Academic integrity in research: Code of practice and procedure

Code of Practice

(1)        The University expects all members of the University including staff and students and those who are not members of the University but who are conducting research[1] on University premises or using University facilities or funding for their research, to observe the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of their research[2].  In pursuance of such high standards they must:

 a)     be honest in proposing, conducting and reporting research. They should strive to ensure the accuracy of research data and results and acknowledge the contributions of others.

 b)    acquaint themselves with guidance as to best research practice and standards of integrity; for example, the Code of Practice for Research published by the UK Research Integrity Office or the Concordat to Support Research Integrity

 c)     comply with ethical and legal obligations as required by statutory and regulatory authorities, including seeking ethical review and approval for research as appropriate.  They should ensure that any research undertaken complies with any relevent University policy and procedures and any other agreements and/or terms and conditions relating to the project, and also allows for proper governance and transparency.

 d)    seek to ensure the safety, dignity, wellbeing and rights of those associated with the research.

 e)     effectively and transparently manage any conflicts of interest, whether actual or potential, reporting these to the appropriate authority as necessary.

 f)     ensure that they have the necessary skills and training for their field of research.

 g)    recognise their accountability to the University and their peers for the conduct of their research.

 h)     having due regard to subject disciplinary norms, acknowledge that authorship of a research output should be attributed only to a researcher who has made a significant intellectual, scholarly or practical contribution to that output and is willing to take responsibility for the contribution.

 i)      follow the requirements and guidance of any professional bodies in their field of research. Researchers who are members of a regulated profession must follow the requirements and guidance of the body regulating their profession.

 (2)        Failure to comply with this Code of Practice and Procedure may give rise to an allegation of Misconduct in Research (as further defined in 3). Misconduct in Research may be a ground for disciplinary action[3], and if serious, for dismissal or expulsion.



[1] Research is defined as creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. (Frascati Manual, OECD)

[2] This includes members of the University, and those whose research is funded by the University, who are conducting work overseas.

[3] Disciplinary action will only be taken in accordance with the University’s standard procedures. Please see Section 24 below.

Definition of Misconduct in Research

(3)        Misconduct in Research for the purpose of this Code of Practice and Procedure means, but is not limited to, the doing, planning or attempting of any of the following while proposing, carrying out or reporting the results of research:

  • falsification or fabrication of data, including the intentionally misleading or deliberately false reporting of research information;
  • misrepresentation of data, including the invention of data and the omission from analysis and publication of inconvenient data;
  • failure to follow good practice for the proper preservation, management and sharing of primary data, artefacts and material;
  • unacknowledged appropriation of the work of others, including plagiarism, the abuse of confidentiality with respect to unpublished materials, or misappropriation of results, physical materials or other resources;
  • misrepresentation of involvement in a research project; for example, the failure to include legitimate author(s) on outputs, or granting authorship where none is warranted;
  • failure to declare conflicts of interest;
  • failure to follow accepted procedures, legal or ethical requirements, or to exercise due care in carrying out responsibilities for avoiding unreasonable harm or risk to humans, other vertebrates, cephalopods or the environment;
  • failure to follow existing guidance on good practice in research, including proper handling of privileged or private information collected on individuals during the research.

Misconduct in Research can include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. It excludes genuine errors that are not due to negligence, differences in interpretation or judgement in evaluating research methods or results, or misconduct unrelated to research processes. It does not include poor research.

Misconduct in Research for the purpose of this Code of Practice and Procedure is not intended to capture concerns about students’ examined work[4], which falls within the jurisdiction of the Proctors under the Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for Candidates in University Examinations and Statute XI.



[4] Examined Work includes the submission and assessment of a thesis, dissertation, essay, Transfer of Status materials, Confirmation of Status materials, or other coursework which is not undertaken in formal examination conditions but is a requirement for, counts towards or constitutes the work for a degree or other academic award.

Responsibility

(4)        All members of the University, and individuals permitted to work on University premises or use University facilities, have a responsibility to report any well-founded allegations of Misconduct in Research, whether this has been witnessed, or is suspected. Suspicions reported in confidence and in good faith will not lead to disciplinary proceedings against the person making the complaint. In the event, however, of a frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious allegation the Registrar will consider recommending that action be taken against the Complainant. Prior to making any formal allegation, sources of advice and support for University members include:

  •  Fellow researchers and colleagues

  • Supervisors

  • Mentors

  • Senior Tutors

  • University Proctors

  • Directors of Graduate Studies

  • Heads of Department; Faculty; or Division

  • Research Ethics Committees

  • Research Services

  • Oxford University Students Union (Oxford SU)

The University is committed to ensuring that all allegations of Misconduct in Research are assessed and, where the Registrar determines that further investigation is required (in accordance with the Procedure below), investigated thoroughly, fairly, in a timely manner, and with care and sensitivity.

Confidentiality

(5)        So far as possible, and taking into account the University’s legal and regulatory obligations, all allegations will be investigated in confidence. All those who are involved in the investigation of an allegation, including witnesses, representatives and persons providing information, evidence and/or advice, have a duty to maintain confidentiality. However, for an allegation to be investigated fully, it will normally be necessary to disclose the identity of the person making the allegation (“the Complainant”) as well as other relevant information to the person(s) who is/are the subject of the complaint (“the Respondent”) and others who will be involved in any subsequent investigation. It may also be necessary to make certain disclosures to relevant members of University staff, such as the relevant  Head of Division; Head of Department and the Director of Research Services, although any such disclosures will be limited to those with a strict need to know. The Complainant will be advised before any such disclosure is made. 

Where a funding body or other third-party institution (such as a journal, legal/regulatory body, NHS Trust, or employer of a research collaborator) has an interest in the allegation of Misconduct in Research, the Registrar may notify and liaise with that third party in relation to any review and investigation of the allegation. Where an allegation involves a student matriculated at another institution or (in cases where the individual is no longer based at or employed by the University)  an employee at another institution, the institution may be notified accordingly.

All decisions about disclosure, including the level of detail to be provided and at what stage, will be taken by the Registrar, having due regard to the rights and interests of the Complainant and the Respondent and the obligations placed on the University by any third party(ies) or the law.

Procedure in the event of suspected Misconduct in Research

Referrals

(6)        Allegations of potential Misconduct in Research should be made in writing, accompanied by supporting evidence, and addressed in confidence to the Registrar (via: registrar@admin.ox.ac.uk or to: The Registrar, University of Oxford, University Offices, Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JD).

(7)        The Registrar may, at his or her discretion, consider anonymous allegations and assess the seriousness of the issues, their credibility, and the feasibility of confirming the allegation with credible sources. Depending on the outcome of that assessment, the Registrar may elect, at his or her discretion, to investigate anonymous allegations in accordance with this Procedure.

(8)       Where allegations concern an intentional and/or reckless departure from accepted procedures in the conduct of research that may not fall directly within the terms detailed above, a judgement should be made as to whether the matter should be investigated under this Procedure.

Acknowledgement

(9)        The Registrar will acknowledge receipt of allegations within five (5) working days and will advise the Complainant of the procedure to be followed.

Preliminary Review

(10)        Following receipt of an allegation, the Registrar will conduct a preliminary review in order to determine whether further investigation is required. This review will be conducted in a timely manner and the Registrar may seek advice from senior academic members of the University.  In the event that the allegations relate to the conduct of a student, the Registrar will consult with the Proctors and may refer these allegations to the Proctors for further investigation.

(11)         Where an allegation concerns a situation that requires immediate action to prevent risk or harm to staff, participants or other persons, suffering to animals or negative environmental consequences (where this might contravene the law or fall below good practice) the Registrar may take appropriate action to ensure that any potential or actual danger, illegal activity or risk is prevented or eliminated. If the Registrar takes action such action will be administrative not disciplinary at this stage, pending the outcome of the investigation.

(12)        If the Registrar determines that further investigation is not required, the allegation may be dismissed or addressed under another applicable University policy or procedure or through education and training or any other non-disciplinary approach.  The Registrar may also dismiss at this stage allegations which he or she considers to be mistaken, frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious and may consider recommending that action be taken against the Complainant. Anyone making allegations in good faith will not be penalised.

(13)        The Registrar will provide the Complainant with a written determination summarising the reasons for the decision reached following the preliminary review.

(14)      Where necessary, the written determination will be in the form of a Completion of Procedures letter. Students may submit their complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) for review if they remain dissatisfied following completion of the University's procedures. This must be submitted within twelve (12) months of the date of the Completion of Procedures letter.

Legal & Regulatory Bodies

(15)      Following the preliminary review, in the event that the nature of the allegation is such that the Registrar considers it necessary to notify legal or regulatory authorities, (for example where the alleged activity would constitute a criminal offence) any investigation led by a legal or regulatory body will take precedence over this procedure.  This procedure may need to be suspended to be concluded at a later date, or may be declared unnecessary by the Registrar.

Investigation

(16)      If the Registrar determines that there is a case which requires further investigation, the Registrar or a person duly authorised on his or her behalf shall set up a Panel to enquire into the allegations. This shall normally consist of three members, to include a member of the department or faculty with relevant expertise, and a member of the University or a college from outside the department or faculty, if possible, with relevant expertise. Where deemed appropriate by the Registrar, one member may be external to the University. Members of the Panel must have no conflict of interest in the case, be unbiased and have the appropriate knowledge and experience to evaluate the issues under investigation. The Panel will be charged with examining and evaluating the facts of the allegations and all relevant evidence to determine whether an act of Misconduct in Research has been committed, who is responsible and the seriousness of the Misconduct in Research, in order to report to the Registrar. The standard of proof used by the Panel will be that of "on the balance of probabilities".    

(17)       The Registrar or the person duly authorised on his or her behalf shall require the production of such records as are necessary to enable the investigation to proceed and shall secure their safe keeping.

(18)      The Respondent shall be informed by the Registrar or the person duly authorised on his or her behalf of the decision to set up the Panel and of the membership of the Panel.

(19)      The Panel may interview both the Complainant and the Respondent, and any other persons, whose evidence may, in the Panel’s view, assist the Panel in reaching a conclusion.  Any person attending for interview may be accompanied by another person. The Panel should be informed of the identity of the accompanying person at least five (5) working days before the interview is scheduled to take place.  

(20)      The Panel shall prepare a report, setting out the evidence which has been evaluated, accounts of interviews, if any, its conclusions as to whether the allegation of Misconduct in Research is upheld in full, upheld in part or not upheld, and its recommendations to the Registrar as to what actions (if any) should be taken to address the Misconduct in Research either against the Respondent or generally. There is a non-exhaustive list of possible recommendations at section 24 below. The basis for reaching a conclusion that an individual is responsible for Misconduct in Research relies on a judgement that there was an intention to commit the Misconduct in Research and/or recklessness in the conduct of any aspect of a research project.

(21)      The Panel shall provide a draft report to the Respondent and to the Complainant so that they can comment on its factual accuracy. They shall normally be given up to ten (10) working days to comment in writing. The Panel will consider any comments on the draft report and then provide a final version of its report to the Registrar who will determine what further steps will be taken.

(22)       Should any evidence of further, distinct instances of Misconduct in Research (either unconnected to the allegations under investigation or committed by another person or persons) be brought to light during the course of the Panel's investigation then the Panel will submit these new allegations of Misconduct in Research in writing to the Registrar in accordance with section (6) above.

(23)      Subject to availability of personnel and to operational demands the investigation of the Panel should normally be completed within ninety (90) days of first notification of the allegation to the Registrar. However, this timescale is not binding upon the University and can be extended where reasonably required.

Recommendations

(24)      On receipt of the Panel’s recommendations, the Registrar[5] may dismiss the complaint or take such further action that he/she deems appropriate.  Such action may include:

  • In the event that the allegations relate to a person subject to the provisions of Statute XII of the University Statutes, the Registrar may choose to take further action under the provisions of Part D of Statute XII.
  • In the event that the allegations relate to a person subject to the provisions of the University disciplinary procedure for support staff, the Registrar shall bring the report to the attention of the relevant head of department responsible for employing the person.
  • In the event that allegations relate to a student member, the matter may be referred to the Proctors to determine whether further action under the terms of Statute XI would be appropriate.
  • In the event that the allegations relate to someone who is not subject to the University’s disciplinary procedures, the Registrar may determine to notify other institutions, which have a legitimate interest in the outcome of the procedure and the individual’s continued use of the University’s premises and facilities may be curtailed.
  • If the Panel has found that the Complainant’s allegations were frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious, the Registrar will consider recommending that action be taken against the Complainant.

Notifications

  • Notifying other third parties who are deemed to have a legitimate interest in the outcome of the proceedings, including, for example the co-authors of the Respondent in a manuscript subject to an allegation of Misconduct in Research.
  • Notifying the publisher of a manuscript that was subject to an allegation of Misconduct in Research in order that this can be retracted or corrected.
  • Notifying any funding body which has supported the research in question.
  • Notifying any regulatory or other agencies as required by law.
  • Notifying any other organisation involved in the research (including other employing organisations of research collaborators).

Procedural Reviews

  • Reviewing internal management procedures for the research.
  • Reviewing training and/or supervisory procedures for the research.

(25)      The Registrar will normally provide the Complainant and the Respondent with a written determination within fifteen (15) working days of receipt of the Panel's final report which summarises the reasons for the decision.

(26)      Where necessary, the written determination will be in the form of a Completion of Procedures letter. Students may submit their complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) for review if they remain dissatisfied following completion of the University's procedures. This must be submitted within twelve (12) months of the date of the Completion of Procedures letter.

Appeal

(27)      There is no right of appeal against the decision of the Registrar under this Procedure. Respondents will have a right of appeal under the applicable statute in the event that further action is taken under Statute XI or Statute XII.

Time Limits

 (28)      The Registrar will not normally consider allegations where the substantive event(s) complained about occurred more than three years before the allegation is received by the Registrar.

Record keeping

(29)       The Registrar's Office shall retain all records of any review or investigation carried out under this procedure for a period of six (6) years beginning with the date on which the University's relationship with the University member (including students and staff) ends.

Reporting

(30)       As stipulated within the Concordat to Support Research Integrity an annual report providing anonymised summary details of any investigations conducted under this Procedure, and their outcome will be presented to the University's Research and Innovation Committee for approval on behalf of the University. Once approved this statement will be published on the University's Research Integrity web pages.


[5] The Registrar, at his/her discretion, may delegate certain functions, including notifying funding, regulatory or other agencies.

Relationship with existing policies

This Code of Practice and Procedure will operate in conjunction with other University policies such as:

 

Approved by:

University Research and Innovation Committee:  7 June 2018