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Institutional responsibilities under the Australian Code

The following information is taken from the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (PDF 508kb, download Adobe Acrobat). The Code outlines the responsibilities of University of South Australia as a research institution as well as the services, policies, advice and information it must provide to researchers.

See also Australian Code: what researchers need to do

Section 1: General principles of responsible research

1.1 Promote the responsible conduct of research

Institutions are expected to:

  • promote awareness of all guidelines and legislation relating to the conduct of research
  • provide documents setting out clearly the policies and procedures based on this Code
  • actively encourage mutual cooperation with open exchange of ideas between peers, and respect for freedom of expression and inquiry
  • maintain a climate in which responsible and ethical behavior in research is expected.

1.2 Establish good governance and management practices

Good institutional governance and management practices encourage responsible conduct by researchers. Such practices promote quality in research, enhance the reputation of the institution and its researchers, and minimise the risk of harm for all involved.

1.2.1 Each institution should provide an appropriate research governance framework through which research is assessed for quality, safety, privacy, risk management, financial management and ethical acceptability. The framework should specify the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of all those who play a part in research.

1.2.2 The research governance framework should demand compliance with laws, regulations, guidelines and codes of practice governing the conduct of research in Australia (see Appendix 3). Common law obligations also arise from the relationships between institutions, researchers and participants, while contractual arrangements may impose further obligations.

1.2.3 Each institution must ensure the availability of the documents that help guide good research governance, conduct and management.

1.2.4 There must be a clear policy on collaborative research projects with other organisations, which requires arrangements to be agreed before a project begins. As a minimum, these arrangements should cover financial management, intellectual property, authorship and publication, consultancies, secondments, ethics approval, and ownership of equipment and data.

1.2.5 Each institution must have a well-defined process for receiving and managing allegations of research misconduct.

1.2.6 There must be a process for regular monitoring of the institution's performance with regard to these guidelines.

1.3 Train staff

It is important that institutions provide induction, formal training and continuing education for all research staff, including research trainees. Training should cover research methods, ethics, confidentiality, data storage and records retention, as well as regulation and governance. Training should also cover the institution's policies regarding responsible research conduct, all aspects of this Code, and other sources of guidance that are available. Institutions may make arrangements for joint induction and training with other institutions.

1.4 Promote mentoring

Institutions should promote effective mentoring and supervision of researchers and research trainees. This includes advising on research ethics, research design and methods, and the responsible conduct of research.

1.5 Ensure a safe research environment

Each institution must ensure a safe working environment in which to conduct each research project.

Section 2: Management of research data and primary materials

2.1 Retain research data and primary materials

Each institution must have a policy on the retention of materials and research data. It is important that institutions acknowledge their continuing role in the management of research material and data. The institutional policy must be consistent with practices in the discipline, relevant legislation, codes and guidelines.

2.1.1 In general, the minimum recommended period for retention of research data is 5 years from the date of publication. However, in any particular case, the period for which data should be retained should be determined by the specific type of research. For example:

- for short-term research projects that are for assessment purposes only, such as research projects completed by students, retaining research data for 12 months after the completion of the project may be sufficient
- for most clinical trials, retaining research data for 15 years or more may be necessary
- for areas such as gene therapy, research data must be retained permanently (eg patient records)
- if the work has community or heritage value, research data should be kept permanently at this stage, preferably within a national collection.

2.1.2 A policy is required that covers the secure and safe disposal of research data and primary materials when the specified period of retention has finished.

2.2 Provide secure research data storage and record-keeping facilities

Institutions must provide facilities for the safe and secure storage of research data and for maintaining records of where research data are stored.

2.2.1 There must be a policy on research data ownership and storage. This policy must cover all situations that arise in research, including when researchers move between institutions or employers and when data are held outside Australia. Agreements covering ownership and storage of research data should be reviewed whenever there is movement or departure of research staff.

2.2.2 Wherever possible and appropriate, research data should be held in the researcher's department or other appropriate institutional repository, although researchers should be permitted to hold copies of the research data for their own use. Arrangements for material held in other locations should be documented.

2.2.3 In projects that span several institutions, an agreement should be developed at the outset covering the storage of research data and primary materials within each institution.

2.2.4 Research data and primary materials must be stored in the safe and secure storage provided.

2.3 Identify ownership of research data and primary materials

Each institution must have a policy on the ownership of research materials and data during and following the research project. The ownership may also be influenced by the funding arrangements for the project. As a general rule, the most satisfactory arrangement will be that the materials and data retained at the end of a project are the property of the institution that hosted the project, another institution with an interest in the research, or a central repository.

2.4 Ensure security and confidentiality of research data and primary materials

Each institution must have a policy on the ownership of, and access to, databases and archives that is consistent with confidentiality requirements, legislation, privacy rules and other guidelines.

2.4.1 The policy must guide researchers in the management of research data and primary materials, including storage, access, ownership and confidentiality.

2.4.2 The processes must ensure that researchers are informed of relevant confidentiality agreements and restrictions on the use of research data.

2.4.3 Computing systems must be secure, and information technology personnel must understand their responsibilities for network security and access control.

2.4.4 Those holding primary material, including electronic material, must understand their responsibilities for security and access.

Section 3: Supervision of research trainees

3.1 Set standards for supervision and mentorship

Institutions must ensure that each research trainee, whether part of the institution or from elsewhere, has an appropriately qualified and trained supervisor. It follows that the ratio of research trainees to supervisors must be low enough for effective intellectual interaction.

3.2 Induct research trainees

Institutions must ensure that research trainees understand the importance of responsible research conduct.

3.2.1 Each institution must provide induction and training for all research trainees. This training should cover research ethics, occupational health and safety, and environmental protection, as well as technical matters appropriate to the discipline.

3.2.2 The institution must maintain the ready availability of key documents on the responsible conduct of research, including this Code, institutional guidelines on the conduct of research, requirements for research involving humans and animals, privacy and confidentiality, and the institution’s mechanisms for dispute resolution.

Section 4: Publications and dissemination of research findings

4.1 Promote responsible publication and dissemination of research findings

Institutions must promote an environment of honesty, integrity, accuracy and responsibility in the dissemination of research findings.

4.2 Protect confidentiality and manage intellectual property

4.2.1 Institutions must ensure that all parties to the research are made aware of the nature and scope of confidentiality agreements (see also paragraph 2.7).

4.2.2 Institutions must maintain a policy that protects the intellectual property rights of the institution, the researcher, research trainees and sponsors of the research, as appropriate.

4.2.3 Institutions must ensure that the sponsors of research understand the importance of publication in research and do not delay publication beyond the time needed to protect intellectual property and other relevant interests.

4.2.4 Institutions must ensure that researchers are aware of contractual arrangements that restrict, delay or limit publication.

4.3 Support communication of research findings to the wider public

4.3.1 Institutions should make available assistance, such as through a media relations or a science communication officer, to researchers when communicating research findings through the media.

4.3.2 When reporting research results for publicity purposes, institutions must make every effort to acknowledge partner institutions and sponsors involved in collaborative research.

Section 5: Authorship

5.1 Have criteria for authorship

Institutions must have a policy on the criteria for authorship consistent with this Code, seeking to minimise disputes about authorship and helping to resolve them if they arise. Where a work has several authors, one should be appointed executive author to record authorship and to manage communication about the work with the publisher.

Section 6: Peer review

6.1 Encourage participation in peer review

Institutions should recognise the importance of the peer review process and encourage and support researchers to participate.

Section 7: Conflicts of interest

7.1 Maintain a policy

Institutions must have a policy for managing conflicts of interest. A range of responses is required, depending on the nature of a conflict, to prevent researchers from influencing decisions unfairly and to avoid unwarranted perception that a conflict of interest has been ignored. Advice on managing conflicts of interest is readily available from organisations such as law societies and institutes of company directors. In relation to policy, the following points should be observed:

7.1.1 Ensure that the policy is clearly written and readily available to all staff.

7.1.2 In each conflict of interest case, encourage a full disclosure by those involved of the circumstances giving rise to concerns about the conflict of interest. This sometimes involves information that people are unwilling to disclose publicly, and a process involving disclosure to a small group in confidence should also be provided. Where those involved are unable or unwilling to make any disclosure at all, they should withdraw from processes that could be influenced by conflicts.

7.1.3 Where the circumstances constitute a conflict of interest, or may lead people to perceive a conflict of interest, the person concerned must not take part in decision-making processes. The most satisfactory approach is for complete withdrawal (eg leaving the room for the item), but some bodies allow some general discussion of the matter before the person withdraws. It is preferable that the person concerned does not remain in the room, even if silent, while the matter is debated and decided.

7.1.4 A record must be kept of how each conflict is managed in the proceedings, even if confidential information must be omitted. It is important that the possibility of a conflict is acknowledged in each case, along with an outline of how it was managed.

7.1.5 The policy should aim to cover the full range of possible conflicts of interest, and the policy must be reviewed regularly to enable amendment informed by experience and legislative and regulatory developments.

Section 8: Collaborative research across institutions

8.1 Establish agreements for each collaboration

Organisations involved in a joint research project should ensure that an agreement is reached with the partners on the management of the research. Such an agreement should follow the general principles of this Code, including integrity, honesty and a commitment to excellence.

The agreement should be in writing. It must cover intellectual property, confidentiality and copyright issues; sharing commercial returns, responsibility for ethics and safety clearances; and reporting to appropriate agencies. It should address the protocols to be followed by the partners when disseminating the research outcomes, and the management of primary research materials and research data.

The agreement may take various forms, including a legal contract signed by the chief executive officer, an exchange of letters, or a research management plan signed by all parties, or management plans signed by appropriate representatives from all parties.

Each organisation must ensure that its researchers are aware of, and understand, the policy and agreements governing the joint research collaboration.

8.2 Manage conflicts of interest

Institutions must have a policy for managing conflicts of interest that arise in collaborative research (see Section 7).

8.3 Manage access to research materials

The collaborating parties should each identify a person to be involved in the management of research data, primary materials and other items to be retained at the end of the project.