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Breaches, misconduct and resolving allegations
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| Breach | Research misconduct | Making complaints or allegations | Advisers in Research Integrity | Formal complaints or allegations | Research misconduct inquiry |

Breaches of the Code, research misconduct, and the framework for resolving allegations

PART B of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code) provides guidance to researchers, administrators and others about responding to allegations of, and breaches of the Code and research misconduct.
Breach
A breach of the Code is a specific act or omission that may not have the seriousness of consequence or wilfulness to constitute research misconduct. Examples of a breach are:
  • A minor departure from a research protocol that has been approved by the HREC
  • not following the requirements for storage of research records
  • not maintaining signed acknowledgements of authorship for publications

Generally a breach is minor and may be regarded as unintentional and has occurred through ignorance, poor judgement or inexperience. A breach can often be remedied by counselling or advice. Breaches may be reported to the Research Governance Committee in its role of overseer of research governance at Alfred Health.

Repeated acts or omissions constituting a breach may constitute research misconduct.

Research misconduct
Research misconduct is a breach of the Code that has:
  • intent and deliberation, recklessness or gross and persistent negligence, and
  • serious consequences

Examples of research misconduct are:

  • fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out, or reporting the results of research
  • failure to declare or manage a serious conflict of interest
  • avoidable failure to follow research proposals as approved by an HREC, particularly where this failure may result in unreasonable risk or harm to humans, animals or the environment
  • the wilful concealment or facilitation of research misconduct by others.
Making complaints or allegations of breaches of the Code
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between minor breaches of the Code and more serious matters that require independent assessment. In either case, anyone who has a concern should contact, in a timely manner, their supervisor or Head of Department to discuss the situation.

If it is not possible to communicate with the supervisor or Head of Department, an Adviser in Research Integrity can be approached in confidence to discuss the issue.

The Adviser will discuss the matter, the Code and any related hospital policy, and explain the options for taking action.

It is preferable that, in the first instance at least, allegations of breaches of the Code that are not research misconduct are dealt with at departmental level. However, if circumstances make this difficult or not possible, an Adviser in Research Integrity will suggest other approaches. Depending on the issue, other institutions, such as other AMREP partners, may become involved or even take over consideration of the allegation.

People making mischievous complaints in regard to research conduct may face disciplinary action.

Advisers in Research Integrity
Alfred Health has appointed four Advisers in Research Integrity:
  • Professor Jennifer Hoy, Director of HIV Medicine, Infectious Diseases Unit, Burnet Tower, Alfred Hospital
    Tel: 61 3 9076 6900 Email: jennifer.hoy@monash.edu
  • Professor Robyn E O'Hehir, Director, Department of Allergy, Immunology & Respiratory Medicine, Alfred Hospital
    Tel: 61 3 9076 2251 Email: r.ohehir@alfred.org.au
  • Professor Brendan Crabb, Director, Burnet Institute
    Tel: 61 3 9282 2174 Email: crabb@burnet.edu.au
  • Professor Garry Jennings, Director, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
    Tel: 61 3 8532 1164 Email: garry.jennings@bakeridi.edu.au
Process for handling formal complaints or allegations
If the complaint cannot be handled to everyone’s satisfaction at departmental level, a formal complaint or allegation must be made in writing, either directly by the original complainant or by the Head of Department, to the Designated Person who has been appointed by the Alfred Health CEO. The Designated Person is Professor Stephen Jane, Director of Research, Alfred Hospital, Phone 9903 0640, email Stephen.jane@monash.edu

The Designated Person will advise the CEO whether a prima facie case for research misconduct exists, and how to proceed. His options include:

  • dismissing the allegation
  • instructing the department on how to deal with the allegations where no formal misconduct process is required
  • dealing with the complaint under misconduct provisions unrelated to research misconduct
  • investigating the matter further through a research misconduct inquiry.

Upon receiving the designated person’s advice, the CEO will decide whether to accept the advice and how to proceed. At this stage, in the event of an admission of research misconduct, the issue may be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. If the CEO does not proceed to a research misconduct inquiry, he will notify this fact in writing to those making the allegation, the person who is the subject of the allegation, and the Designated Person.

Research misconduct inquiry
If the CEO decides that a research misconduct inquiry is needed, he will decide whether to use an internal institutional research misconduct inquiry or an independent external research misconduct inquiry. Upon completion of its tasks, the research misconduct inquiry will advise the CEO of its findings of fact and what, if any, research misconduct has occurred.

If the allegation is confirmed as research misconduct, the subject of the inquiry has the right of appeal against the decision. The CEO will then determine the actions to be followed. Subsequent actions may, as appropriate, include informing relevant parties of the outcome and correcting the public record of the research.

If the allegations are shown to be unfounded, Alfred Health will make every effort to reinstate the good reputation of the accused person and their associates.

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This page was last modified on 27/02/12

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