Research integrity in practice

Research integrity in practice

The Macquarie University Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Macquarie Code) provides guidance and standards for good research practice in a number of areas, several of which are summarised here.

Guiding principles

In all aspects of their research, researchers and professional staff must:

Researchers should make their research methods, results and outputs open to scrutiny and debate.

Human participants in research

Macquarie University is committed to ensuring that its research activities involving human participants are conducted in a way that respects the dignity, rights and welfare of participants, and that minimises the risk to participants, researchers, third parties and the University.

Working with some groups of people involves particular responsibilities unique to that group. For example, research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples spans many methodologies and disciplines. There are wide variations in the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities or groups are involved in, or affected by, research.

Researchers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals should be familiar with the following guidelines:

Appropriate consumer involvement in research should be encouraged and facilitated by the University and its researchers. Health researchers working with consumers should be familiar with the Statement on Consumer and Community Participation in Health and Medical Research (the statement on participation) (2016).

Researchers also have special responsibilities when working with particular groups of people. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) provides guidelines for working with particular groups of people, including:

  • Women who are pregnant and the human fetus
  • Children and young people
  • People in dependent or unequal relationships
  • People highly dependent on medical care who may be unable to give consent
  • People with a cognitive impairment, an intellectual disability or a mental illness
  • People who may be involved in illegal activities
  • People in other countries.
  • Contact the Ethics Secretariat at ethics.secretariat@mq.edu.au if you have questions about conducting research with these groups.

Managing research data and materials

Research data and materials are the foundation of good research, and they need to be meticulously collected, maintained and managed to secure its integrity and quality.

Research data and records should be accurate and complete, and in sufficient detail to enable verification of research results and to reflect what was communicated, decided or done. Data forming the basis of publications must be available for discussion with other researchers.

Research materials – for example, lab notes for chemical science work, audio recordings and samples for linguistics, field notes for anthropology – must be retained to substantiate published claims and research results.

Hard and digital data must be recorded in a durable and retrievable form and be appropriately indexed so that it can be found. Where a discipline has specific standards for the management of data, these standards should be followed as precisely as possible.

Research data must be retained intact for a period of at least five years from the date of any publication that is based on the data. For some areas of research, data must be retained for longer periods. Researchers should consult relevant guidelines or legislation, such as the suite of information on government recordkeeping provided by NSW State Archives and Records (see the resources specifically provided for universities).

Researchers are encouraged to share their data and materials with other researchers. Where possible, researchers should make data publicly available through a suitable repository.

Visit Systems and data management for more information on managing research data.

Authorship

It is important that authorship of research outputs is correctly attributed.

Who should be an author?

To be named as an author, a person must have made a substantial scholarly contribution to the work and be able to take responsibility for at least part of the work.

For a person to be recorded as an author of an output requires that he or she is directly involved in the creation by making substantial contributions through a combination of the following:

  • conceiving or designing the project
  • analysing and interpreting the data on which it is based
  • writing or critically revising the intellectual content in the output.

All authors must give final agreement to the version to be submitted for publication and retain a record of that agreement. Minor corrections (eg typographical errors) to proofs may be managed by the corresponding author without the need for further agreement. However, substantial changes in content (eg new results, corrected values and changes of title and authorship) are not allowed without the approval of all authors.

Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship. General supervision of the research group is also not sufficient for authorship.

A person who qualifies as an author must not be included or excluded without their permission.

Researchers should comply with authorship conventions appropriate to their discipline. These requirements may vary according to discipline, journal requirements and funding provisions. Researchers should be familiar with international best practice in their discipline; for example, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors defines the roles and responsibilities of authors and contributors.

In what order should authors be listed?

The standard order of authors can vary between disciplines (see for example the general conventions outlined in the Faculty of Arts Authorship Guidelines). The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the co-authors. If you assign author order in an atypical way, you should include an explanation in the publication. Many journals require a summary of the contributions of each author.

A common way of ordering authors is to list them in the order of their contribution to the publication from most to least. If two authors contributed equally, they can be listed as co-first authors. Depending on the discipline, the senior author may then be listed as the final author.

Discussing authorship with your collaborators early, openly and often in the research process is encouraged.

What are the responsibilities of researchers?

Researchers are obliged to:

  • follow the guidelines stated above when determining if a person has made a substantial contribution to the publication
  • form an agreement with all the eligible authors
  • include only the eligible authors – all authors must explicitly accept or decline authorship
  • acknowledge all persons who have contributed to the research and declare any conflicts of interest
  • keep records of authorship agreements (see for example this Macquarie University Authorship Agreement Form).

What if there is an issue with authorship?

If you have an issue surrounding authorship among your collaborators, you should first attempt to resolve it through discussion with them. It is best to have a conversation about authorship early so that everyone is informed.

Contact a research integrity advisor for more information about authorship issues or if you are concerned about any aspect of authorship practice at the University.

Contact Research Ethics and Integrity at research.integrity@mq.edu.au if you are from outside Macquarie University and have concerns about authorship practices at the University.

Publication and dissemination of research findings

Distribution of research findings is a critical part of the research process. Typically, research is not considered complete until the findings have been published. However, researchers need to be aware of any agreements with funding providers that might prescribe if, when and how research findings can be disseminated.

Dissemination of research findings typically involves formal publication in journals or books but also includes sharing the research in non-refereed publications, webpages and other media and digital repositories.

Researchers must ensure that published reports, statistics and public statements about research activities and performance are complete, accurate and unambiguous. If a researcher becomes aware of unintentional, misleading or inaccurate statements in their work, they must attempt to correct the record as soon as possible.

Researchers should, where possible, make the results of their research publicly accessible and must follow the University's Open Access Policy.

Communicating research findings with the wider community

Engaging with the wider community is a vital part of disseminating research findings. There are a variety of traditional and emerging modes for providing research information to the public, but the following general principles apply in all cases:

  • When discussing the outcomes of a research project, special care should be taken to explain the status of the project; for example, whether it is still in progress or has been finalised.
  • As far as possible, all authors of the work should be acknowledged and should approve the communications.
  • The source of any financial support should be acknowledged.
  • Anyone directly impacted by the research findings should be informed before wider dissemination of the results.

Researchers may need to convey complicated findings in a clear, concise manner with members of the public. Group Marketing can provide training and advice on how best to communicate research and provide help with writing media releases and preparing for interviews, as well as liaising with the media.

Higher degree research candidates

Macquarie University is committed to nurturing and training new researchers to conduct their research responsibly, with honesty, accuracy and objectivity. The University provides resources and training to research students to assist them in this area.

Research students, like all researchers at Macquarie, are expected to comply with the University's research integrity guidelines. Research students are encouraged to discuss matters of research integrity with their supervisors. In particular, they should make sure they understand how to conduct responsible research in relation to the following:

  • ethical approval requirements of their project
  • safety requirements of their project
  • respect for the environment
  • management of research data
  • management of research funds
  • responsible publication and dissemination of findings
  • appropriate attribution of authorship
  • peer review
  • conflicts of interest
  • collaborations
  • reporting suspected research misconduct.

Responsibilities of supervisors at Macquarie

  • Ensure that research integrity training for students starts as soon as possible after the commencement of a new student and continues throughout their candidature with regular updates.
  • Mentor and provide support to guide the professional development of students.
  • Ensure valid and accurate research by providing suitable oversight.
  • Ensure that that a student's project has all necessary ethical and biosafety approvals prior to commencing research. If there is doubt about the need for approval, advice should be sought from Research Ethics and Integrity.
  • Ensure appropriate attribution, including ensuring students receive appropriate credit for their work.
  • Ensure the student's research data and materials are held with appropriate security and that data and materials are retained by the University for at least five years or longer if necessary.

Responsibilities of higher degree research students

  • Display a professional attitude towards research and actively seek guidance from supervisors.
  • Complete all induction and training courses as soon as practical after commencing.

Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest exists where there is a divergence between the individual interests of a person and their professional responsibilities in a way that might make an independent observer reasonably conclude that the professional actions of that person are unduly influenced by their own interests. Research-related conflicts of interest may apply to researchers and those who facilitate research funding with industry, philanthropic sources and government agencies.

Conflicts of interest in the research area are common, and it is important that they are disclosed and dealt with properly. An individual researcher should therefore expect to be conflicted from time to time and be ready to acknowledge the conflict and make disclosures as appropriate.

Examples of possible conflicts of interest in research include but are not limited to situations where:

  • the research is sponsored by a related body
  • the researcher or a related body may benefit, directly or indirectly, from any inappropriate dissemination of research results (including any delay in or restriction on publication of results)
  • the researcher or a related body may benefit, directly or indirectly, from the use of University resources
  • the researcher conducts a clinical trial that is sponsored by any person or organisation with a significant interest in the results of the trial
  • private benefits or significant personal or professional advantage are dependent on research outcomes.

Note: A related body is any person or body with which the researcher has an affiliation or a financial involvement.

Managing conflict of interest

The responsibility for managing a conflict of interest rests in the first instance with the individual. Researchers and those who facilitate research and research funding should assess their own situation to ascertain if a conflict of interest exists whether actual, perceived or potential.

Disclosure

All staff and students must make a full disclosure of a conflict of interest or of circumstances that might give rise to an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest as soon as reasonably practicable.

Financial involvement or interest

A financial involvement includes a direct or indirect financial interest, provision of benefits (such as travel and accommodation) and provision of materials or facilities.

An indirect financial interest is a financial interest or benefit derived by the researcher's relatives, personal or business associates, or students.

Perceptions

It is important to recognise that actual or potential opportunities to give preference to personal interests may routinely arise from competing obligations and can be other than financial.

Peer review

Peer review is the impartial assessment of research by others working in the same or a related field. Peer review is often used in the evaluation of grant proposals, publications and ethics approvals.

Macquarie University acknowledges the importance of peer review as part of the scientific process, and we encourage all our researchers to participate in peer review.

The peer-review process involves the sharing of information for scholarly assessment on behalf of the larger disciplinary community. The integrity of this process depends on confidentiality until the information is released to the public.

Therefore, the contents of research proposals, manuscripts submitted for publication and other scholarly documents under review should be considered privileged information not to be shared with others, including students and staff, without explicit permission by the authority requesting the review. Ideas and results learned through the peer-review process should not be made use of prior to their presentation in a public forum or their release through publication.

Responsibilities of researchers

Researchers are responsible for:

  • Refraining from interfering with the peer-review process
  • Participating in peer review and fulfilling peer-review obligations associated with their funding
  • Assisting trainee researchers in developing peer-review skills and understanding their responsibilities
  • Declaring all relevant conflicts of interest

Collaborative research

Macquarie University encourages collaborative research within and beyond the University, nationally and internationally.

When establishing an external research collaboration, you should discuss the following areas with your collaborators:

  • Ownership of intellectual property (see the University's Intellectual Property Policy)
  • Ownership, location and access to the data and materials
  • Confidentiality
  • Identification and management of conflicts of interest
  • Protocols for the dissemination of research outputs
  • Sharing of commercial returns
  • Responsibility for ethics and research safety.

In some instances, a formal agreement between the collaborating organisations may be necessary. Researchers are encouraged to discuss potential collaborations with their faculty research manager at an early stage to determine if a formal agreement is required.

Researchers involved in a collaborative research project must familiarise themselves and comply with the written agreement governing the collaboration and all policies and agreements affecting the project.

Researchers must disclose to their collaborators as soon as possible any actual or apparent conflicts of interest relating to any aspect of a collaborative project.

Key resources

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Macquarie University Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

The University’s policies and documents that are directly related to the conduct of ethical research are listed within the Macquarie Code.

(A new Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research was released in June 2018. Compliance with the Australian Code (2007) is ongoing until the new Australian Code (2018) is formally adopted into University policies and procedures, which must be implemented no later than 1 July 2019.)

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