Research Misconduct Policy and Procedures

1. Introduction

The University of Derby supports the principles which underpin the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2010) and the UUK (2012) Concordat to Support Research Integrity. University research is committed to the principle of the pursuit of truth. The university seeks to build a positive environment for research where the principles that underpin responsible research practice are part of everyday experience of our researchers, students and collaborators. These principles of research integrity include honesty, objectivity, openness, integrity, carefulness, respect for intellectual property, confidentiality, responsible publication, responsible mentoring, respect for colleagues, social responsibility, non‐ discrimination, competence, legality, animal care and protection for human research participants.

The university’s commitment to research is recorded in our Articles of Association (1995) which state our purpose to be “to study and conduct research in any art or science for the public benefit”.

This statement replaces the ‘Promoting Good Scientific Practice’ statement approved by Academic Board in July 2009.

Relevant policies that underpin good scientific research practice at the University of Derby include:

The UUK (2012) Concordat for Research Integrity states: research misconduct can take many forms, including:

Resources to support researchers to design, undertake and report research with integrity can be found on the University’s Research Ethics and Integrity internet pages.

2. Scope of the Research Misconduct Policy

This document sets out procedures in the event of an allegation of research misconduct. The procedures are designed to apply to current staff and students of the University of Derby. They also apply to consultants who are contracted by the University to work on investigations on behalf of the University. The procedures are only applicable in regard of misconduct, which is alleged to have occurred during the time that they have been employed (as staff) or registered (as students) by the University. The procedures do not apply to persons who are employed by other organisations, even if those individuals were engaged in collaborative research with staff of the University. The University does not have powers to investigate former employees or students who are now employed elsewhere. The University procedures will be applied in response to complaints received in writing from either internal or external persons or organisations. 

The procedures should be conducted as confidentially as is reasonably practicable. The confidential nature of the proceedings should be maintained provided this does not compromise either the investigation of the misconduct allegations, any requirements of health and safety or any issue related to the safety of participants in the research. This is essential in order to protect the complainant, the researcher(s) and others involved in the process.

3. Procedure for Staff

Stage one: Initial screening

Any allegation of research misconduct is a serious matter and should not be undertaken lightly, frivolously or in a vexatious manner. An allegation made in good faith should be reported directly to the relevant Dean of the College. They decide, after consultation with the Chair of the College Research Committee and a member of the University Research Committee, whether the allegation falls within the scope of the procedure and whether a full investigation is warranted. If the Dean decides that a formal investigation is not warranted, they record the justification for the decision and inform the complainant, the researcher(s), and the University Lead for Research Integrity. 

If the Dean decides that a formal investigation is warranted they will inform Human Resources who will provide advice relating to the staff disciplinary procedure. The individual will be informed that an allegation has been raised as part of this process. The Dean will arrange for all relevant research records and materials to be immediately sequestered and lodged securely in the Research Office. If the allegation relates to a perceived risk to health or safety, then the Dean must take action to be sure that any such risk is moderated and managed.

Stage two: Formal investigation

The process for carrying out investigations in the staff disciplinary procedure should be followed, including the right of representation where appropriate. A Dean, in consultation with HR, will nominate an investigation manager who will, under the provisions of the staff disciplinary procedure usually be the researcher’s line manager. The purpose of the formal investigation is to make a thorough evaluation of all the relevant facts and to collate any evidence. The investigation should maintain the highest standards of integrity, accuracy and fairness. All proceedings must be carried out with sensitivity and confidentiality.

It may be necessary for the investigating manager to consult with up to three ‘specialists’/appropriately qualified persons during the investigation process. Examples could include:

These individuals may be invited to any investigation meetings as appropriate. 

Having established the facts, the investigating manager should, in consultation with HR, decide whether:

Following an investigation, the outcome will be communicated to the researcher in writing within one week by HRD. This will set out the findings of the investigating managers’ conclusions and subsequent steps to be taken with a clear and reasonable timescale. Copies of the outcome will be provided to the Dean of College and the university Lead for Research Integrity.

Stage three: Disciplinary hearing

If the outcome of the formal investigation is to proceed to a formal disciplinary hearing the process for carrying out hearings in the staff disciplinary procedure should be followed, including the right of representation where appropriate.

One or more of the three specialists roles invited to the formal investigation (outlined in Stage Two above) may be invited to the hearing to clarify any of the points raised.

Stage four: The decision and sanctions

The Chair of the disciplinary hearing will consider, what, if any, disciplinary action to issue. Appropriate actions may include the following:

Other outcomes may be considered in appropriate circumstances, for example, action short of dismissal, to which all parties must agree. This may include, for example, demotion.

In all cases, the staff disciplinary procedure should be consulted for guidance. Further actions such as those outlined in Section 6 of this document should be considered by the disciplinary hearing panel to ensure that any research outputs affected by the case can be trusted to have been conducted responsibly and with integrity.


An appeal against a disciplinary decision should be submitted in writing (email is acceptable) and should be received within seven working days of the receipt of the letter, setting out the nature and grounds of appeal and addressed to the HR Director. The process for handling appeals is set out in the staff disciplinary procedure.

4. Procedure for Students

Students at the university are expected to contribute to a positive learning environment and maintain standards of behaviour and engagement that support the wider university community.

Research misconduct allegations made against undergraduate students, students on taught post‐graduate courses as part of their courses of study, and post‐graduate research students as part of their research programme will follow the procedures outlined in the ‘Academic Offences’ sections in Rights, Responsibilities and Regulations.

Research misconduct allegations made against students as part of their wider involvement in the research community at the University of Derby will follow procedures detailed when students do not comply with the Student Code of Conduct which specifically references student research activities. This is also detailed in Rights, Responsibilities and Regulations. Such proceeding would follow the University Disciplinary procedure in the 3Rs document.

Students who are on programmes with requirements for professional conduct are in addition expected to adhere to the Professional Conduct and Professional Suitability procedures.

In addition to considering issues arising out of the application of the Regulations, responsible staff are also required to consider whether any of the further considerations detailed in Section 6 of this document apply. If so, the Dean of College will be responsible for assuring that relevant actions are undertaken and recorded.

5. Procedure for Consultants

Research that is undertaken as part of a commissioned or sub‐contracted agreement with the University of Derby is expected to be conducted in a professional manner that accords with principles of responsible scientific practice.

All such commissioned or sub‐contracted work should be subject to a formal consultancy agreement. The university research office has standard consultancy contract templates which contains provisions for circumstances which constitute a material breach of obligations. Where this can be demonstrated the University may terminate the engagement with immediate effect and without liability.

It is the responsibility of the research project lead who is responsible for commissioning the consultant to verify the robustness of the research service provided by them. In the event of any termination of contract the project lead should consider whether any of the provisions in Section 6 apply and act accordingly.

6. Further considerations

In the event of a registered health or social care professional, or scientist regulated by the code of conduct of a professional body, the Chair of a disciplinary hearing should notify the appropriate registering/regulatory body of the outcome of any case where the researcher(s) have been found guilty of misconduct. This may trigger a separate disciplinary procedure of the regulatory body with regard to the fitness for practice of the researcher(s) concerned. This is very important. Failure to report might be deemed as placing the public at risk through continued bad practice. If the regulatory body decides to strike off the researcher(s) then the University may be obliged to dismiss or re‐deploy the researcher(s). In the case of a student, the regulatory body may not be willing to register the student or may decide to terminate registration.

Other actions that may be required or be considered appropriate either by the chair of a disciplinary hearing or those involved in investigating an allegation of research misconduct could include:

If the researcher(s) is found not guilty of the allegations, the College and University will take all reasonable steps to restore the reputation of the researcher(s) concerned. 

The university lead for research integrity should be informed in the case of any allegation made as it relates to a member of staff, consultant, or post‐graduate research student. In addition reports of ‘Suspected Academic Offence’ can be drawn from the Peoplesoft system to enable consistent reporting of undergraduate and taught postgraduate student offences.

7. Support for complainants and researcher(s)

7.1 Support provided to the Complainant

Where allegations have been found (in full or in part), or found to be mistaken but not frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious, then appropriate support, guidance and acknowledgement should be given to the complainant, given that their role in the process will probably have been stressful and may well have caused friction with colleagues. The Chair of the University Research Committee with Dean of College and the researcher(s) should take whatever steps they consider necessary to support the reputation of the Complainant.

7.2 Support provided to the Respondent

Where allegations have not been found (in full or in part), the Chair of the University Research Committee, and the College Dean should take such steps as are appropriate, given the seriousness of the allegations, to support the reputation of the researcher(s) and any relevant research project(s). Appropriate support and guidance should be given to the researcher(s), given that his/her role in the process will probably have been stressful and may well have caused friction with colleagues.

7.3 Handling wrongful allegations

If the process has found that the complainant’s allegations were frivolous, vexatious and/or malicious, the investigating manager or Chair of a disciplinary hearing may consider invoking the disciplinary process against the complainant. If the complainant is a student this would be handled through the University Disciplinary Procedure; if a member of staff is the complainant then the Staff Disciplinary Procedure would be invoked. If complainants are known to have subsequently moved to a research-related role in a different employing organization then their employer would be informed.

8. Acknowledgements

This policy has been developed in association with colleagues from Human Resources, Assessment & Awards, Student Complaints, Appeals and Discipline teams, UCU, and members of the University Professoriate. This policy has been informed by and is consistent with the Procedure for the Investigation of Misconduct in Research published by the UK Research Integrity Office, August 2008.