Review of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) (the Code) was published in 2007 and is currently under review by its co-authors, namely the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia (UA).

Status update

Targeted consultation on a draft Code was undertaken from August to October 2015. Detailed and varied feedback was provided in the 48 submissions that were received (in response to around 100 invitations). Three themes that emerged from the consultation were:

  • that institutions require differing levels of advice about implementing and applying the Code
  • that overly prescriptive advice can be incompatible with existing institutional polices such as enterprise agreements
  • that institutional processes for managing and investigating potential breaches of the Code vary across the sector.

To address the feedback, the Code Review Committee (below) has worked with NHMRC, ARC and UA to develop a proposal for a new approach to the Code. This proposal makes the Code more user-friendly and less prescriptive. The following major changes are proposed:

  • the Code will no longer contain “Part A” and “Part B”
  • the Code will be based on the principles of responsible research conduct and  the resultant responsibilities of institutions and researchers
  • the principles-based Code will be supported by a series of guides that provide advice about implementation of the Code
  • the first Guide will replace Part B of the current Code and will focus on investigating and managing potential breaches of the Code.

The draft principles-based Code and first draft Guide have been released for public consultation and are available from the NHMRC website. Submissions close on 28 February 2017.

NHMRC, ARC and UA recognise the importance of engaging with the Australian research community, including research institutions, researchers, other funding bodies and academies, to ensure the principles-based Code and supporting guides are relevant across the broad range of research institutions. A webinar was held on 29 November 2016 for NHMRC- and ARC-funded institutions to coincide with the release of the draft documents for public consultation. The webinar aimed to explain the new approach and inform submissions, and is available below for general viewing.  

The date of release for the final revised Code and first Guide is highly dependent on the number and complexity of submissions received during public consultation, but is expected to be in the second half of 2017.

The Code Review Committee (CoRC)

To assist with the review of the Code, the NHMRC has established a Code Review Committee (CoRC) under section 39 of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act). The members of the committee were selected to ensure appropriate expertise in the key areas of research integrity, administration and management across a range of different research institutions and research disciplines.   

NHMRC asked each CoRC member to document their interests prior to appointment and to consider perceived interests as well as real interests. Throughout the project members are required to inform NHMRC of any changes to their interests. Management strategies are put in place as needed.

CoRC terms of reference

In undertaking this review, the Code Review Committee will:

  1. Consider submissions received from both the targeted the public consultations on the Code
  2. Identify and report to the Office of NHMRC (ONHMRC) on key issues with the current and draft versions of the Code
  3. Consider and advise on the implementation of the Code
  4. Provide expert advice to the ONHMRC on revisions to the Code
  5. Perform other functions related to the review as directed by the NHMRC CEO.

This CoRC will be effective for the period of 15 April 2015 to 31 December 2016 and will receive secretariat support from the NHMRC.

Members of the Code Review Committee

Name Position

Professor Mike Calford (Chair)

Provost, University of Tasmania

Professor Mike Brooks

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, University of Adelaide

Professor Andrew Davidson

Medical Director, Melbourne Children’s Trials Centre, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Emeritus Professor Toni Makkai Former Dean, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

Scientia Professor Philip Mitchell AM

Head, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Emeritus Professor Janice Reid AC

Former Vice-Chancellor and President, Western Sydney University

Dr Paul Taylor

Director, Research Integrity, Governance and Systems, RMIT University

Professor Mandy Thomas

Executive Dean, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Karolyn White

Director, Research Ethics and Integrity, Macquarie University

The CoRC’s current disclosures of interest are available below:

The Better Practice Guides (BPG) working group

To assist with the development of the guides that support the Code, the NHMRC has established a BPG working group under section 39 of the NHMRC Act 1992. Members of the BPG working group have direct, practical experience of key issues related to the implementation of research integrity policies, in particular with managing and investigating allegations of breaches to the Code. The BPG working group contains representatives from different research institutions and the National Tertiary Education Union.

Similar to the appointment of CoRC members, members of the BPG working group were asked to document their interests prior to appointment, and to inform NHMRC of any changes to their interests throughout the project. Management strategies are put in place as needed.

BPG working group terms of reference

The Terms of Reference for the Better Practice Guides Working Group are:

  1. Consider the submissions provided as part of consultation processes that are relevant to the better practice guides and supplementary reference material.
  2. Consider policies of institutions in Australia on implementation of the Code.
  3. Consider international approaches to research integrity that are relevant to the development of the better practice guides and supplementary reference material.
  4. Identify components of the Code that should be included in the better practice guides and supplementary reference material and assist in their development for consideration by the CoRC. The guides may include prescriptive guidance, case studies, references to other sources of information and templates for policies.

The Better Practice Guides Working Group will receive secretariat support from the NHMRC. The working group will develop drafts (either directly or via an independent contractor) of the better practice guides and supplementary reference material and provide these as required by the CoRC.

Members of the Better Practice Guides working group

Name Relevant Professional and Organisational Experience
Dr Karolyn White (Chair)

Director, Research Ethics and Integrity,
Macquarie University

Leonie Cullen Research Support Manager,
Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute
Dr Catherine Gangell Manager, Research Integrity,
Curtin University

Professor Matthew Gillespie

Associate Dean (Research Strategy)
Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University

Dr Jane Jacobs Director, Office of Research Ethics and Integrity,
Queensland University of Technology
Dr Susan O’Brien Research Integrity Manager,
University of Queensland

Jeannie Rea

National President,
National Tertiary Education Union

The BPG working group’s current disclosures of interest are available below:

Enquiries

For enquiries about the Code Review, please contact code.review@nhmrc.gov.au