Managing concerns about research

University of Newcastle (UON) staff and students involved in research need to ensure their work is conducted responsibly, ethically and with integrity. They also need to operate within the principles outlined in the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018) ("the Code").

While the principles of the Code apply to both staff and students, this page provides advice about how UON will manage concerns that involve researchers, research supervisors and other staff.

For concerns about the conduct of students involved in research, contact UON Graduate Research.

  1. What is considered to be a breach of the Code?
  2. How serious are breaches of the Code?
  3. What should I do if I suspect a breach?
  4. What type of information should I share if I’m concerned about a possible breach?
  5. What if I don’t believe my concerns have been addressed at the local level?
  6. How will UON deal with anonymous concerns?
  7. What if the concern needs investigation?
  8. What if a breach is evident?
  9. What if someone raises a concern or allegation about me?
  10. Where can I get support if I’m involved in an alleged breach of the Code?
  11. Where can I learn more about what's expected of me?
  12. Is bullying considered a breach of research conduct?
  13. More information
  14. Resources

1. What is considered to be a breach of the Code?

Activities or behaviours that could be considered a breach of the Code include:

  • not meeting funding requirements
  • conducting research without ethics approval
  • plagiarism
  • manipulating or misrepresenting research data or source material
  • not applying fair and reasonable principles in authorship
  • misuse of research funds
  • in appropriate management of data
  • not adequately declaring conflicts of interest

2. How serious are breaches of the Code?

As described in the Code, a ‘breach’ is a failure to meet the principles and responsibilities of the Code. Breaches can occur on a spectrum from minor (less serious) to major (more serious).

A 'minor breach' may be a technical issue, unintentional mistake or issue resulting from inexperience.

A ‘serious breach’ refers to activities or behaviours that are intentional, reckless and negligent or those that involve persistent breaches. Serious breaches are likely to:

  • affect the integrity of the research and researchers involved
  • lead to potential harm of humans, animals or the environment
  • significantly damage the reputation of UON or other research project partners
  • involve the wilful concealment of activities or behaviours that might result in any of the above.

3. What should I do if I suspect a breach?

Discuss any concerns you have at the local level first, ideally with the research supervisor.

You may find that your concerns are based on simple misunderstandings, unintentional mistakes, or other minor issues that can be quickly and easily addressed.

If you’re not comfortable approaching the research supervisor, you can approach:

  • an Assistant Dean Research (who acts as the faculty’s Research Integrity Advisor)
  • head of research area or Head of School
  • the Research Integrity Unit at researchintegrity@newcastle.edu.au

4. What type of information should I share if I’m concerned about a possible breach?

Before you raise any concerns, be prepared.

  • Read the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and make sure you can describe your concern and how it relates to the Code.
  • If you’re seeking clarification or advice, talk in general terms initially. Making allegations against individuals without sound evidence could damage a person’s reputation and impact the status of their research project.
  • Share enough information to help the advisor understand the situation and provide advice about different strategies to help resolve your concerns.


5. What if I don’t believe my concerns have been addressed at the local level?

If your concern involves the conduct of a UON researcher, supervisor or other staff member, you can lodge a formal concern with the Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation.

For concerns about the conduct of students involved in research, contact UON Graduate Research.

Formal concerns should:

  • be in writing and be specific
  • clearly outline your concern and how it came to your attention
  • outline the specific actions taken to try to address your concern within your school or faculty

6. How will UON deal with anonymous concerns?

For matters involving researchers, research supervisors or other staff, the Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Innovation will determine if the concern relates to a potential breach of the Code and warrants assessment, or is not related to research conduct and should be referred elsewhere.

How is a concern assessed?

Concerns that warrant assessment will be referred to an Assessment Officer who will conduct a preliminary assessment as described in the Research Breach Investigation Procedure. This involves:

  • meeting with the key parties involved to better understand the issue and what actions have been taken so far
  • gathering initial information
  • providing the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation with a preliminary assessment report.

7. What if the concern needs investigation?

The Pro Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation will determine if a concern requires formal investigation. This involves establishing a panel to review the allegation, who then provide the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation with a report.


8. What if a breach is evident?

Where a breach is evident after investigation, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation will refer the matter to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation for resolution.


9. What if someone raises a concern or allegation about me?

If you are the subject of a formal concern, you will receive specific advice in writing and have the opportunity to respond. You’ll also be advised of progress along the way.

Confidentiality is an important part of the process and UON has measures in place to help protect your confidentiality.


10. Where can I get support if I’m involved in an alleged breach of the Code?

Raising a concern or being the subject of a concern can be stressful. UON provides a range of support that can help you:


11. Where can I learn more about what's expected of me?

  • Familiarise yourself with the Code
  • Review UON’s policy and new procedure for investigating concerns about the conduct of research by UON staff.
  • Complete UON research integrity training in Discover.
  • If you have concerns, try to resolve them locally first.
  • Escalate concerns if they haven’t been or can't be resolved within your team, school or faculty.

12. Is bullying considered a breach of research conduct?

Research breaches typically involve activities or behaviours that go against the responsible and ethical conduct of research and the Code.

If you see or experience bullying, harassment or discrimination, report it as soon as possible to your supervisor or Head of School.

You can also contact UON's Campus Care, Human Resource Services or Complaints Office.


13. More information

UON Research Integrity Advisors

Faculty Assistant Dean (Research) and Research Integrity Advisor
Faculty of Business and Law Associate Professor Jamie Carlson
Faculty of Education and Arts Professor Philip Dwyer
Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment Professor Christopher Kellett
Faculty of Health and Medicine Professor Jodie Simpson
Faculty of Science Professor Juanita Todd

Research Integrity Office

You can contact the UON Research Integrity Office for advice at researchintegrity@newcastle.edu.au


14. Resources

UON