Jump to Content

Researcher 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) and provides you as a researcher with information about what you need to do.

See also Researchers: what you need to do


Section 1: General principles of responsible research

1.6 Maintain high standards of responsible research

Researchers must foster and maintain a research environment of intellectual honesty and integrity, and scholarly and scientific rigour. Researchers must: respect the truth and the rights of those affected by their research manage conflicts of interest so that ambition and personal advantage do not compromise ethical or scholarly considerations adopt methods appropriate for achieving the aims of each research proposal follow proper practices for safety and security cite awards, degrees conferred and research publications accurately, including the status of any publication, such as under review or in press promote adoption of this Code and avoid departures from the responsible conduct of research conform to the policies adopted by their institutions and bodies funding the research.

1.7 Report research responsibly

Researchers should ensure that research findings are disseminated responsibly.

1.8 Respect research participants

Researchers must comply with ethical principles of integrity, respect for persons, justice and beneficence. Written approval from appropriate ethics committees, safety and other regulatory bodies must be obtained when required. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and Values and Ethics - Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (or any replacement documents) sets out principles for protecting human participants in research (see Appendix 3).

1.9 Respect animals used in research

Researchers must respect the animals they use in research, in accordance with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (see Appendix 3).

1.10 Respect the environment

Researchers should conduct their research so as to minimise adverse effects on the wider community and the environment.

1.11 Report research misconduct

A researcher who considers that research misconduct may have occurred must act in a timely manner, having regard to the institution’s policies.

Special responsibilities

1.12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples It is acknowledged that 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 to which this Code applies. This Code should be read in conjunction with Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (NHMRC 2003) and the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 2002).

1.13 Consumer and community participation in research Appropriate consumer involvement in research should be encouraged and facilitated by research institutions and researchers. This Code should be read in conjunction with the Statement on Consumer and Community Participation in Health and Medical Research (NHMRC and Consumers' Health Forum of Australia Inc, 2002).

Section 2: Management of research data and primary materials

2.5 Retain research data and primary materials

When considering how long research data and primary materials are to be retained, the researcher must take account of professional standards, legal requirements and contractual arrangements.

2.5.1 Researchers should retain research data and primary materials for sufficient time to allow reference to them by other researchers and interested parties. For published research data, this may be for as long as interest and discussion persist following publication.

2.5.2 Research data should be made available for use by other researchers unless this is prevented by ethical, privacy or confidentiality matters.

2.5.3 Research data should be retained for at least the minimum period specified in the institutional policy.

2.5.4 If the results from research are challenged, all relevant data and materials must be retained until the matter is resolved. Research records that may be relevant to allegations of research misconduct must not be destroyed.

2.5.5 The institutional policy on the secure and safe disposal of primary materials and research data must be followed.

2.6 Manage storage of research data and primary materials

Researchers must manage research data and primary materials in accordance with the policy of the institution. To achieve this, researchers must:

2.6.1 Keep clear and accurate records of the research methods and data sources, including any approvals granted, during and after the research process.

2.6.2 Ensure that research data and primary materials are kept in safe and secure storage provided, even when not in current use.

2.6.3 Provide the same level of care and protection to primary research records, such as laboratory notebooks, as to the analysed research data.

2.6.4 Retain research data, including electronic data, in a durable, indexed and retrievable form.

2.6.5 Maintain a catalogue of research data in an accessible form.

2.6.6 Manage research data and primary materials according to ethical protocols and relevant legislation.

2.7 Maintain confidentiality of research data and primary materials

Researchers given access to confidential information must maintain that confidentiality. Primary materials and confidential research data must be kept in secure storage. Confidential information must only be used in ways agreed with those who provided it. Particular care must be exercised when confidential data are made available for discussion.

Section 3: Supervision of research trainees

Responsibilities of researchers and supervisors of research trainees

3.3 Ensure training
Supervisors of research trainees should ensure that training starts as soon as possible in the career of a researcher. Training should encompass discipline-based research methods and other relevant skills, such as the ability to interact with industry and to work with diverse communities.

3.4 Mentor and provide support
The research supervisor should guide the professional development of research trainees. This involves providing guidance in all matters relating to research conduct and overseeing all stages of the research process, including identifying the research objectives and approach, obtaining ethics and other approvals, obtaining funding, conducting the research, and reporting the research outcomes in appropriate forums and media.

3.5 Ensure valid and accurate research
Supervision includes oversight of the research outcomes from those under supervision. A supervisor must be satisfied that the research methods and outcomes of researchers and research trainees under their supervision are appropriate and valid.

3.6 Ensure appropriate attribution
Researchers and supervisors must ensure that research trainees receive appropriate credit for their work.

Responsibilities of research trainees

3.7 Seek guidance
A research trainee must demonstrate a professional attitude towards the research. Frequent sessions with the supervisor are important, requiring the cooperation of both parties. The trainee should not wait until approached by the supervisor but should play an active part in maintaining an appropriate schedule of meetings.

3.8 Undertake induction and training
A research trainee should complete all induction and training courses as soon as practical after starting research in an institution.

Section 4: Publications and dissemination of research findings

4.4 Disseminate all research findings

Researchers have a responsibility to their colleagues and the wider community to disseminate a full account of their research as broadly as possible.

4.4.1 The account should be complete, and, where applicable, include negative findings and results contrary to their hypotheses.

4.4.2 Publication activities must take account of any restrictions relating to intellectual property or culturally sensitive data.

4.4.3 Researchers must, where feasible, also provide research participants with an appropriate summary of the research results; see, for example, the Statement on Consumer and Community Participation in Health and Medical Research (see Appendix 3).

4.5 Ensure accuracy of publication and dissemination

Researchers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their findings are accurate and properly reported. If they become aware of misleading or inaccurate statements about their work, they must correct the record as soon as possible.

4.6 Cite the work of other authors fully and accurately

Researchers must ensure that they cite other relevant work appropriately and accurately when disseminating research findings. Use of the work of other authors without acknowledgement is unethical.

4.7 Multiple submissions of research findings

It is not acceptable to include the same research findings in several publications, except in particular and clearly explained circumstances, such as review articles, anthologies, collections, or translations into another language. An author who submits substantially similar work to more than one publisher, or who submits work similar to work already published, must disclose this at the time of submission.

4.8 Obtain permission for republishing

Researchers must take all reasonable steps to obtain permission from the original publisher before republishing research findings.

4.9 Disclose research support accurately

A publication must include information on all sources of financial and in-kind support for the research and any potential conflicts of interest. Researchers must acknowledge the host institution and funding sources of the research.

4.10 Register clinical trials

Researchers must register clinical trials with a recognised register to promote access to information about all clinical trials.

4.11 Manage confidentiality

Sometimes the confidentiality requirements of a sponsor can prevent or delay peer review until after the research results are delivered to the sponsor. In such cases, the researcher must explain to the sponsor that the work has not been subject to peer review. The importance of peer review in the research process is discussed in Section 6. Whenever a sponsor's confidentiality requirements prevent peer review of a research report before its delivery to the sponsor, the researcher must inform the sponsor.

4.12 Responsibly communicating research findings in the public arena

Subject to any conditions imposed by the research sponsor, researchers should seek to communicate their research findings to a range of audiences, which may include the sponsor, professional organisations, peer researchers, policy makers and the community. Researchers may be interviewed by the media, invited to participate in debates, and approached by individuals for comment. It is important that all these activities are considered and supported where possible.

However, while it is straightforward to discuss research findings with peers, it is harder to do so effectively with other groups and the media, where the scope for misunderstanding is much greater and frequently there is no opportunity to review the report of discussions before it becomes public.

Researchers should seek opportunities and be ready to participate in workshops and other activities where professional assistance is provided in communicating with the media and the wider community. The following points should be noted in relation to publicly communicating research findings:

4.12.1 Discussing research findings in the public arena should not occur until the findings have been tested through peer review. In 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.

4.12.2 To minimise misunderstanding about research outcomes, researchers should undertake to promptly inform those directly impacted by the research, including interested parties, before informing the popular media.

4.12.3 The outcomes of research with a strong commercial element may have to be presented to a stock exchange or financial body before any public release.

4.12.4 Any restrictions on communications that have been agreed with the sponsor must be honoured.

Section 5: Authorship

5.2 Follow policies on authorship

Researchers should adhere to the authorship criteria of this Code and their institution’s policies.

5.3 Agree on authorship

Collaborating researchers should agree on authorship of a publication at an early stage in the research project and should review their decisions periodically.

5.4 Include all authors

Researchers must offer authorship to all people, including research trainees, who meet the criteria for authorship listed above. Those offered authorship must accept or decline in writing.

5.5 Do not allow unacceptable inclusions of authorship

Authorship should not be offered to those who do not meet the requirements set out above. For example, none of the following contributions, in and of themselves, justifies including a person as an author: being head of department, holding other positions of authority, or personal friendship with the authors providing a technical contribution but no other intellectual input to the project or publication providing routine assistance in some aspects of the project, the acquisition of funding or general supervision of the research team providing data that has already been published or materials obtained from third parties, but with no other intellectual input.

5.6 Acknowledge other contributions fairly

Researchers must ensure that all those who have contributed to the research, facilities or materials are properly acknowledged, such as research assistants and technical writers. Where individuals are to be named, their written consent must be obtained.

5.7 Extend the authorship policy to web-based publications

Authors of web-based publications must be able to take responsibility for the publication's content and must be clearly identified in the publication.

5.8 Maintain signed acknowledgments of authorship for all publications

The department of the executive or senior author must retain the written acknowledgment of authorship discussed above in the form of an original hand-written signature. Where it is not practical to obtain an original signature, it is acceptable to use faxed or emailed consent. This also applies to published conference abstracts and similar publications. If an author is deceased or cannot be contacted, the publication can proceed provided that there are no grounds to believe that this person would have objected to being included as an author.

Section 6: Peer review

Responsibilities of peer reviewers

6.2 Conduct peer review responsibly
It is important that participants in peer review:

  • are fair and timely in their review
  • act in confidence and do not disclose the content or outcome of any process in which they are involved
  • declare all conflicts of interest, do not permit personal prejudice to influence the peer review process, and do not introduce considerations that are not relevant to the review criteria
  • do not take undue or calculated advantage of knowledge obtained during the peer review process
  • ensure that they are informed about, and comply with, the criteria to be applied
  • do not agree to participate in peer review outside their area of expertise
  • give proper consideration to research that challenges or changes accepted ways of thinking.

Responsibilities of researchers

6.3 Do not interfere during the peer review process
Researchers whose work is undergoing peer review must not seek to influence the process or outcomes.

6.4 Participate in peer review
Researchers in receipt of public funding have a responsibility to participate in peer review processes.

6.5 Mentor trainees in peer review
Supervising researchers have a responsibility to assist trainee researchers in developing the necessary skills for peer review and understanding their obligation to participate.

6.6 Declare conflicts of interest
Peer reviewers must declare all relevant conflicts of interest.

Section 7: Conflicts of interest

7.2 Disclose conflicts of interest

Researchers frequently have a conflict of interest that cannot be avoided. Decisionmaking processes in research often need expert advice, and the pool of experts in a field can be so small that all the experts have some link with the matter under decision. 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.

7.2.1 Researchers should use the following approach to manage conflicts of interest: read and understand the policy of the institution maintain records of activities that may lead to conflicts, for example: consultancies; membership of committees, boards of directors, advisory groups, or selection committees; and financial delegation or in receipt of cash, services or equipment from outside bodies to support research activities when invited to join a committee or equivalent, review current activities for actual or apparent conflicts and bring possible conflicts of interest to the attention of those running the process disclose any actual or apparent conflict of interest as soon as it becomes apparent.

7.2.2 While there is no requirement to disclose the details of a conflict of interest, for example, because of a confidentiality agreement or for personal reasons, the existence of the conflict must be declared, followed by withdrawal from the situation.

Section 8: Collaborative research across institutions

8.4 Comply with multi-institutional agreements

Researchers involved in joint research must be aware of, and comply with, all policies and written agreements affecting the project, particularly those relating to the dissemination of research findings and the management of research data and primary materials.

8.5 Declare conflicts of interest

When establishing a research collaboration, researchers must disclose as soon as possible any actual or apparent conflicts of interest relating to any aspect of the project.