Research misconduct is one or more unethical practices that deviate from those commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It can appear in many forms, and may lead to disciplinary action. The following list only intends to highlight major kinds of research misconduct and is not exhaustive.
- Plagiarism is the use of another person’s work (including but not limited to any materials, creations, ideas and data) as if one’s own without due acknowledgement, whether or not such work has been published and regardless of the intent to deceive;
- Self-plagiarism is the reuse of one’s own work without acknowledging that such work has been submitted elsewhere.
References to what could constitute plagiarism can be found in the University website https://tl.hku.hk/plagiarism on plagiarism.
- Fabrication of data – making up data and/or results where no or different data have been obtained, and publishing them as if they were real or true or representative;
- Falsification of data – manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record;
- Unethical collection of data – collecting data through exploitation of vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, or unnecessarily infringing upon the privacy of participants; the data collection process harmful to participants, or putting them at more risk than necessary;
- Unauthorised use of data – infringing on the data ownership rights of others, or using data involving human participants without their informed consent;
- Publication or use of irreproducible data – report of data that came out from experiments that are irreproducible or experiments that have not been optimised, unless clearly stated in the report (e.g., as pilot data).
- The over-riding principle for authorship of a research output is the intellectual contribution to the research process and not merely administrative involvement. Author and co-authors should have significant and/or substantial participation in conceiving, executing or interpreting at least part of the research reported. The research team should agree on which individuals should be named as co-authors, and the order in which their names appear in publications. The corresponding author(s) are ultimately responsible for the order in the authorship.
- One particularly serious offence is when senior staff (such as heads of department or supervisors) coerce colleagues or students into allowing the former to take the credit of the research in question as their own, either wholly or partly, and not acknowledging or giving proper credit to the latter. This is a failure of leadership and of moral responsibility.
- Misleading ascription of authorship includes the listing of authors without their permission, attributing work to those who have not in fact contributed to the research, and the lack of appropriate acknowledgement of work primarily produced by a research student or any associate. Due recognition of all participants is an important part of a proper research process. Authors should ensure that the work of research students, research assistants, and all support staff is properly acknowledged. It does not matter whether the researchers were employed or otherwise paid for their work.
- Each author must endorse the whole work. The authors of the research output should read the final paper and agree that each of them has met the minimum requirements for authorship. It is unethical to claim authorship without reading and approving the final draft in its entirety. All of the authors are equally responsible for the contents of the research output; if the contents are fraudulent then all authors carry the blame. Responsibility cannot be shifted from an academically senior author to an academically junior one, and vice versa.
- The unattributed re-presentation of any research output, whether for research or teaching, in a language other than the original is unacceptable.
- Disclosure of any potential conflict of interest is essential for the responsible conduct of research. Non-disclosure is regarded as unethical behaviour.
- A researcher’s affiliation with, or financial involvement in, any organisation or entity with a direct interest in the subject matter, or in the provision of materials for the research, must be included in a full acknowledgement.
- Members of committees responsible for the allocation of research or conference grants should not participate in any way in the determination of their own applications, or normally those of students whom they supervise or have previously supervised.
- The source of funding for research work should always be acknowledged, unless the donor requests anonymity and such request is approved by the University.
- Commencing data collection for research involving human participants or animals before ethical approval is obtained from the appropriate Ethics Committee(s);
- Failure to comply with the conditions of the ethical approval;
- Failure to comply with the contract terms;
- Research not reasonably conducted according to the approved research design;
- Infringement of another person’s copyright, patents, trade-marks, computer software, etc., with respect to any form of research output (refer to the Intellectual Property Rights Policy of the University);
- Breaching of the relevant laws, or safety and health guidelines.
Research misconduct will result in actions taken in accordance with the Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research.