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The responsibility of the execution of the Integrated Research Integrity Management System (IRIMS) of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) is vested in the office of the Deputy Dean: Research and Innovation (DD: R&I) as a delegated function of the Executive Dean (ED). An appointed Research Integrity Officer (RIO) drives the functioning of the system. Three linked systems provide the full spectrum of research integrity within the FHS: 1) the Ethics Office for Research, Training and Support and the two Research Ethics Committees NWU-HREC and NWU-AnimCareREC) for research ethics management; 2) the various Scientific Committees under the management of the Research Directors (RD) for scientific management of research; and 3) the newly established Research Integrity Office for the management of research integrity or the breach thereof.

The IRIMS adopted by the FHS in February 2021 is built on the belief that such a system should be: 1) conducive to creating and fostering a climate of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), but also 2) take full responsibility to act should any researcher (staff or student) fail to follow good research practices that could lead to: a violation of professional responsibilities; damaging the research process; degrading relationships amongst researchers; undermining trust and the credibility of the research; wasting resources; and exposing research participants, users, society or the environment to unnecessary harm.

Figure 2 gives a layout of the three main components of the IRIMS and are briefly discussed below.

1.1 Fostering a climate of responsible conduct in research

The value and benefits of research are vitally dependent on the integrity of research (Singapore Statement, 2010). The practices of a scientific community should promote confidence and trust in their research findings through Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). This will become possible if a scientific community builds its practices on sound principles and adhering to specific accepted professional responsibilities. Both the individual and the institution should accept accountability for this.

Read more about fostering a climate of responsible conduct of research (RCR)

1.2 Management of potential breaches in research integrity

For purposes of making research integrity manageable, acts of potential breaches are placed on a continuum of seriousness. Although there is this suggested continuum, the FHS views all these acts as harmful to maximising the quality and robustness of our research and as such will act appropriately to manage and ameliorate the effects of such acts. However, even if an act is placed on the less serious side of the continuum, with specific standard operating procedures of how to handle it, it may in some instances be justified to immediate escalate it to disciplinary action or even escalate it to the office of the Registrar for a formal academic integrity investigation.

 

1.3 Managing the research integrity appeals process

The Faculty of Health Sciences must have a mechanism in place whereby a contested decision made by the Standing Research Integrity Committee (SRIC) or the Empanelled Research Integrity Committee (ERIC) during an assessment or investigation into an alleged breach in research integrity may be revisited. It is however, expected that the alleged should make full use of the opportunity given to him/her during the initial assessment or investigation when his/her side of the story is being heard. The latter opportunity may prevent unnecessary misunderstandings. In the event of a failure to reach a resolution, the alleged may proceed in terms of the appeals process.

Appeals may arise because the person having been assessed or investigated for allegations of a breach in research integrity on Faculty level wishes to alter some of the content of the letter written to him/her, or to question some aspects of the process, or part of the decision made. The request is made to the DD: R&I.

 

  • Appeals panel:

A group of people empanelled by the ED with the support of the RIO for the purpose of handling a research integrity appeals request.

The appeals panel consists of:

  • Chairperson: ED.
  • Research Integrity Officer (RIO).
  • The RD of the research entity in which the alleged resides.
  • Two independent expert panellists knowledgeable about the specific RI issue at hand.
  • Secretariat.