Research misconduct is characterised as behaviour or actions that fall short of the standards of ethics, research and scholarship required to ensure that the integrity of research is upheld. It is a problem because it can cause harm (for example to patients, the public and the environment), damages the credibility of research, undermines the research record, and wastes resources.
The Concordat recognises that academic freedom is fundamental to the production of excellent research. This means that responsibility for ensuring that no misconduct occurs rests primarily with individual researchers. However, the University as an employer of researchers has an active role to play in sustaining research integrity as enshrined in this Code of Practice. Research misconduct can take many forms, including:
- fabrication: making up results or other outputs (eg, artefacts) and presenting them as if they were real
- falsification: manipulating research processes or changing or omitting data without good cause
- plagiarism: using other people’s material without giving proper credit
- failure to meet ethical, legal and professional obligations: for example failure to declare competing interests; misrepresentation of involvement or authorship; misrepresentation of interests; breach of confidentiality; lack of informed consent; misuse of personal data; and abuse of research subjects or materials
- improper dealing with allegations of misconduct: failing to address possible infringements such as attempts to cover up misconduct and reprisals against whistle-blowers
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Honest errors and differences in, for example, research methodology and interpretations are not examples of research misconduct.
Dealing with Allegations of Research Misconduct
The procedures for dealing with unfair practice in research programmes are set out in Chapter 8 of the University’s AQH 2017/18.
In addition to requiring the completion of the PG2/E1 Application for Ethical Approval, some researchers may also be required to undertake a full risk assessment and will be referred to the University’s Health and Safety Officers for further advice. Where this is the case the Academic Office is required to retain a copy of the Risk Assessment. For guidance applicants should assume that a Risk Assessment Form may be requested by the Ethics Committee if the research process involves any of the following:
- Environmental Risks
- Lone working
- Risk of ill health or injury
- Use of hazardous equipment
- Dealing with the public
- Manual handling
- Chemical / Biological risks
- Working on or near water
- Armed conflict
- Civil unrest
- Other hazards