CODE OF PRACTICE FOR RESEARCH AND THOSE CONDUCTING RESEARCH
This Code of Practice replaces the document entitled: Academic Integrity: Code of Good Practice
for Research (2003).
This Code is for all those who do or support research in the University’s name, including staff,
students, and other individuals working on University premises or using University facilities. It
exists to ensure that research carried out in the Open University conforms to standards laid down
by bodies such as Research Councils, the Government, the Home Office, the National
Research Ethics Service of the Patient Safety Agency, professional bodies and the OU’s own
ethical standards. To be successful it needs the support of everyone who is research active in
Research is original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding and
make this widely available.
Researchers within the OU have a responsibility to:
• Treat all those associated with their research with respect;
• Understand and adhere to ethical standards in research as laid down by the University,
Research Councils, Home Office, the National Research Ethics Service of the Patient
Safety Agency and professional bodies;
• Engage in research activity that supports and enhances the reputation of the OU by its
rigour, honesty and integrity;
• Ensure validity and accuracy in the collecting and reporting of data (see Appendix 1);
• Ensure the safety of all those associated with the research;
• Ensure that all work presented as their own complies with protocols for acknowledging
the contribution of others and acknowledges all source materials (see Appendix 2);
• Effectively and transparently manage conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest
(see Appendix 3).
Research methods and results should be open to scrutiny and debate.
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Leadership and Organisation
Every researcher must adhere to this Code. It is the responsibility of the University Research
Committee, Deans and Directors of Studies, Associate Deans, Heads of Departments,
Departmental Research Directors and Directors of Research Centres and Groups to create a
climate that allows research to be conducted within the principles of good academic practice.
Responsibilities for overseeing good practice in Units and sub-units should be clearly allocated to
named individuals. At unit level this is the Dean’s or Director’s responsibility.
Where a researcher is in doubt about the applicability of provisions of this Code, or about the
appropriate course of action to be adopted in relation to it, advice should be sought from the
Dean or Director of the unit, or the Associate Dean (Research) or another member of the
University’s Research Committee. Such advice should be provided on a confidential basis.
Training and Development
The University is responsible for providing adequate opportunities for training and development
for researchers, whatever their experience or background. The main responsibility for this lies
with the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise), but this responsibility may be delegated to
Deans and research leaders who assume the day-to-day management of research staff.
Early Career Researchers
The OU has a special responsibility for the wellbeing and career development of early career
researchers. Deans and research group leaders must ensure that there are systems of
monitoring and mentoring to provide adequate opportunities for career development.
Equality Impact Assessment
We welcome feedback on this Code of Practice and the way it operates. We are interested to
know of any possible or actual adverse impact that this Code may have on any groups in respect
of gender or marital status, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age or other
Allegations of Malpractice
A procedure for dealing with allegations of academic malpractice or misconduct is included as
Appendix 3 to this document.
Other Relevant Documents
The following University policy documents should be referred to in conjunction with this policy:
‘Ethical Principles for Research Involving Human Participants’
‘Public Interest Disclosure - Policy Statement’ http://intranet.open.ac.uk/human-
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‘Procedures for Dealing with the Inadequate Performance or Misconduct of Academic and
Academic-Related Staff, and Removal for Incapacity on Medical Grounds’
Research Degrees Student Handbook http://www3.open.ac.uk/res-handbook/
Data Protection Code of Practice http://intranet.open.ac.uk/planning/dp/p5.shtml
The Open University Computing Code of Conduct http://www.open.ac.uk/university-
The following Government policy documents are also recommended:
Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform ‘Rigour, Respect and Responsibility:
A Universal Ethical Code for Scientists’ http://www.berr.gov.uk/science/science-and-
Research Councils UK Responses
Research Councils terms and conditions for Research Council fEC grants
Updated March 2008
The person responsible for this Code is the Head of the Research School, email research-
An electronic version can be found at
This document acknowledges the University of Melbourne Code of Conduct for Research from
which some of the material in appendices 1, 2 and 3 has been drawn.
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Appendix 1: Research Data and Records
1. Research data and records should be accurate, and sufficiently detailed and complete in the
context of the conventions of the relevant discipline to enable verification of research results
and to reflect what was communicated, decided or done.
2. Data (including electronic data) must be recorded in a durable and retrievable form, be
appropriately indexed and comply with relevant protocols.
3. The individual researcher is responsible for the retention and archiving of data. Where there
are no specific external requirements to retain records of a research project, or when such
requirements have already been met, researchers should apply the principles laid down in
the University’s Retention Schedule: http://www.open.ac.uk/records/pics/d53212.pdf, pp 194-
203. In summary these are that project records including data should be kept for a period of
6 years after the completion of the project. (Note that the project has only been completed
once the sponsor has accepted the final report and made a final settlement of any
outstanding payments). Data should be kept for longer if discussion of the results continues
or if it has historical or archival value. Final reports should be retained permanently.
4. It is expected that each faculty will have in place appropriate and relevant procedures to
monitor research outputs and to ensure that the institution complies with its obligations to
funders to manage intellectual property arising from research and to disseminate the results
of publicly funded research.
5. Data forming the basis of publications must be available for discussion with other
researchers; where confidentiality provisions apply, the data should be kept in a way that
allows reference by third parties without breaching confidentiality. Where data are obtained
from limited access databases or via a contractual arrangement, written indication of the
location of the original data, or key information regarding the database from which it was
obtained, must be retained by the researcher or the unit.
6. For specific guidance relating to the management of records held on the OU computing
network, researchers are advised to consult the Open University’s Computing Code of
7. For more detailed guidance on managing research records, researchers should consult the
JISC HEI Records Management Guidance which also includes the requirements of the
Research Councils and Wellcome Trust: http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/partnerships/records-
8. Individual researchers receiving either data or materials from other organisations would
normally require materials transfer agreements (MTAs) and are advised to consult the
guidance on the Innovation & Enterprise intranet: http://intranet.open.ac.uk/innovation-
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Appendix 2: Authorship, Publication and Access to Research Outputs
1. For a person to be recorded as an author of a publication requires that he or she is directly
involved in the creation of the publication by:
(i) conceiving it, analysing and interpreting the data on which it is based;
(ii) writing or revising the intellectual content; and
(iii) giving final approval of the version to be published.
2. The right to authorship is not tied to position or profession; ghost, gift or honorary authorship
is unacceptable. Authorship should honestly reflect the contribution to the work being
published. An author must ensure that the work of research students, research assistants,
technical and project officers is recognised in a publication derived from research to which
they have made an appropriate contribution.
3. Any part of an article critical to its main conclusion must be the responsibility of at least one
4. An author’s role in a research output must be sufficient for that person to take public
responsibility for at least that part of that output in that person’s area of expertise.
5. No person who is an author, consistent with this definition, may be excluded as an author
without their permission in writing.
6. When there is more than one co-author of a research output, one co-author (by agreement
with the other authors) should be nominated as executive author for the purposes of
administration and correspondence and when there is more than one co-author of a research
output the authors should discuss and reach agreement on the order in which authors shall
7. Other persons who contributed to the work who are not authors should be named in
Acknowledgements (where the publisher provides for this and in a manner consistent with
the norms of the research field or discipline). An author must ensure that the work of
research students, research assistants and technical officers is recognised in a publication
derived from research to which they have made a contribution.
8. Researchers must comply with authorship criteria appropriate to their discipline and/or
according to the requirements of the journal their work is to be published in.
9. Publication of more than one paper based on the same set(s) or subset(s) of data is not
acceptable, except where each subsequent paper fully cross-references and acknowledges
the earlier paper or papers as the case may be (for example in a series of closely related
work, or where a complete work grew out of a preliminary publication and this is fully
10. An author who submits substantially similar work to more than one publisher must disclose
this to the publisher at the time of submission.
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11. Publications must include information on the source of financial support for the research and
must include a disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest. Financial sponsorship that
carries an embargo on such naming of a sponsor should be avoided.
12. Confidentiality provisions to protect intellectual property rights may be agreed between the
University, the research worker and a sponsor of the research. Where such agreements limit
free publication and dissemination, limitations and restrictions must be explicitly agreed.
Access to Research Outputs
13. The OU is committed to the RCUK position statement on access to research outputs and
believes that the ideas and knowledge from publicly-funded research should be made
available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and
effectively as possible, and should be preserved and remain accessible for future
14. Accordingly all researchers in the OU are requested to deposit their published outputs on
Open Research Online (http://oro.open.ac.uk) as soon as is practicable after publication, and
irrespective of the funder of the research, unless the terms and conditions of the funding
expressly prevent it. Where copyright allows they should also supply the full text of the item
(normally as a PDF of a post-print).
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Appendix 3: Conflicts of Interest
1. A researcher has a potential conflict of interest in any circumstances where that person has a
real, perceived or potential opportunity to prefer their own interests, or those of any other
person or organisation, to the interests of the Open University, such as;
(i) where the research is sponsored by a related body;
(ii) where the researcher or a related body may benefit, directly or indirectly, from any
inappropriate dissemination of research results, (including any delay in or restriction upon
publication of such results);
(iii) where the researcher or related body may benefit directly or indirectly from the use of
(iv) where private benefits or significant personal or professional advantage are dependent
upon research outcomes.
A related body is any person or body with which the researcher has an affiliation or a
A financial involvement includes a direct or indirect financial interest, provision of benefits
(such as travel and accommodation) and provision of materials or facilities.
An indirect financial interest is a financial interest or benefit derived by the researcher’s
relatives, personal or business associates, or research students.
It is important to recognise that real or perceived opportunities to give preference to personal
interests arise from competing obligations and can be other than financial.
2. The responsibility for managing a conflict of interest rests, in the first instance, with the
individual. A researcher must make a full disclosure of a conflict of interest or of
circumstances that might give rise to a perceived or potential conflict of interest, to the head
of his/her unit, as soon as reasonably practicable. If the researcher is the Head of Unit then
the disclosure should be to the PVC (RE).
3. The officer in receipt of the disclosure should discuss the matter with the staff member
concerned and determine a procedure for the management or elimination of the conflict of
interest. The procedure must be documented and the researcher advised in writing of the
actions that they are expected to take.
4. It is the responsibility of the researcher to comply with the agreed procedure. It is the
responsibility of the Head of Unit (unless directly involved) to ensure that conflicts of interest
are managed appropriately.
5. The PVC (RE), when deciding whether to accept sponsored research or contract research
funding on behalf of the University, may seek information regarding disclosure and
management of any conflict of interest that may result.
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Procedures For Dealing With Allegations Of Academic Malpractice Or Misconduct
1. Academic malpractice or misconduct relating to any aspect of research is a failure to
behave in accordance with the requirements of this Code of Practice and is recognised to
cover the following broad categories:
a. fabrication or falsification of research data or results;
b. plagiarism, misquoting or misappropriation of the ideas, work or data of other
c. failure to disclose conflicts of interest or cases where a conflict of interest might
reasonably be perceived to exist.
Colluding in, or concealing, the misconduct of others is, in itself, misconduct. Honest
errors do not, of course, constitute misconduct.
2. Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 staff will have protection against dismissal
and victimisation if they make “protected disclosures” as defined in the Act. The Act is
limited in the type of disclosure it protects and the University believes that staff and
students should feel able to raise legitimate concerns which may not fall within the
definitions set down in the Act, without fear of their position within the University being
jeopardised. This guidance is intended to set down what staff and students should do if
they have such concerns.
3. If any staff or student has concerns about the conduct of research, either by another
individual or within a group, discipline or department, they should contact the Head of
Unit (normally the Dean of the Faculty) in the first instance. Individuals may choose to do
this with the guidance and support of their Head of Department (or another appropriate
member of staff, such as the Associate Dean, Research), or if a research student, with
the support of their academic supervisor, third party monitor or through links with the
Research Degrees Team, for example.
STAGE 1: INFORMAL ENQUIRIES
4. The Head of Unit will undertake preliminary enquiries in order to establish the nature of
the allegation and whether it can be resolved through mediation or through other
appropriate informal methods.
5. If the Head of Unit determines that the allegation has substance and that there may have
been academic malpractice or misconduct, s/he will inform the PVC (RE) in writing.
6. The PVC (RE) will notify the Chief Auditor of any allegations made under this code of
STAGE 2: PRELMINARY INVESTIGATION
7. On receipt of notification from the Head of Unit, the PVC (RE) will establish a ‘case
review team’ to investigate – to include a senior staff member of the department or
faculty in which the matter has arisen but not directly associated with the issue(s) under
review; a senior staff member from another department or faculty as appropriate, and the
Head of the Research School (or an approved nominee). No part of this preliminary
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investigation should be conducted by those who may be required to make a final decision
on the matter, or any person who may have a conflict of interest.
8. If there is no investigation and the allegation is therefore effectively dismissed summarily,
the person making the allegation shall be informed and given the opportunity to remake
the allegation to some other person or a higher authority in the University.
9. The case review team will be tasked with establishing if there is evidence of malpractice
or misconduct. This group will investigate and collate information and prepare a brief
report for the PVC (RE). It is normally expected that the investigation would include an
interview with the staff member or student who first raised the matter, interviews with
relevant individual(s) and an examination of material evidence. It is normally expected
that this initial review would be completed within fifteen working days.
10. If the case review team establishes that there is a case to be answered, the PVC (RE)
will then initiate a formal investigation (see Stage 3).
11. In all but the most exceptional cases the person/group against whom an allegation is
made must be told of the allegation and of the evidence supporting it and be allowed to
comment before the preliminary investigation is concluded and the report made.
12. The results of the preliminary investigation will be reported to the PVC RE and Head of
13. If the preliminary investigation finds that there is no substance to the allegation then the
matter will be dismissed and no record kept other than the material papers, including a
statement of the dismissal of the allegation which shall be placed on the member of
staff’s personal file in Human Resources.
STAGE 3: FORMAL INVESTIGATION
14. If the informal investigation finds that there is substance to the allegation or the member
of staff or student wishes to appeal the decision of the Stage 2 investigation, the PVC
(RE) will nominate two appropriately qualified individuals to review the evidence and offer
judgement. This will be in the form of a brief written report. Taking into account the
recommendations of this formal investigation, the decision of the PVC (RE) on the matter
will be final.
15. If the formal investigation finds that there is no substance to the allegation then the
matter will be dismissed (as para 13).
16. If the formal investigation finds that there is substance to the allegation, the PVC (RE) will
notify the Head of Unit in order for the matter to be taken forward under the appropriate
stage of disciplinary procedures.
17. The person making any allegation under paragraph 5 of this Procedure, should be
assured that their concerns will be treated seriously and sensitively, if they approach the
appropriate person as indicated in this Procedure. If anonymity is requested, the person
should be assured that this will be respected as far as possible, consistent with a fair
investigation and a fair disciplinary action should this be required, unless there is
overriding reason for disclosure. A person should be assured that although anonymity
cannot be guaranteed in all circumstances, the University will support them and protect
them from reprisal provided the person has acted in good faith. Anonymous allegations
are not encouraged but will be investigated at the discretion of the PVC (RE) having
regard to the seriousness of the allegation.
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18. Provided allegations are made in good faith in line with this Procedure, the position of the
person making them, whether staff or student, shall not be disadvantaged. Action by a
manager or others to deter a member of staff or student from raising concern about an
irregularity or other malpractice may be considered as a disciplinary offence. Staff or
students abusing the process by raising allegations other than in good faith or repeating
unfound allegations may be subject to disciplinary action.
19. Staff or students making allegations should be informed of the general outcome of the
investigation but are not entitled to receive a copy of either the Stage 2 or Stage 3 reports
which are confidential to the PVC (RE), as the officer responsible for the Stage 2 and
Stage 3 investigations, and the appropriate disciplinary authority if relevant. The
person/group against whom the allegation is made will be informed of the outcome of the
investigation and will be entitled to receive a copy of the report if disciplinary action is to
20. The PVC (RE) will provide a brief report to the Audit Committee outlining the actions
taken and the outcome of any investigation relating to allegations of malpractice in the
area of research.
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