Frequently asked Questions

What is the Research Integrity Office (RIO)?
The Research Integrity Office manages the SAMRC Research Integrity Programmes. The Office also manages the Ethics Office within the SAMRC.
Why is RIO important for the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)?
To ensure that research conducted by SAMRC researchers is of high integrity and research is conducted in a responsible manner.
What is Research Integrity (RI)?
Research Integrity is the active adherence to the ethical principles and professional standards essential for the responsible practice of research (Korenman, 2006). Research integrity is the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles and professional standards as outlined by professional organisations, research institutions and government and the public (Steneck, 2002). It refers to a characterisation or an evaluation of research behaviour.

Research Integrity is simply, justice and honesty in research proposals, conduct of research, and reporting research or doing it right and telling the truth about what one has done.

What is Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)?
RCR refers to research conduct that fulfils the professional responsibilities of researchers as defined by their professional organisations, institutions as well as government (and public);

At the very least, responsible research is:

  • Research that is built on a commitment to the values – Honesty (in conveying information truthfully and honouring commitments), Accuracy (reporting findings precisely and taking care to avoid errors), Efficiency (using resources wisely and avoiding waste, and Objectivity (letting the facts speak for themselves and avoiding improper bias) (ORI, 2005 42 CFR, Section 93.103).
What is a breach of research

“A Breach of research norms and standards” or “Breach of accepted procedures for responsible conduct of research” is an unintentional failure to comply with processes, principles or specific provisions, policies and guidelines governing the conduct of research by any individuals and groups at the SAMRC who are involved in research, research training or research-related grants, partnerships, contracts or cooperative agreements. This includes both omission and commission acts by a researcher.

What is Research Misconduct (RM)?

Research misconduct involves intentional distortion of the research process, recklessness or gross negligence related to the scientific message, undue credit and emphasis given to the scientist; and/or serious deviations from accepted standards within the research and scholarly community for proposing, conducting or reporting research; and may have consequences that are detrimental for the perpetrators.

Who is a complainant and respondent?

Complainant is a person who in good faith makes an allegation of research misconduct. While respondent is the person against whom an allegation of research misconduct is directed or the person whose actions are the subject of the inquiry or investigation. There can be more than one respondent in any inquiry or investigation, and, if there are multiple respondents, all references in this policy to “respondent” shall also be read in the plural as appropriate.

How does Research Integrity Office oversee research misconduct?

Allegations are first brought to the attention of the research integrity officer at the SAMRC where the alleged misconduct occurred. The SAMRC must notify RIO if it determines that an investigation is warranted. Allegations of research misconduct also may come directly to RIO. In this scenario, RIO will assess the allegation to determine whether it falls within its jurisdiction. Allegations of research misconduct also may come directly to ORI. In this scenario, ORI will assess the allegation to determine whether it falls within its jurisdiction. If it does, ORI then forwards the case to the institution where the alleged research misconduct took place for its subsequent inquiry and investigation (as warranted). The RIO is always available to assist the institution with its inquiry and investigation to ensure that it follows the regulatory requirements.

What actions cannot be taken by RIO?

The RIO can advices and proposes administrative actions and procedures aligned to the research misconduct policy but does not have the statutory authority to undertake any civil or criminal justice proceedings. If the RIO believes that a criminal or civil fraud violation may have occurred, it must promptly refer the matter to the Department of Justice.

Can a respondent appeal RIO’s proposed administrative actions?

The respondent has a right to engage own legal representative during the enquiry.

What are my rights if I am accused of research misconduct?

The information about confidentiality of the proceedings in a research misconduct case and other precautions to protect the rights of both the accused (respondent) and the complainant ought to be, followed and respected the way they have been stipulated in the Policy and Procedures for responding to allegations of research misconduct. The rights of the respondent include the opportunity to testify, to retain representation, and if there is no finding of research misconduct, reasonable efforts by the SAMRC shall be taken to protect the respondent.

How can I help to prevent research misconduct?

The best way to prevent research misconduct is to become aware of the best practices as provided in the SAMRC Responsible Conduct of Research Guidelines as well as in International Statements –Singapore (2010) on Research Integrity and Montreal (2013) and other relevant information.   In addition, attendance of Good Clinical Practice and Good Laboratory training including Ethics Training.

Can I submit allegation anonymously?

The SAMRC will not normally act on anonymous formal allegations lodged against individuals. However, anonymous allegations of research misconduct may be acted upon if they contain sufficient information to enable the assessment of the allegations and the credibility of the facts and evidence on which the complaint is based (i.e. without the need for further information from the source of the allegation).

In the event of an anonymous allegation, the source of the allegation will not:

  • be entitled to participate in the procedures set out in the SAMRC Research Misconduct Policy.
  • receive notice of the status of the complaint or a report of the outcome of any inquiry or investigation conducted in respect of the complaint
What are my rights and responsibilities regarding privacy and confidentiality?

Except where prescribed or required by law or the direction of a competent court of law, the designated Research Integrity Officer will:

  • limit disclosure of the identity of respondents and complainants to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective and fair research misconduct proceeding;
  • limit the disclosure of any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified to those who need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding.

The RIO should use written confidentiality agreements or other legally binding mechanisms to ensure that the recipient does not make any further disclosure of identifying information.

When can RIO refer matter to the Human Resources Division?

If the allegation does not meet the definition of research misconduct, the RIO may refer the individual or allegation to other relevant offices for assistance, e.g. if the allegation is work related or relate to employee conduct it can be referred to Human Resources.

How does a complaint or research misconduct get launched and/or reported?

All employees of the SAMRC launch/report observed, suspected or apparent research misconduct to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO), depending on the situation, they can either call (if in the other three regions – Pretoria, Johannesburg and Kwa-Zulu Natal. If in Parow office where the RIO resides, they can meet with the RIO face-to-face. In the end, every allegation has to be presented in writing (including all detail of the alleged research misconduct, accurate and be specific) to the RIO.

What is “coercion” in research?

“Coercion occurs when an overt threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person in order to obtain compliance” (The Belmont Report).

What is inducement?

Inducements are offers that get people to do things they would not otherwise do. In research, this involves any activity that encourages participation. (It can take any form that will encourage participation).