Australia’s top scientists have called for a research integrity watchdog to oversee investigations into allegations of research misconduct at publicly funded institutions, declaring the age of self-regulation is over.
We agree. It is high time that Australia has an independent national body to investigate and rule on alleged research misconduct. Individual institutions have an undeniable conflict of interest in transparently handling allegations and complaints. Institutions and grant funding bodies should continue to inform reflective practice by researchers in institutions. The concept of self-regulation is simply no longer fit for purpose.
It would have statutory authority to handle allegations of serious research misconduct such as fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, leaving issues that fell below that threshold to the governing institutions, and hear appeals if the institutions were deemed not to have dealt with matters fairly or in a timely manner.
The academy’s secretary of science policy, Ian Chubb, a former chief scientist and vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said he was not suggesting universities were in the business of concealing research misconduct, but the rising number of Inspectors-General and Ombudsmen reflected a general distrust for self-regulation and growing support for independent oversight.