Release of the 2018 Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

In June 2018, NHMRC, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia (UA) (the co-authors) issued the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 (the 2018 Code) and the Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Code, 2018 (the Investigation Guide). 

The 2018 Code provides clear, practical, relevant and contemporary guidance that can be applied to a range of different research contexts. The 2018 Code is a principles-based document that sets out eight principles of responsible research (P1–P8) and 29 specific responsibilities for institutions (R1–R13) and researchers (R14–R29).

The new Investigation Guide will assist institutions to manage, investigate and resolve complaints about potential breaches of the Code. 

Supplementary guidance to the Code

The 2018 Code will be supported by supplementary guidance on specific topics to encourage responsible research conduct. The first guide is the Investigation Guide and a number of other supplementary guidance documents are currently being developed.

The next two documents to be released will provide guidance about authorship and data management. These are expected to be released in late 2018.

Advice to institutions about transitioning to the 2018 Code

The 2018 Code retains the key elements of Part A of the 2007 Code but presents these in a clearer and simpler way. For researchers and institutions that are currently meeting the requirements of the 2007 Code, it is expected that they would similarly meet the principles and responsibilities of the 2018 Code.

The Investigation Guide retains the fundamental principles of procedural fairness that were in the 2007 Code and that are to be applied when managing and investigating a potential breach of the Code. However, it provides more detailed guidance than Part B of the 2007 Code.

The table in the link below summarises the main changes to the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide compared to the 2007 Code.

What do institutions need to do to implement the 2018 Code?

NHMRC, ARC and Universities Australia expect institutions to meet the requirements of the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide by no later than 1 July 2019. 

Institutions should begin to review their existing policies to reflect the principles and responsibilities of the 2018 Code and the processes outlined in the Investigation Guide.    

Institutions in receipt of funding from other agencies, such as the Australian Research Council (ARC), should refer to the specific funding agency’s policies.

Do institutions need to use the term ‘research misconduct’, and if so, do they need to use the definition in the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide?

The 2018 Code and Investigation Guide use the term ‘breach’ to describe a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code. Use of the term breach emphasises that all breaches of the Code occur on a spectrum of seriousness, impact on the integrity of research and should be managed appropriately according to the specifics of each case. 

The 2018 Code and Investigation Guide provide a definition and suggested use of the term ‘research misconduct’. While it is recommended that institutions use the term research misconduct to acknowledge the egregious nature of some serious breaches, institutions are not required to use the term. Not mandating the use of the term research misconduct provides institutions with the option of completing an investigation under the Code separately from other institutional processes if the use of the term research misconduct would preclude this (such as investigations under Enterprise Agreements) and encourages timely corrective actions.

The definition of research misconduct in the Code has been informed by extensive consultation with the sector. 

When should investigations follow the Investigation Guide?

By 1 July 2019, institutions should have updated their processes for investigating potential breaches of the 2018 Code, as far as possible, to be in line with the Investigation Guide. Ultimately, institutions must ensure that the processes they use to manage and investigate potential breaches of the 2018 Code are procedurally fair and do not hinder the timely implementation of all corrective actions. Current or ongoing investigations should follow existing institutional policies.   

What steps are NHMRC and ARC taking to implement the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide?

With the release of the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide, other NHMRC documents such as the NHMRC Funding Agreement, NHMRC policy on misconduct related to NHMRC funding (2016) and the Australian Research Integrity Committee Framework (2011) (together with ARC) are being reviewed for consistency. Our aim is to finalise the revised documents by January 2019.

Information on the review of ARC documents is available from the ARC website.

How do institutions report potential breaches of the Code to NHMRC?

Institutions should continue to notify NHMRC in line with the NHMRC policy on misconduct related to NHMRC funding (2016). Institutions will be advised when this policy has been revised. 

When will ARIC start to use the Investigation Guide as a benchmark?

With the release of the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide, we will work with ARIC and the ARC to update the ARIC Framework (2011). Institutions will be advised when ARIC will begin to use the Investigation Guide as a benchmark for reviewing how an institution funded by NHMRC or ARC has managed a potential breach of the Code. This will not occur until the ARIC Framework (2011) has been updated and no earlier than 1 July 2019. 

Updates will be provided regularly on the NHMRC website. 

More questions?

Please email integrity@nhmrc.gov.au.

Development of the 2018 Code

Follow the link below to find out more information about the development of the 2018 Code, including the membership of the Code Review Committee and the Better Practice Guides working group.