In real life it is not easy for research misconduct to come to light. This is because details of how research is conducted are often known only to the people who work on it. And when research misconduct is perceived, not everyone is willing to speak out.
Section 2.8 of HKU Policy on Research Integrity says, “Members of the university should report to the authorities concerned any research misconduct or suspected misconduct.” It recognises everyone shares the responsibility to uphold research integrity within the institution, because research misconduct not only harms societal trust and confidence in the research process, but also may lead to wasted resources, harm to subjects, or dissemination of misleading findings.
But faced with the cost of being a “whistleblower”, many choose inaction. Research finds that over 60% of whistleblowers suffered negative consequences of some kind, such as hostile working conditions or demotion.
In view of this dilemma, research institutions devise rules to encourage reporting misconduct. The Office of Research Integrity’s Introduction to the responsible conduct of research expressly provides that research misconduct policies should provide protection for whistleblowers. (Chapter 2)
HKU has put into force Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research. According to the procedure, any allegation of research misconduct will be strictly confidential until the allegation is found substantiated, which affords both protections to the complainer and the accused. (Section 6.3 & Section 8.1) A preliminary review to decide whether a case stands will take place before an investigation committee is formed to look thoroughly into it. (Section 6, 7 & 8) This rules out unmeritorous claims and ensures that every allegation is expeditiously and competently investigated to resolution.
Office of research integrity, University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2015). Research misconduct. Retrieved October 27, 2016 from https://www.uaf.edu/ori/responsible-conduct/research-misconduct/
Research Services – Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research. (January 29, 2013). Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.rss.hku.hk/integrity/rcr/staff-misconduct
Steneck, N. H. (2004). ORI introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity.