24 June 2019

Australia’s strong research performance is underpinned by a number of factors—not least of which are the clear expectations and standards for responsible research conduct by Australian researchers. 

The recently revised Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research 2018 (the Code) is central to a strong framework that assures these expectations and standards are upheld, and provides a foundation for credible, high-quality research, and for community trust in the research endeavour. 

Following a review, a revised version of the Code was released in June 2018. A 12-month transition period, which was put in place to ensure that institutions had the opportunity to revise their internal policies and procedures to align with the 2018 Code, has come to an end. From 1 July 2019, it is expected that institutions will have implemented the 2018 Code and the Guide to managing and investigating potential breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research 2018 (Investigation Guide).  

The 2018 Code simplified and distilled the content of its 2007 predecessor into eight succinct principles of responsible research and 29 responsibilities for institutions and researchers. The higher-level articulation of responsible research in the revised Code provides institutions with greater latitude for implementing the Code through policies and procedures that complement their own governance frameworks.

Feedback received throughout the development of the new Code highlighted the need for more detailed guidance on how the principles and responsibilities of the Code should be applied across the various elements of the research endeavour. Consequently, the detail contained in the 2007 Code is being refined and clarified in consultation with the research sector, and will be covered in number of guides that support the Code. 

The ARC, NHMRC and Universities Australia have recently produced the first of a number of supplementary guides to support the Code on the subjects of authorship, and the management of data and information in research. 
In addition to the authorship and data management guides, further guides will be released over coming months on the subjects of peer review, disclosure and management of interests, research supervision, collaborative research, publication and dissemination of research, and the role of research integrity advisors.

Until each new guide is released, institutions will be encouraged to refer to the relevant chapters of the 2007 Code.

Notably, the Code and the guides do not stand alone, but are central to a broader research integrity framework that includes national guidelines on research ethics. This includes: the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research; Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders; and the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes

The framework also incorporates policies instructing recipients of NHMRC and ARC funding on how and when they must report on research integrity complaints and investigations: the ARC’s Research Integrity Policy; and the NHMRC’s Research Integrity and Misconduct Policy.  Both policies have recently been revised to align with the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide. 

The ARC and NHMRC also jointly administer the Australian Research Integrity Committee (ARIC), which reviews the processes followed by research institutions in response to specific complaints of potential breaches of the Code. ARIC performs an important function within Australia’s research integrity framework, ensuring that there are strong incentives for institutions to conduct investigations thoroughly and fairly and in accordance with the Code and Investigation Guide. The ARIC Framework, which contains ARIC’s terms of reference and related provisions, has also been revised to ensure alignment with the 2018 Code and Investigation Guide.