NHMRC Policy on Misconduct

Research misconduct

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research 2007 (the Code) encourages and promotes integrity in research. It is designed for researchers and research institutions. For institutions, it provides a framework for managing breaches of the Code and allegations of research misconduct.

Research misconduct is uncommon. The key is the promotion of responsible research culture within departments, units, centres and institutions. Furthermore, good research culture will encourage people with concerns to raise these concerns early, and to deal with the issues arising in a proactive way. This means that most activity about the promotion of good practice, the prevention of misconduct, and the proper dealing with misconduct, happens at the local level and remedial action to correct the public record, undertake counselling, and any disciplinary actions occur at this level.

It is important to note that NHMRC does not investigate allegations of research misconduct, this is the responsibility of the relevant Research Institute as stated in the Code.

To raise an allegation of research misconduct, please contact integrity@nhmrc.gov.au.

NHMRC Policy on Misconduct

In August 2015, NHMRC consulted on its draft NHMRC Policy on Actions to be Taken in Response to Research Misconduct Involving NHMRC Funding (2015).  NHMRC anticipated the new Misconduct Policy would be in place to align with the commencement of the revised NHMRC Funding Agreement which came into effect on 1 October 2015.  However, to enable the NHMRC to fully consider the comments received and undertake further consultation on key changes, the introduction of the new Misconduct Policy has been delayed.

To ensure there is coverage for the reporting and management of allegations of research misconduct in the interim, the existing NHMRC Policy on Actions to be Taken in Response to Research Misconduct Involving NHMRC Funding, 2010 (widely known as ‘the Sanctions Policy’) has been updated.  The changes to this policy are:

  • The title has changed from NHMRC Policy on Actions to be Taken in Response to Research Misconduct Involving NHMRC Funding, 2010 to NHMRC policy on misconduct related to NHMRC funding.  The reason for this is to align the title with the reference to the policy in the Funding Agreement.  Clause 16.1 of the new Funding Agreement states: ‘If a complaint or allegation of Misconduct is made to the Administering Institution that relates to any Specified Personnel or Research Activities, the Administering Institution must notify NHMRC in accordance with the Misconduct Policy’. 
  • All references to ‘sanctions’ have been removed and replaced with ‘actions’ as this language better reflects the nature of NHMRC responses to any allegations or finding of misconduct, which are about managing risks to NHMRC.
  • Administering Institutions are required to notify NHMRC of any prima facie case of research misconduct, or a breach of the Code, and/or the outcome of any research misconduct inquiries, within 10 business days of the findings.  Exceptions to this are where an institution has suspended funding to an individual or team involved in NHMRC funded research before the completion of the preliminary investigation; and/or the allegations suggest an immediate high risk to human, animal or environmental safety. In both of these cases, immediate notification is required.
  • NHMRC may take precautionary action pending resolution of a research misconduct investigation.
  • NHMRC’s contact details are updated in the policy.
  • Appendix A (flowchart) has been deleted.

The update to the 2010 Policy is available here:

The  Policy should be read in connection with clause 16 of the NHMRC Funding Agreement Effective 1 October 2015.

Useful resources: