The legal and regulatory framework governing research misconduct and effective compliance systems to manage risk

By Tom Fletcher and Linh Nguyen

We have seen a number of high-profile and research-intensive universities respond to allegations of serious research misconduct in recent months against the background of significant media interest. In addition to complying with obligations imposed by funding bodies, universities must also give careful consideration to whether such allegations must be reported to relevant state bodies who are charged with enhancing community confidence in public sector accountability and its legislative obligations to protect whistleblowers. Privacy and defamation issues loom large and also need careful consideration.

From recent press coverage, it would appear that the universities involved have acted quickly and appropriately when becoming aware of research misconduct, avoiding further reputational damage that would have flowed from an inadequate response. However, the press, public, regulatory bodies, university community and ultimately funding bodies (and corporate funders of research) are likely to be less forgiving of universities whose compliance systems fail to prevent systematic contraventions of research obligations.

These high-profile cases have led to several calls for an independent body to oversee university investigations and collect data on allegations of misconduct or errors. These developments highlight the importance of universities managing these risks through a strong research compliance culture and effective research compliance systems…

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