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This forms the annex to the University of Exeter’s Code of Good Practice in the Conduct of Research
1. Definition of Misconduct
1.1 Fabrication: including the creation of false data or other aspects of research, including documentation and participant consent.
Falsification: including the inappropriate manipulation and/or selection of data, imagery and/or consents.
Plagiarism: including the general misappropriation or use of others’ ideas, intellectual property or work (written or otherwise), without acknowledgement or permission.
- misrepresentation of data, for example suppression of relevant findings and/or data, or knowingly, recklessly or by gross negligence, presenting a flawed interpretation of data;
- undisclosed duplication of publication, including undisclosed duplicate submission of manuscripts for publication;
- misrepresentation of interests, including failure to declare material interests either of the researcher or of the funders of the research;
- misrepresentation of qualifications and/or experience, including claiming or implying qualifications or experience which are not held;
- misrepresentation of involvement, such as inappropriate claims to authorship and/or attribution of work where there has been no significant contribution, or the denial of authorship where an author has made a significant contribution.
Mismanagement or inadequate preservation of data and/or primary materials, including failure to:
- keep clear and accurate records of the research procedures followed and the results obtained, including interim results;
- hold records securely in paper or electronic form;
- make relevant primary data and research evidence accessible to others for reasonable periods after the completion of the research: data should normally be preserved and accessible for ten years, but for projects of clinical or major social, environmental or heritage importance, for 20 years or longer ;
- manage data according to the research funder’s data policy and all relevant legislation;
- wherever possible, deposit data permanently within a national collection.
Responsibility for proper management and preservation of data and primary materials is shared between the researcher and the research organisation.
Breach of duty of care, which involves deliberately, recklessly or by gross negligence:
- disclosing improperly the identity of individuals or groups involved in research without their consent, or other breach of confidentiality;
- placing any of those involved in research in danger, whether as subjects, participants or associated individuals, without their prior consent, and without appropriate safeguards even with consent; this includes reputational danger where that can be anticipated;
- not taking all reasonable care to ensure that the risks and dangers, the broad objectives and the sponsors of the research are known to participants or their legal representatives, to ensure appropriate informed consent is obtained properly, explicitly and transparently;
- not observing legal and reasonable ethical requirements or obligations of care for animal subjects, human organs or tissue used in research, or for the protection of the environment;
- improper conduct in peer review of research proposals or results (including manuscripts submitted for publication); this includes failure to disclose conflicts of interest; inadequate disclosure of clearly limited competence; misappropriation of the content of material; and breach of confidentiality or abuse of material provided in confidence for peer review purposes.
1.2 Research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation or judgement in evaluating research methods or results. Research misconduct also does not include misconduct unrelated to research processes, which will be managed by the University under the appropriate Disciplinary Procedure. Similarly, fraud or other misuse of research funds or research equipment may be managed in accordance with a separate procedures.
2. Reporting concerns
2.1 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 Dean who will advise on the appropriate action to take. (Concerns which involve the Associate Dean for RKT or College Dean should be raised with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT)).
2.2 Allegations should normally be made in writing, accompanied by any available supporting evidence.
2.3 The identity of the person who has drawn the University's attention to potential research misconduct will not be disclosed to the subject of the allegation except where this is necessary to facilitate the University's investigation or necessary for the purposes of natural justice or otherwise as required by law.
2.4 In accordance with the University’s Policy and Procedure on Public Interest Disclosure, individuals who raise concerns in good faith will not be penalised or disadvantaged for doing so.
2.5 If an investigation or subsequent disciplinary hearing considers that the allegation may have been malicious or mischievous in nature, these concerns should be referred to the Director of Human Resources to consider whether disciplinary action should be taken against the individual making the allegation.
3. Investigation of suspected research misconduct
3.1 The University has a responsibility to investigate allegations of research misconduct fully and expeditiously. It also has a responsibility to protect researchers from malicious, mischievous, or frivolous allegations.
3.2 The University will endeavour to undertake and complete any investigation promptly and without undue delay and expects the researcher against whom the allegation is made to co-operate to achieve that aim.
3.3 Where appropriate, the College Dean may ask an appropriate senior member of staff in the College to undertake a preliminary assessment to enable a decision to be made on whether the concern or allegation contains such sufficient evidence to be taken forward to a formal investigation. A report of the preliminary findings should be made to the College Dean.
3.4 The College Dean will discuss reported concerns and allegations of research misconduct with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT) and the Director of Human Resources to consider whether a formal investigation is necessary. Where appropriate, the University will investigate any concerns of potential research misconduct in accordance with the relevant Procedure. The investigation will be commissioned by the Director of Human Resources. For members of staff, the staff Disciplinary Procedure will apply. In the case of a researcher who is both a member of staff and a student, the University will make a decision on which is the appropriate procedure to follow, taking account of the circumstances of the case and, in particular, whether research is a paramount part of the individual’s employment.. For other researchers, the College Dean will make a decision on what action should follow an investigation and this may lead to the researcher’s arrangement with the University being terminated.
3.5 The investigation should be undertaken by a member (or members) of staff who have knowledge of the issues or activities under investigation and who are independent and objective. In cases involving allegations of serious research misconduct which may lead to dismissal of the researcher from the University, or where the reputation of the University or its partners is at risk, the Director of Human Resources will, following consultation with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT), normally be expected to appoint expert individuals not employed by the University to be part of the investigation team.
3.6 The researcher against whom the allegation is made shall be informed of the decision to conduct an investigation and shall be given the opportunity to comment on the membership of the investigation team. The manager commissioning the investigation shall determine how to respond to any concerns raised by the researcher regarding the membership of the investigation team.
3.7 To ensure that the investigation is seen as objective, neither the person who has made the allegation nor the manager who will conduct any subsequent disciplinary hearing should conduct the investigation. Similarly, the members of staff who have undertaken the investigation, and any members of staff who have been interviewed, cannot take part in any subsequent disciplinary hearing except to give evidence.
3.8 Where appropriate and where possible, the investigation will include examination of all relevant documentation, data and materials, and interviews with the researcher, the person who has drawn the University's attention to the potential research misconduct and any other individuals involved in making the allegation and other individuals who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations. Notes of each interview/a statement from the individual interviewed will be produced. All individuals interviewed during the investigation will be asked to respect the confidential nature of the investigation. A request for anyone attending for interview to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union will not be unreasonably refused.
3.9 The purpose of the investigation is to gather evidence and to enable a decision to be taken on whether the matter should proceed to a formal hearing under the appropriate Procedure. When the investigation is concluded, a report should be sent to the manager commissioning the investigation who should decide: (a) whether no action is necessary; or (b) whether the matter should be dealt with outside the formal Procedure; or (c) whether it is necessary to consider the matter under the formal Procedure. It is the responsibility of the manager/panel acting under the appropriate Procedure to make a judgement on behalf of the University of whether research misconduct has taken place.
3.10 In exceptional cases, it may be necessary for the University to suspend the researcher, by application of the appropriate procedure, or to remove them for certain activities and temporarily redeploy them to other activities. Such action will only be taken where this is necessary to facilitate an effective investigation of the allegation.
4. Notification to other parties during an investigation
4.1 Where this is required by the terms of the funding or other contractual arrangement, the University will notify the funding/sponsor body that the researcher is under investigation. The University will advise the researcher of this action. The Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer will notify the funding/sponsor body.
4.2 In cases of suspension, it may also be necessary, under the terms of the funding or other contractual arrangement, for the University to notify the funding/sponsor body that the researcher has been suspended. The University will advise the researcher of this action.
4.3 If the researcher leaves the University before the completion of any investigation/disciplinary process, the case should be referred to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT) and the Director of Human Resources to consider whether it is appropriate to advise the individual that, subject to data protection, duty of confidentiality and duty of care standards, the details of the outstanding case may be passed to any future (or prospective) employer or “bona fide” enquirer about their career at the University, and may also be passed to any appropriate regulatory or professional supervisory body. In appropriate circumstances, the individual may be offered the opportunity to see the investigation or disciplinary process through to its conclusion.
5. Dismissal of allegations
5.1 If the allegations are dismissed at any stage, a clear statement should be made to the researcher, to the person who has drawn the University's attention to the potential research misconduct, and to any other individuals who will have been aware of the allegations and need to know the outcome.
5.2 Where an allegation is dismissed without a formal investigation (following a preliminary assessment – see paragraph 3.3), the person who has drawn the University's attention to the potential research misconduct should be given the opportunity for response if they believe that they have been misunderstood or key evidence overlooked
6. Notification to other parties following a disciplinary hearing
6.1 If a disciplinary hearing finds that research misconduct has occurred, in addition to the sanction issued, the matter will be referred to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT) to consider whether it is appropriate to notify the funding/sponsor body and, if the researcher is subject to the regulation of a professional body (e.g. the General Medical Council), that professional body of the finding. The University will advise the researcher of this action.
6.2 Where the person responsible has published research, especially research to which the misconduct relates, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT) shall consider whether it is appropriate to inform journal editors or others of the finding.
6.2 Such notification will be sent only after the consideration of any appeal lodged under the appropriate Procedure.
7.1 For the purpose of this Guidance, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RKT), Director of Human Resources and College Deans may act through their properly appointed nominees.
Notes on the application of the University Staff Disciplinary Procedure to cases of research misconduct
- The University’s Disciplinary Procedure for staff provides that “An employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative at any meeting under the formal stages of these procedures”. In cases of alleged research misconduct (as defined by the University’s Code of Good Practice in the Conduct of Research), where the outcome may result in the dismissal of the employee, the University will not unreasonably refuse a request from the employee to be accompanied by a legally qualified person at any meeting under the formal stages of the Disciplinary Procedure.
- In cases of alleged research misconduct (as defined by the University’s Code of Good Practice in the Conduct of Research), a disciplinary hearing conducted under section 7 of the Disciplinary Procedure for staff will be conducted by a panel of up to three managers. The managers will be authorised in accordance with section 3 of the Disciplinary Procedure. The panel will be appointed by the Director of Human Resources and will usually comprise the College Dean, an Associate Dean from the College and an Associate Dean from another College. Any appeal under section 9 of the Disciplinary Procedure will be conducted by a panel of up to three senior managers who have had no previous involvement in the case. In the case of an appeal against a final warning or against dismissal, the panel will be drawn from members of the Senior Management Group from a different College.
This forms the annex to the University of Exeter’s Code of Good Practice in the Conduct of Research