TEQSA advises how it expects institutions to deal with academic and research integrity. The former is easier addressed than the latter.
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency released its guidance note Friday, following a feedback draft last year.
It’s straightforward stuff for academic integrity. The Threshold Standards specify “ provider’s responsibility to ensure its staff and students act with honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility as they engage in learning and teaching.” Only an individual or institution in serious strife would want to quibble about what any of that means.
Not so much for research integrity, where “plagiarism, falsifying or fabricating data, omitting data to manipulate a result or misleading attributions of authorship,” in high-stakes research can – and will – be contested. And the existing research misconduct investigation system is such that TEQSA standards could matter in any assessment of how an institution handled allegations.
Especially given the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research leaves it to organisations to investigate research integrity allegations about work by their staff. The Australian Research Integrity Committee is empowered to assess process, rather actual allegations.
This keeps everything in the research community, what with ARIC being a creature of two of the peak funding agencies – the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. A KPMG review of ARIC, quietly filed in October made no mention of TEQSA.
And yet the agency cites, “concerns about academic integrity” as among its’ regulatory responsibilities.
Thus the new guidance note includes TEQSA will look for; “responsible staff … trained to identify potential academic and research integrity breaches and take appropriate action.” This may take some finding, as Adrian Barnet (QUT) and colleagues discovered when surveyed Australian institutions on research integrity roles and resources. “There were multiple institutions where we found it difficult to find anything about research integrity and other institutions where the contact about research integrity was a generic email, (Campus Morning Mail May 8 2023).
TEQSA is also interested in “policies and procedures for promoting and upholding academic and research integrity and addressing misconduct and allegations of misconduct,” of which there may well be fewer than there should. Last year a team including Kate Christian (QUT) found over half of surveyed Early Career Researchers did not believe complaints of unethical research practise would be acted on.
There are continuing calls, which never seem to be heard by ministers, for an independent integrity agency to police research integrity. In its absence, TEQSA seems way better than nothing.