallmark principles of responsible research conduct. This procedure applies to departures from the principles and responsibilities of the Code by those involved in the conduct, management and administration of research, which are referred to as a breach of the Code.
Principles of responsible research conduct
- Honesty in the development, undertaking and reporting of research
- Rigour in the development, undertaking and reporting of research
- Transparency in declaring interests and reporting research methodology, data and findings
- Fairness in the treatment of others
- Respect for research participants, the wider community, animals and the environment.
- Recognition of the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be engaged in research that affects or is of particular significance to them.
- Accountability for the development, undertaking and reporting of research
- Promotion of responsible research practices
RBWH is committed to supporting a research culture that encourages responsible research practices based on the principles of research integrity. Responsible research practices guide researchers in the conduct of their work as well as in their engagement with the practical, ethical and intellectual challenges inherent in research. The following responsibilities are taken from the Code.
- Establish and maintain good governance and management practices for responsible research conduct.
- Identify and comply with relevant laws, regulations, guidelines and policies related to the conduct of research.
- Develop and maintain the currency and ready availability of a suite of policies and procedures which ensure that institutional practices are consistent with the principles and responsibilities of the Code.
- Provide ongoing training and education that promotes and supports responsible research conduct for all researchers and those in other relevant roles.
- Ensure supervisors of research trainees have the appropriate skills, qualifications and resources.
- Identify and train Research Integrity Advisors who assist in the promotion and fostering of responsible research conduct and provide advice to those with concerns about potential breaches of the Code.
- Support the responsible dissemination of research findings. Where necessary, take action to correct the record in a timely manner.
- Provide access to facilities for the safe and secure storage and management of research data, records and primary materials and, where possible and appropriate, allow access and reference.
- Facilitate the prevention and detection of potential breaches of the Code.
- Provide mechanisms to receive concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code. Investigate and resolve potential breaches of the Code.
- Ensure that the process for managing and investigating concerns or complaints about potential breaches of the Code is timely, effective and in accord with procedural fairness.
- Support the welfare of all parties involved in an investigation of a potential breach of the Code.
- Base findings of investigations on the balance of probabilities and ensure any actions are commensurate with the seriousness of the breach.
All RBWH staff and affiliates, including students, who are involved in research associated with the RBWH should:
- Support a culture of responsible research conduct at their institution and in their field of practice.
- Provide guidance and mentorship on responsible research conduct to other researchers or research trainees under their supervision and, where appropriate, monitor their conduct.
- Undertake and promote education and training in responsible research conduct.
- Comply with the relevant laws, regulations, disciplinary standards, ethics guidelines and institutional policies related to responsible research conduct. Ensure that appropriate approvals are obtained prior to the commencement of research, and that conditions of any approvals are adhered to during the course of research.
- Ensure that the ethics principles of research merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect are applied to human research.
- Engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and respect their legal rights and local laws, customs and protocols.
- Ensure that the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) are considered at all stages of research involving animals and minimise the impacts on animals used in research and in so doing support the welfare and wellbeing of these animals.
- Adopt methods appropriate to the aims of the research and ensure that conclusions are justified by the results.
- Retain clear, accurate, secure and complete records of all research including research data and primary materials. Where possible and appropriate, allow access and reference to these by interested parties.
- Disseminate research findings responsibly, accurately and broadly. Where necessary, take action to correct the record in a timely manner.
- Disclose and manage actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.
- Ensure that authors of research outputs are all those, and only those, who have made a significant intellectual or scholarly contribution to the research and its output, and that they agree to be listed as an author.
- Acknowledge those who have contributed to the research.
- Cite and acknowledge other relevant work appropriately and accurately.
- Participate in peer review in a way that is fair, rigorous and timely and maintains the confidentiality of the content.
- Report suspected breaches of the Code to the relevant institution and/or authority.
These principles and responsibilities are taken from the Code and influenced by the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity.
To these can be added:
- In Queensland, ensure that research does not, without justification, limit the human rights of any participant in research, in accordance with the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).
Responsible Conduct of Research
RBWH requires research practices conducted under our auspices to be ethically sound and have integrity.
All RBWH staff and affiliates, including students, who are involved in research associated with the RBWH should be familiar with and must comply with:
Breaches of the Research Code, Research Misconduct and Investigating Research Misconduct
A failure to observe accepted standards of research as articulated in the Code constitutes a breach of the Code and can have consequences for the researcher. The NHMRC has published the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018). The definitions of a breach and of research misconduct used in this publication are also used by RBWH.
Breach of the Research Code
Examples of breaches of the Code include:
- Conducting research without ethics approval
- Fabricating, falsifying or plagiarising research or source material
- Duplicating publication (aka. Self-plagiarism)
- Disclosing research records without the authority to do so
- Failing to provide guidance or mentorship on responsible research conduct to researchers or research trainees.
- Failing to acknowledge the contributions of others in publications
- Including authors who have not contributed to the work or who do not meet the requirements for authorship
- Failing to disclose and manage conflicts of interest (See NHMRC publication)
Research Misconduct is defined as a serious breach of the Code which is also intentional or reckless or negligent. By this definition, it would be necessary to determine intent, recklessness or negligence. Positive acts such as fabrication or falsification are likely to meet the objective test for intent. However, other activities are less objectively assessed. This means it is important to differentiate honest differences in judgement and unintentional errors from research misconduct.
Investigating Research Misconduct
In instances where an allegation of research misconduct or a breach of the Code is made, RBWH will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is a prima facie case of research misconduct or whether the action may constitute a breach of a code but lacks the intent, recklessness or negligence to be considered as research misconduct.
If it is considered that there is a case of research misconduct, RBWH will either appoint an internal or external panel to investigate the matter. Depending on the findings of this investigation, there may be further steps or consequences that must be considered.
Who can I talk to for advice about research integrity issues?
For advice about research integrity matters or further information about RBWH’s research integrity policy, you can talk to:
- Research Services ESO:
- By contacting RBWH’s Research Integrity Advisors
Research Integrity Advisors (RIA)
RBWH’s RIAs are a key resource for advice and support with regard to research integrity and misconduct, and also RBWH’s processes and procedures related to research integrity. RIAs have all conducted research and have had training in the topic of research integrity and research misconduct. RIAs are able to provide advice on research integrity and misconduct matters to any member of the RBWH community.
For more information on RIAs and what they do visit the RIA webpage or see the MNHHS procedure for Research: Breaches of the Code and complaints.
What do I do if I have a concern about research misconduct?
If you have a concern about research misconduct, you have a responsibility to report it. A failure to do so in itself is a breach of the Code, but more importantly, may result in harm or the potential for harm to humans or animals, or it may be concealing a criminal offence.
In the first instance, concerned persons may wish to contact RBWH Research Services on 3646 0245 or by email at: RBWH_Research_ESO@health.qld.gov.au
RBWH has developed a Complaints Handling Procedure which can be used
Related Research Integrity Publications
 These are taken from the NHMRC Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018)
 NHMRC Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018), p6.