THE ETHICS OF RESEARCH
All members of the University, including research students, are under an obligation to observe the highest standards of professional conduct. Failure to do so, not only defeats the object of scholarly enquiry, but brings both the researcher and the University into disrepute. The need for researchers to comply with strict ethical guidelines is especially important where the pressure to complete dissertations promptly or produce other publications, e.g. journal articles, may generate a temptation to neglect or relax normal practices.
The nature and scope of one's ethical duty as a researcher rests on two fundamental assumptions that ought to be self-evident. The first is that of honesty in the conduct of research, the reporting of findings, and the proper attribution of ideas and their source. The second is that positions of seniority or responsibility should never be abused so as to put pressure on research students to forego their right to proper acknowledgement of their contribution to the research or publication in question.
Certain sorts of work in the University need specific permission before they can be embarked upon. Experimental work with animals must be approved by the Committee on the Use of Live Animals in Teaching and Research; work on human subjects in a clinical setting needs ethical approval from the Ethics Committees of the Faculty of Medicine or Dentistry. For non-clinical research studies involving human subjects, please seek ethical approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee for Non-Clinical Faculties (HRECNCF). Please refer to the Operational Guidelines and Procedures of Human Research Ethics Committee for Non-Clinical Faculties (document 138 / 1008). Research students' supervisors and departments will be able to give them guidance on what is required.
The most common form of academic misconduct is, however, plagiarism which assumes several forms. Research students' attention is drawn to the following Regulation:
- A candidate shall not engage in plagiarism nor employ nor seek to employ any other unfair means at an examination or in any other form of work submitted for assessment as part of a University examination. Plagiarism is defined as the unacknowledged use, as one's own, of work of another person, whether or not such work has been published.
Regulations Governing Students’ Academic Conduct
Concerning Assessment (Appendix XXIV).
As a general rule, all researchers are duty bound to acknowledge the source of ideas or data used in their research. The University expects that senior staff, such as heads of department or supervisors, will never coerce students into allowing them to pass off the research of their students as their own, either wholly or partly.
Students should take the greatest care in acknowledging the work of others, whether it be through the use of marks to designate quotations or through the proper acknowledgement of sources. Three booklets available, free-of-charge from the Graduate School, can help you with this problem. Preparing and Submitting your Theses provides general advice and deals with the related area of copyright. What is Plagiarism? and Plagiarism and How to Avoid It offer further advice and simple exercises on how to acknowledge and present the ideas of others in one's own writing.
Any research student who is in any doubt about his or her ethical responsibilities should discuss the matter, at the earliest opportunity, with his or her supervisor.
The Graduate School will also, as part of its course offerings for MPhil and PhD candidates, incorporate modules which explore further the "boundaries" of ethical conduct of research, including plagiarism.
Falsification of data is another equally serious offence. Research findings or data which have been fabricated, manipulated or falsified, are easily discernible. Students suspected of having committed such fraudulent acts may be subject to disciplinary action and / or may be deemed to have failed the thesis examination.
A student who is alleged to have infringed Regulation 6 of the Regulations Governing Conduct at Examinations in any form is liable to be the subject of a complaint before the Disciplinary Committee under "an offence in connexion with degree, diploma, or certificate examinations, including violation of any of the regulations of the Senate governing conduct at examinations or otherwise". For a student who is found to be guilty of an alleged offence under the said Regulations by the Disciplinary Committee, the consequences are severe. The range of penalties which may be imposed by the Disciplinary Committee include:
- a formal reprimand;
- a fine;
- withdrawal of any academic or other University privileges or rights;
- suspension; or
- expulsion from the University.
The student may also be subject to such other actions as may be considered appropriate by the examiners under the relevant examination regulations.
Full details on what constitutes disciplinary action, and the possible consequences of such action can be found in the Powers of the Disciplinary Committee, a copy of which is reproduced at Appendix XXVII.
The Policy for Ethical Practice in Research (Appendix XXII) was approved by the Council held on April 29, 2003. It clearly lays down the fundamental principles of what constitutes responsible behaviour in research and standards that are expected to be observed.