Good Practice in the Conduct of Research

Incorporating Annex: Guidance on the Reporting and Investigation of Misconduct in Research

1.Introduction

The University is required by the Research Councils and other major funding bodies as a recipient of their funding to have in place a code of good practice for the conduct of research.

This page specifies the Code of Good Practice for staff and others conducting research on University premises.

2. Professional standards

In the conduct of all research, the University expects the following general principles and standards to be understood and observed. These apply to all University employees and other researchers (hereafter referred to as researchers).

2.1 Integrity

At the heart of all academic endeavour, regardless of discipline, is the need for researchers to be honest in respect of their own actions in research and in their responses to the actions of other researchers. This applies to the whole range of research, including experimental design, generating and analysing data, publishing results, and acknowledging the direct and indirect contributions of colleagues, collaborators and others.

Plagiarism, deception or the falsification or fabrication of results will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence.

All researchers to whom the University of Exeter Code of Good Practice in the Conduct of Research applies should report any incident of misconduct, by staff, students or other researchers, whether witnessed or suspected.

Researchers are encouraged to raise concerns about suspected research misconduct in confidence with their Head of Discipline or Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge Transfer or College Pro Vice-chancellor who will advise on the appropriate action to take. Concerns which involve the Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge Transfer or College Pro Vice-chancellor should be raised with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact.

Researchers should declare any real or potential conflicts of interest prior to undertaking the research.

2.2 Openness

While recognising the need for researchers to protect their own research interests and those of the University and research sponsors in the process of planning their research and obtaining their results, the University encourages researchers to be as open as possible in discussing their research with other researchers and with the public.

Researchers will be required to comply with requests to the University under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Researchers should be prepared to question the outcome of their research and to check results before being made public.

Where appropriate, researchers must seek the approval of research sponsors prior to publication or other forms of disclosure.

The University recognises that publication of the results of research may need to be delayed for a reasonable period to enable the University or the research sponsor to obtain patent protection of intellectual property arising from the research. However, any such periods of delay in publication should be kept to a minimum.

Once results have been published, the University expects researchers to make available relevant data and materials to other researchers, on request, provided that this is consistent with any ethics approvals and consents which cover the data and materials and any intellectual property rights therein.

2.3 Guidance from professional bodies

Where available, the University expects researchers to observe the standards of research practice set out in guidelines published by scientific and learned societies, and other relevant professional bodies.

All researchers should be aware of the legal requirements which regulate their work.

2.4 Leadership and co-operation

College Pro Vice-chancellors, Associate Deans, Research and Knowledge Transfer and other senior staff should ensure that a research climate of mutual co-operation is created in which all members of a research team are encouraged to develop their skills and in which the open exchange of ideas is fostered.

2.5 Supervision

College Pro Vice-chancellors should ensure that appropriate direction of research and supervision of researchers is provided. Training in supervisory skills should be provided where appropriate. See also the Code of Good Practice for the Employment of Research Staff.

A code of responsibilities should be available for supervisors indicating, for example, the frequency of contact, responsibilities regarding scrutiny of primary data, and the broader development needs of research trainees.

The need should be stressed for supervisors to supervise all stages of the research process, including outlining or articulating a hypothesis, preparing applications for funding, protocol design, data recording and data analysis.

2.6 Training

Colleges should have in place systems which allow students and new researchers to understand and adopt best practice as quickly as possible.

All researchers should undertake appropriate training, for example in research design, regulatory and ethics approvals and consents, equipment use, confidentiality, data management, record keeping, and data protection.

2.7 Documenting results and storing primary data

There should be a clear process in place at the outset of the research programme to determine the  ownership of data and samples used or created in the course of the research and the results of the research.

Researchers should keep clear and accurate records of the procedures followed and the approvals granted during the research process, including records of the interim results obtained as well as of the final research outcomes. This is necessary not only as a means of demonstrating proper research practice, but also in case questions are subsequently asked about either the conduct of the research or the results obtained.

For similar reasons, primary data generated in the course of research must be kept securely in paper or electronic format, as appropriate and held normally for a period of five years (or as required by the funding body) after the completion of a research project.

Back-up records should always be kept for data stored on a computer.

2.8 Ethical practice

The University requires researchers to comply with the requirements of both the University’s Ethical Policy and Procedures and those issued by College Ethics Committees.

Researchers must obtain approval from the appropriate bodies for research involving human participants and animals.

Researchers should ensure the confidentiality of personal information relating to the participants in research, and that the research fulfils any legal requirements such as those of the Data Protection Act 1998.

2.9 Publication practice

The University encourages the publication of the results of research in an appropriate form. The issue of authorship is important in the context of good research practice. Principal authorship and other publication credit should accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contribution of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. For example, a student should usually be listed as principal author on any multiple authored article that is substantially based on the student's dissertation or thesis.

Anyone listed as an author on a paper should accept personal responsibility for the contents of the paper and, where appropriate, be able to identify their contribution to it.

The practice of adding authors by virtue of their position is unacceptable. The contributions of formal collaborators and all others who directly assist or indirectly support the research should be properly acknowledged.

An example of good publication practice can be found in the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines Good Publication Practice.

2.10 Applications and project management

Researchers should take all reasonable measures to ensure:

  • The accuracy and completeness of information contained in applications for funding, and
  • if an application is successful, compliance with the terms and conditions specified by the sponsor and with University regulations in managing the project.

3. Misconduct in research

The Annex to this Code includes a definition of misconduct in research. Failure to comply with the University’s standards for research will be managed in accordance with the guidance in this Annex and the appropriate Disciplinary Procedure.

4.Evaluation

Colleges must ensure that all researchers comply with the requirements of this Code and have procedures in place for checking periodically that the standards are being met.

 

Approved March 2002; revised June 2006; revised September 2011.