Code of Good Research Practice
Research can be defined as intellectual enquiry aimed at the development of human understanding and knowledge. The University acknowledges that high quality research is an integral part of the development of advanced education. In addition to promoting, encouraging and fostering research for its own sake, the University recognises that research is a principal component of the advanced education of its undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Research integrity relates to the performance of research to the highest standards of professionalism and rigour at all points of the research process and to the accuracy and integrity of the research record in publications and elsewhere. DCU has a responsibility to ensure that the research conducted by its staff and students conforms with the highest possible standards of integrity and with current legislation. As part of meeting this responsibility, this Code has been developed to help researchers understand the various elements of good research practice and highlight the supports available to assist them with adhering to the highest standards of research integrity. As a member institution of the Irish Universities Association (IUA), DCU is committed to the National Policy Statement on Ensuring Research Integrity in Ireland and the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, which clarify policy and set out agreed good practice in promoting and ensuring research integrity. The DCU Code of Good Research Practice reflects the key commitments contained within the National Policy Statement and is structured to align with the Core Principles and Good Research Practices contained within the EU Code of Conduct. It also reflects the institutional level principles outlined in the HEA Principles of Good Practice in Research within Irish Higher
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance in relation to good research practice and the responsibilities and requirements associated with this. The Code provides guidelines and advice on the proper conduct of research, standards of work performance and the ethical conduct required of all DCU staff and students and persons engaged in research at DCU.
There are four fundamental principles of research integrity contained within the EU Code of Conduct. Good research practices should embody each of these. The principles are:
Reliability: Reliability in ensuring the quality of research, reflected in the design, the methodology, the analysis and the use of resources.
Honesty: Honesty in developing, undertaking, reviewing, reporting and communicating research in a transparent, fair, full and unbiased way.
Respect: Respect for colleagues, research participants, society, ecosystems, cultural heritage and the environment.
Accountability: Accountability for the research from idea to publication, for its management and organisation, for training, supervision and mentoring, and for its wider impacts.
Researchers must select projects, accept funding, and conduct research in conformity with the specific trust placed in them by their colleagues, their peers, and the university and society at large. Observance of the aforementioned guiding principles must underlie all decisions and actions related to research. Researchers undertaking funded research have a responsibility to read the terms and conditions of such funding before engaging in research to ensure that they understand the implications of undertaking of such research and that they accept these terms as the basis for the research.
Good Research Practice
In order to facilitate the ease of use of this policy and to align with the EU Code of Conduct, the good research practices contained within this policy have been presented within the following contexts:
- Research Environment
- Training, Supervision and Mentoring
- Research Procedures
- Data Practices and Management
- Collaborative Working
- Publication and Dissemination
DCU is committed to creating a research environment that supports good research practice and research integrity. As part of fulfilling this commitment, the University promotes awareness of research integrity and facilitates training of staff and students. Relevant policies and codes have been developed to guide researchers and clarify practices, including in relation to academic integrity & plagiarism, authorship, conflicts of interest and codes of conduct.
As a key component of creating a research environment conducive to good research practice, DCU has committed to implementing the principles of responsible research and to the open, transparent and responsible use of research metrics.
Supports and resources are provided to assist researchers in implementing good practices. This includes the provision of supports from dedicated support units, such as Research Support, the Data Protection Unit and Graduate Studies Office, and the development of the DCU Research Lifecycle web resource, which maps out the DCU Research Lifecycle and all the supports available to researchers. For each of the sections listed below, researchers will find within the Lifecycle web resource guidance regarding what support is available to assist with each.
Leadership and Co-Operation
Within the University, it is the responsibility of the President and University Officers, the Executive Deans, Heads of School, Directors of Research Centres and their senior colleagues to ensure that a research climate of mutual co-operation is created in which all researchers are encouraged to develop their skills, and in which the open exchange of ideas is fostered. They must also ensure that appropriate direction of research and supervision of researchers and research students is provided. Responsibilities should be clearly allocated and understood.
There is a responsibility on supervisors (including those of research and of taught programme students undertaking research), to ensure that good practices are learned and followed. Research misconduct is less likely to occur in an environment where good research practice is encouraged and where there is adequate supervision at all levels. A researcher must decline appointment as a supervisor of a research programme or thesis if that person expects not to be able to discharge the responsibilities in full.
Training, Development and Support of Young Researchers
The University provides a range of training and development opportunities for all university staff, including early career researchers.
The Graduate Studies Office provide complementary training opportunities for research students. The HR Learning and Development unit offer useful advice, courses and resources through its Researcher Development Hub, as well as running courses as part of their Researcher Development Programme, which provides skills-based training opportunities that encourage both the personal and professional growth of researchers. It enables early stage researchers to understand and adopt best practice in research as quickly as possible.
The University also provides Research Integrity Training and the Research Ethics Committee provides further support through awareness-raising workshops and a network of research ethics advisers. The Research Finance team, in conjunction with HR, have also developed a training session called "Understanding Finance for Researchers", which is specifically aimed at helping researchers understand the financial management and accountability issues involved in running a research project.
The need for a Critical Approach
It is important to have a critical approach in analysing the outcome of any research data. While the University acknowledges that researchers often work under pressure and constraints, it stresses the importance of checking data prior to its publication. It is important that ideas and findings can be challenged and tested. Researchers must ensure that they do not succumb to pressure and compromise the normal processes of research enquiry, e.g. constraints on data presentation or on publication imposed by a funding source.
Financial Integrity in the Management of Research Funds
Each Funder has its own rules in relation to the administration of research awards, including financial management and reporting requirements. It is important that award holders/ Principal Investigators (PIs) comply with all funding rules of their Funders, in addition to complying with the relevant DCU policies and procedures. The Research Finance team can assist PIs with understanding the financial responsibilities and ensuring they are met.
Expenditure on a research award from internal and/or external sources is possible only when the award has been formally accepted by Research Support on behalf of the University, the Research Finance team has been notified and a subcost has been created for the award. The University has developed the Research Lifecycle resource to guide researchers/PIs through this process.
The PI is responsible for ensuring that expenditure on the award is in accordance with the budget and the associated terms and conditions of the award. It is a good practice to review and proactively manage projects on an ongoing basis (and not just near the end of the project lifecycle when funds are scarce). The Research Finance team sends out monthly reports to PIs to assist them in managing their projects. PIs can also access the account details through TORA for continuous monitoring of research accounts.
Financial irregularities, including overspends, are considered serious breaches of good practice. In case of any irregularities, the PI (in conjunction with his/her Head of School/Centre) needs to take steps to resolve the issue.
Irregularities in management of research funds can result in:
- Stopping all further expenditure on specific grants
- Removal of access to internal funding, including research overheads
- Formal disciplinary action.
Should PIs have any doubts or queries in relation to the financial management of their research award or potential financial irregularities, the Research Finance team can assist with clarifications and guidance.
DCU retains overall responsibility and ownership for research equipment in DCU, unless otherwise agreed in writing. Fixed assets, e.g. plant and lab equipment and computers, should be entered on the Fixed Assets Register. The DCU Fixed Asset accountant looks after the register and can also assist researchers with completing the Asset Movement form, which must be completed prior to moving any equipment off-site or disposing of it. Fixed assets represent a large capital investment by the University, its staff, funding agencies and other stakeholders. It is, therefore, important to ensure such equipment is properly maintained and utilised. It is the responsibility of the relevant researcher and School/Unit to ensure that they are maintained and serviced appropriately. In the spirit of collaboration, access to research equipment should be provided on request, taking into account the suitability of the equipment for the task, available capacity and clearly identified additional costs.
The DCU Research Infrastructure Unit was set up to enable easy access to DCU’s broad range of state-of-the-art research equipment and facilities. The Research Infrastructure Network is made up of core facilities, equipment, services and expertise and provides a means of open access for DCU researchers. The equipment is managed independently of research projects and are supported by an experienced research technical team. Researchers can request the access to the relevant equipment, request training and set-up the necessary budget against the equipment required. If you wish for your equipment to be included in the Research Infrastructure Network you can contact a member of the Research Infrastructure Unit team. More information about the equipment available for use and the contact details of the relevant member of staff can be found on the Research Infrastructure Unit website.
When collaborating with an industry partner it is important to be aware of potential issues regarding State Aid – both direct and indirect. If the State (including a state agency or state funding body) provides funding for the University’s core activities like teaching and research, this is not considered to be State Aid because the funding is not for economic activities. However, if State funding or the results or IP generated from State Funding are used for economic activities, then the University can be in breach of State Aid rules. The University is required to maintain record of accounts to show that the balance of economic and non- economic activity is in line with State Aid rules and there is no cross-subsidisation of economic activities by publicly-funded non-economic activities.
Situations where researchers are not in breach of State Aid rules include:
- If the economic activity is purely ancillary to the main non-economic activity being funded by the State and is limited in scope
- If the university is just an intermediary for passing on the totality of the funding to the final recipients.
Indirect State Aid occurs if the University or any representative of the University permits a private company to avail of funding or resources provided by the State that directly benefit that company. This infringement of the rules can be avoided if the researcher structures the interaction in the right way. A collaboration between the University and the industry partner should always be defined by a legal agreement. The terms for a licence or assignment of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the costs in undertaking the research needs to be defined in the agreement. The DCU Invent team and the Research Support team can help researchers with drafting and negotiating the agreement.
No Indirect state aid will arise if any one of the following conditions are met in case of an industry – University collaboration:
- The industry bears the full economic cost of the project, which includes full overheads
- The results of the collaboration do that not give rise to IPR may be widely disseminated and any IPR resulting from the activities of the researcher is fully allocated to the University
- Any IPR resulting from the project and access rights are allocated between the collaborators to reflect adequately their work packages, contributions and respective interests
- The University receives compensation equivalent to the market price for the IPR that results from its activities and which is assigned or licenced to a company.
The quality of research is not only determined by the scientific rigour but also on its ethical adequacy. Ethical issues are many and varied, and may be quite complex. In general, it is expected that members of the DCU research community will pursue their research activities in a manner that is consistent with the highest standards of ethical and scientific practice, and will seek to maximise the benefits and minimise the harm associated with their research.
Research projects with human or animal participants require approval from the DCU Research Ethics Committee (DCU REC) or via devolved review at Faculty or School level. This approval process is designed to protect the research participants, the researchers, and the good name of the University. DCU’s Research Ethics Committee provides feedback on research ethics submissions so that any risk of harm is minimised and various ethical principles are promoted.
Researchers must refrain from any conduct or action in their role as a researcher employed by the University that would unjustifiably detract from the good name of the institution. Supervisors of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, have ultimate responsibility to work with students on the submission of project proposals to the REC where required, and the subsequent monitoring of ethical standards in the conduct of the projects. For further guidance, please refer to the DCU Research Ethics Guidelines on the REC webpage. Additional training on research involving human participants, and on navigating the research ethics application process can be accessed via the Research Ethics Application Portal.
Health & Safety in Research
It is critical that researchers understand and manage the risks associated with their research. This risk can be to their own or other’s health and safety. Core to developing such understanding is the identification of hazards and the development of competences (through specific training etc.) in the safety aspects of their research. In addition, knowledge of the health and safety policies applicable to the work is important. If the research involves biological agents, then the Biosafety Committee must be notified of the project and approval must be sought before beginning any work. For further information, please refer to the DCU Framework Safety Statement and Local School / Research Centre Safety Statements.
Conflict of Interest
Within the general framework of DCU’s Strategic Plan and Human Resource policies, individual departments and academic staff develop their own ‘portfolio’ of research activity, including external collaborations. However, by engaging in certain activities, employees may place themselves in a position that conflicts with their DCU duties, or compromises the independence and integrity of their research. As a condition of research grant funding, many Funders seek written assurance that such conflicts are properly managed.
The DCU Conflict of Interest Policy document sets out DCU’s policy and provides some practical guidelines on how to manage potential or actual conflicts. For example, researchers may be open to suspicion that decisions they take as a DCU employee are influenced by personal interest. In the vast majority of cases simple disclosure of potentially conflicting activities is sufficient to avoid issues.
It is good practice, and often a funding requirement, that a Data Management Plan (DMP) is put in place for each research project. DCU Library can assist researchers with developing their DMP. “Research Data Management: Guidance and Resources” is a short guide for researchers which outlines the key data management questions that DCU researchers need to consider and provides guidance on how to respond to these questions. The guide is available via the Research Data Management section of the Research Support website.
If personal data is collected or processes as part of a research project, relevant data protection legislation and the DCU Data Protection Policy must be complied with. The University’s Data Protection Unit (DPU) can assist researchers with queries relating to the protection of personal data and ensuring compliance with data protection legislation. Note that compliance with data protection requirements is part of the Research Ethics Committee (REC) approval process and needs to have been addressed prior to applying for REC approval. The DPU team can assist researchers with their Data Protection Impact Assessment and preparing a Personal Data Security Schedule for their research project, if required.
Key elements that need to be assessed and clarified before commencing research include the ownership and use of personal data, data used or created in the course of the research and the results of the research. The responsibilities and procedures for the storage and disposal of all data and samples will also need be addressed.
Data sets are an important resource, which enable later verification/audit of scientific interpretation and conclusions, and may also be the starting point for further studies. Therefore, even if the individuals responsible for generating the data relocate, a set should be retained in DCU. This is particularly important in the case of Masters and PhD students who leave the university on completion of their higher degree.
The appropriate period for retaining data will depend on circumstances and the research field in question. Equally, the means of data storage should be appropriate to the task.
Researchers must also pay particular attention to any non-disclosure agreements entered into and/or non-disclosure clauses in proposed funding agreements and ensure they do not compromise good practice in data/sample retention and/or publication of research outputs.
DCU’s Intellectual Property Policy is available on the DCU Invent website. The policy is in place to ensure that staff and students can contribute as effectively as possible to the dissemination of knowledge, while complying with policies and contractual arrangements that govern state and externally funded research.
DCU researchers have a duty to ensure that intellectual property arising from their work is properly protected. Researchers must inform DCU Invent of any intellectual property rights that may arise from their research. In the case of externally-funded research, they must also inform their Funder if this is requested.
It is essential to keep thorough records of experimental work as part of good research practice and also for intellectual property purposes. Carefully maintained laboratory notebooks may be necessary to prove the date of an invention and its reduction to practice. It is particularly important that appropriate laboratory notebooks are used for projects involving industrial collaborators and in many cases it is stipulated in research agreements.
The University encourages researchers to engage in Open Research/Science, which focuses on making research practices and outputs more transparent, collaborative and efficient, ensuring the greatest possible impact. Whilst the concept of Open Research encourages openness throughout the whole research lifecycle, the emphasis is most often on Open Access (in relation to publications) and Open Data (in relation to underlying research data).
Open Access refers to free, unrestricted online access to research outputs such as journal articles and books. The provision of Open Access to research publications is required by many national funding agencies. DCU staff are encouraged and supported to deposit all journal articles, conference items, books, and book chapters into DCU’s Open Access Institutional Repository DORAS, which provides a secure central repository for the research output of the university and makes scholarly information produced in DCU available to the wider community thereby maximising the visibility, accessibility, and potential impact of your research output. DCU researchers can also avail of a wide number of open access publishing agreements in place with publishers via DCU’s membership of the IReL consortium. Furthermore, DCU supports OA monograph publishing via DCU Press.
In relation to Open Data, researchers are encouraged to make their data “FAIR”, i.e. findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, in order for it to be usefully accessed by others. Once results have been published, researchers should make available relevant data and materials to others, on request, provided that this is consistent with any ethical approvals and consents that cover the data and materials, and any intellectual property rights (IPR) in them. The University recognises that researchers may need to formally protect such IPR and provides support through DCU Invent on managing IPR.
The outcome of a research project and any significant results should be disseminated to the relevant stakeholders, including the wider global research community, those impacted by the results and potential influencers and policy makers, as appropriate. The avenues to communicate with stakeholders should be appropriately chosen to reflect the audience to be reached.
Researchers are also strongly encouraged to record all research outputs in DCU’s Research Engine, in accordance with best international practice and to showcase their research and experience and develop their international profile. Maintaining a current online presence, reflective of their research activity, makes it easier for other researchers, students and potential stakeholders to find out about researchers and their work. A high visibility profile offers the potential to develop new collaborations, increase citation levels and to increase invitations to review and to participate in conferences, workshops etc.
Export Controls and Dual-Use Research
Dual-use research is research that is used to produce new knowledge that could easily be misused in harmful ways. Dual-use items cover both technology and software and can include items that could be used for the design, development, production or use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or their means of delivery, as well as technologies that can monitor individuals or be used in surveillance etc.
Dual-use items can be subject to export controls. As a researcher, you have a responsibility to consider whether your research activities could be subject to export controls. The EU regulation EC- No 428/2009 provides details in relation to the control of exports of dual-use items. The Irish Export Licensing Unit of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment (DETE) are nationally responsible for administering and enforcing the Export Control laws in Ireland and can provide clarity regarding whether particular research activities will be subjected to export control laws. They can also provide guidance and support in relation to obtaining export licenses for dual-use research.
If you are working with protected goods, sensitive information, genetic materials, biological or chemical substances with proven or implied dual-use, areas of potential transgression include:
- Travelling overseas to conduct research - Taking either research equipment or sensitive information overseas could be subject to export controls. This includes business plans or technologies that potentially pose a risk to national security.
- Travelling overseas with computers and other electronic devices - When researchers take their computer or other electronic devices with them on a trip overseas, they need to make sure they are aware of any software or information carried on these devices that might pose a risk to national security. Also be aware that sending emails abroad could be viewed as 'exporting' information.
- Hosting foreign visitors - If researchers host visitors from countries that pose security risks to the Republic of Ireland or the European Union, they must make sure they do not share information with them that is judged to pose a risk to national security or the security of the Union.
- Working as an overseas consultant - Researchers will be subject to export control regulations if they provide expertise as an overseas consultant to countries or individuals that are judged to pose a risk to the national security of the Republic of Ireland or to the security of the European Union.
- Employing foreign nationals as part of their research team - Students/colleagues returning to their country of origin will often 'export' what they have learned. Sometimes, they may export materials/equipment. In view of this, they may have to be excluded from some research projects or denied associated information.
- Shipping biological materials - International or national regulations and research agreements place restrictions on exporting and importing biological materials. Before sending or receiving any biological materials, researchers must make sure they are in compliance with all related regulations (e.g. the Nagoya Protocol).
Export Control and Dual Use research is a new and evolving area. Researchers can access the Epigeum Export Controls course through Loop, the institutional virtual learning environment (VLE), to learn more about Dual Use research and Export Control laws.
If you are unsure as to whether your activities could be subject to Export Controls or have queries regarding this area, please contact the Office of the DCU Chief Operations Officer for assistance.
Enhancing Research Integrity in Research Collaborations
Collaborative research can occur:
- within and between national higher education or research performing institutions (inter-institutional collaboration),
- between and across different research disciplines (inter- or multidisciplinary collaboration),
- across national borders (international collaboration), and
- with a range of different partners, including higher education institutions, state research bodies, public sector organisations, private enterprises and civic/civil society organisations (CSOs), such as charities and voluntary organisations (inter-sectoral collaboration).
The Framework to Enhance Research Integrity in Research Collaborations seeks to provide guidance for researchers on how to reinforce a culture of responsible conduct of research in their collaborations so they can, as far as possible, avoid incidences of serious research misconduct and unacceptable research practices occurring during the collaborative work. The Framework outlines a series of topics that should be considered by partners in a research collaboration before the collaboration commences, which may help to avoid problems arising later on. The Framework is an output of the National Research Integrity Forum, which DCU is an active member of.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
It is important to adhere to the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy. Professional conduct is given a lot of emphasis within the University and any allegations of bullying or harassment should be addressed through the University Policy.
Careful consideration should be given to gender equality and inclusion during the recruitment of personnel for any project. Researchers should also consider determining the relevance of integrating sex and gender analysis into their research. In recent years, many Funders require that universities develop a gender equality plan. As part of this requirement the university is required to fulfil the following:
- publication of a formal document on its website, signed by senior management;
- commitment of resources and expertise in gender equality to implement the plan;
- sex/gender disaggregated data on staff and students and annual reporting based on indicators;
- awareness raising/training on gender equality and unconscious gender biases for staff and decision-makers.
It is good research practice for researchers to include meaningful stakeholder engagement throughout their research projects, from generating ideas to data collection to knowledge exchange and impact assessment. The stakeholders could be very broad ranging and include those who will be affected by the research, those who are interested in it and/or those who could influence the impact of the research. This could include the scientific community, end- users, policy makers, civil society organisations, the general public and others. Stakeholders can be involved in a wide variety of ways such as, advisory groups, project team members, attendance at events and workshops, participation in surveys and working groups or dissemination activities. Engagement not only builds capacity for the project, but ensures its relevance and can help maximise its impact.
For research in the area of Health and Social Care, the PPI Ignite team is available to assist researchers with planning or implementing meaningful Public and Patient Involvement (PPI).
DCU Civic Engagement are also available to advise and assist researchers with increasing their stakeholder engagement and impact in relation to civic and community engagement.
The University encourages researchers to publish and disseminate results of high quality research. Publication and dissemination of results must be done responsibly and it is important for researchers to be cognisant of the consequences of any such dissemination in the wider media. The DCU Code of Practice on Authorship guides researchers on the issue of authorship of research papers, reports or other research outputs. DCU Library can advise in relation to the dissemination of research findings through scientific peer-reviewed journals, books, conference proceedings etc. and provide guidance in relation to journal selection, ORCiD and Open Access etc. See the Openness (Research/Science) section of this Code for further information regarding Open Access.
Research Integrity and Misconduct
Honesty and Integrity
Researchers must be honest in respect of their own actions in research and in their responses to the actions of other researchers. This applies to the whole range of research work, including design, generating and analysing data, applying for funding, publishing results, and acknowledging the direct and indirect contribution of colleagues, collaborators and others. The University aims to promote integrity in research through good example, training and open discussion of issues of research integrity.
Research Integrity Training
As part of its commitment to promoting best practice in responsible research behaviour, DCU provides online training in Research Integrity. The course provides researchers with a better understanding of the obligations and responsibilities that today’s researchers have, along with practical advice on how to deal with the complex situations in which they may find themselves. It includes practical information that users can quickly apply to their own situations, and that captures the complexity of real-life situations.
By the end of the course, researchers should be able to:
- Know, understand and explain the key responsibilities they have as a researcher
- Identify the challenges they could face in meeting those responsibilities
- Be aware of strategies for dealing with pressures and difficult situations
Supervisors should be aware of the contents of the university training on Research Integrity in order to advise students on the issues that may arise when they are planning, conducting and reporting their research. Supervisors should encourage students to attend relevant internal and external training courses, related to good research practice, as part of their overall career development.
Allegations of Research Misconduct
Researchers may make honest errors in the collection or interpretation of data, but penalties for misconduct may apply where practices have been adopted that deviate significantly from those commonly accepted by the scientific community for conducting, reporting, or proposing research.
The following forms of misconduct are especially serious breaches of honesty and integrity:
- any form of fraud, such as fabricating or falsifying data or records of analysis
- piracy or plagiarism
- sabotaging the work, records or protocols of other researchers
- breach of confidence or abuse of power as a reviewer or supervisor
- mismanagement of funds.
Researchers are encouraged to report cases of suspected misconduct and to do so in a responsible and appropriate manner. No claims of misconduct against other people should be made that are frivolous or based on hearsay. Where specific issues arise in relation to the Code of Good Research Practice, these should be addressed, where feasible, within the research team before being raised at the Faculty or University level. For further guidance, including information on the process for reporting suspected misconduct, please refer to the DCU Policy for Dealing with Allegations of Research Misconduct.
Research and Innovation Support is responsible for the administration of this policy and its communication to management and employees within the University. Employees of the University are responsible for adhering to the Code.
There is an onus on all staff and students to ensure that they are familiar with this Code of Good Research Practice, in conjunction with other relevant existing policies and procedures of DCU. Failure to comply with the University’s Code of Good Research Practice may be grounds for instigating disciplinary proceedings.
This Code should be read in conjunction with all other relevant existing policies and procedures of Dublin City University as collated in the Policy Starter Pack for New Research Staff on the DCU Policies page, including the Policy for Dealing with Allegations of Research Misconduct, Conflict of Interest Policy, and Code of Practice on Authorship. Researchers should also be aware of the National Policy Statement on Ensuring Research Integrity in Ireland, the HEA Principles of Good Practice in Research within Irish Higher Level Institutions and the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.