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Module 3: Conducting Research Responsibly – Protecting Yourself, Your Research, and Your University


As a researcher, you are bound by significant governance expectations, responsible research practices, and the need to comply with statutes and regulations. This module examines the context in which research operates and the resultant requirements for research practice. The need to operate within a university-specific framework of governance, responsible research practice, and statutory and regulatory requirements is also explored. You will have an opportunity to explore the nature of compliance as a partnership in research governance, rather than an imposed requirement. In all disciplines across universities, researchers enjoy important academic freedoms and privileges, including freedom of inquiry, the right to disseminate the results of research inquiry, freedom to challenge conventional thought, and the privilege of conducting research in areas requiring public trust and support. With this freedom comes the responsibility to ensure that the research meets the highest scientific and ethical standards. Ideally, integrity and experience combine in good research and great research leaders.

The module provides you with an overview of the ethical landscape in higher education. It is not intended to offer a full coverage of all issues and processes. Should you require specific guidance you should contact your research or legal office within your university.

This module comprises online learning material and a workshop.

You are expected to devote time to reading the online material and carrying out compulsory activities before attending the workshop. This module should take 4 hours to read and to complete the compulsory activities.

The workshop is based on the assumption that you have completed the reading and carried out the compulsory activities.


This module considers responsible conduct in research and explores how you can take maximum advantage of your university's governance and compliance requirements to build research strength and leadership. It aims to give you an understanding of the trust placed in people and in institutions that conduct research. You will also gain an appreciation that robust research requires integrity – embodied in a commitment to intellectual honesty and personal responsibility for one's actions.

Learning outcomes

After completing this module you should be able to:

  • Locate and recognise the codes of conduct for research that prescribe standards of work performance and ethical conduct expected of all persons engaged in research
  • Understand the responsibilities of grant-holders
  • Recognise the obligations to the university and community in undertaking publicly-funded and sponsored research
  • Describe the situations where research requires approval by an ethics committee, safety committee, or other regulatory committee or authority
  • Define what constitutes a failure to conduct research responsibly and major forms of research misconduct
  • Identify key sources of information, advice, and further education on specific issues relating to research conduct.

Content overview

The module comprises the following topics:

Topic 1: The research context

In research, as within any community, there are relationships in which obligations can be defined. In many instances, compliance with existing guidelines and codes will be all that is necessary for ethically responsible research. However, on many occasions, we are required to bring a personal integrity to the application of guidelines and codes and to consider those with whom we have a research relationship. These relationships, and how they can impinge on institutional and personal reputation, are investigated.

Topic 2: Grant-holder responsibilities

The obligations associated with receiving and using public research funding are explored. How these obligations are carried out can often strengthen research and a researcher's standing in the eyes of the funding body and the public. Whether the expectations of publicly- or privately-funded research require different grant-holder considerations is examined.

Topic 3: Research integrity

Often one of the most striking things noticed about ethical breaches in the wider community is that those responsible are often considered good people. In the research context we tell ourselves that we would always 'do the right thing', as the major misconducts of falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism are easily identified. Yet you may need a strong personal integrity to develop everyday working practices that are not overwhelmed when a sticky situation arises. The ways in which a research leader can pursue and promote research integrity will be expanded.

Topic 4: Managing your research records

Research reputation relies strongly on how research findings are distributed and the trust that can be held in the process of acquiring the data and retaining it for the benefit of future research and research participants. The topic explores the obligations of a research leader to pursue and promote research integrity through preserving and archiving research records and data. The particular requirements of cross-institutional research, or researchers with joint appointments or other collaborative arrangements, are also explored.

Topic 5: Other governance and compliance issues

We use personal integrity and guidelines to meet many governance requirements and so maintain an ethical and robust research community. Through compliance we meet the requirements of the law relating to our activities. As a research leader you should be aware of all compliance aspects related to your research and recognise these as an integrated way of working fairly, safely, and responsibly. How to avoid – by attention to compliance aspects – the serious consequences of injury, physical or financial damage, or damage to reputation will be outlined.

Workshop details

There will be a 4-hour workshop associated with this module.


Principal writer
Dr Marjorie Dunlop, University of Melbourne
Revised by
Dr Suzanne Morris, University of Queensland
With contributions by
Maree Magafas, University of New South Wales
Michael Pooley, University of Sydney
Educational developers
Bill Potter, Monash University
Associate Professor Len Webster, Monash University
Web developer
Rob Andrew, Monash University
Jane Liang, Go8
Project management
Group of Eight Future Research Leaders Program

Accessing the module material

Now that you have read the module introduction you can access and navigate your way through the module content via the Module 3 Organiser link in the navigation bar at the top left of this page or in the bar below.

If you wish to print this page you can generate a pdf file via this printer icon [ ]. A pdf file for each topic in this module can be generated using the printer icon to the left of each topic title on the Organiser page.

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