Over the past few years the Faculty of Health Science (FHS), North-West University (NWU), has managed to build up an effective research ethics system under the management of the Faculty of Health Sciences Ethics Office for Research, Training and Support. In the absence of a system to handle cases of potential breach in research integrity through acts of 1) research non-compliance, 2) violation of good research practice or 3) research misconduct, these aspects were integrated into the mentioned Ethics Office without the involvement of the Research Ethics Committee chairpersons or the Research Ethics Committees (RECs), making it possible to manage any potential conflict of interest. The approach followed was that if the actions of a researcher (academic or postgraduate student) involved a potential breach in research integrity, it was handled in the Faculty by the Dean of the FHS and the Head of the Ethics Office or was escalated to the Registrar should there be proof of potential research misconduct.
In 2018 two changes occurred: 1) the appointment of Deputy Deans in Faculties, and 2) the NWU approving a Policy on Academic Integrity (2018). The mentioned policy includes both teaching-learning and research practices. It provides guidelines on how the office of the Registrar will handle a formal internal and external investigation into potential academic misconduct of an undergraduate or postgraduate student or a staff member. These two mentioned changes, as well as an increase in cases of a breach in research integrity in the FHS and other faculties, created a greater awareness of the importance of research integrity (RI) and the need to find more effective and comprehensive ways to manage RI in the FHS.
In 2018 the management of RI was then delegated to the Deputy Dean: Research and Innovation (DD: R&I) and previously formulated processes and procedures (SOPs) falling under the Ethics Office had to be reviewed. The first step in 2018 was just to create a greater awareness of RI within the FHS. This was accomplished by presenting several training sessions in RI on all three campuses to both academics and postgraduate students. Since 2019 RI training became an integral part of the two-day Research Ethics Training course in the FHS with the first morning dedicated to RI. Towards the latter part of 2019 it was decided to develop an extensive research integrity management system for the FHS, as well as its accompanying processes and procedures during 2020 under the auspices of the DD: R&I, envisaged to roll out in 2021.
The system became known as the Integrated Research Integrity Management System (IRIMS) of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
In 2021 the role out started in earnest with setting up administrative systems, giving training on IRIMS to directors, academics and postgraduate students, as well as building a climate that fosters Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).
See more detail on the IRIMS under “About us”.