Dear Staff and Students,
Recently, media coverage, much of it ill-informed and/or incomplete, has called into question some of the University’s procedures, so I am writing now to provide some clarifications. Regarding the specific recent case, please also refer to our press release of May 6, 2016 (http://hku.hk/press/news_detail_14568.html).
- The University takes allegations of research misconduct extremely seriously and has robust procedures for their investigation (see Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research at: http://www.rss.hku.hk/integrity/rcr/staff-misconduct). Complaints against students are investigated by the Disciplinary Committee under the University’s Statutes (see http://www4.hku.hk/pubunit/calendar/2015-2016/a/c/21-2015-2016/328-university-ordinance-statutes). These investigation bodies act independently, competently and impartially with the assistance of experts and legal advisers. Potential conflicts of interest are considered at the outset, with legal advice where necessary.
- Lessons can always be learned: even if misconduct is not proven, areas for improvement may be identified and will be communicated to the relevant parties as appropriate. Furthermore, we will constantly update our procedures to be in line with international best practices.
- The University also has clear procedures on “Whistle-blowing” (http://hku.hk/about/policies_reports/whistleblowing). Note that these require the demonstration of “good faith” on the part of the complainant. The same policies protect staff against any threat of retaliation.
- The University takes research integrity seriously. One aspect that I wish to reiterate concerns the obligations and responsibilities that come with authorship. There are numerous international guidelines on this: see for example, refer to: http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html
- It is totally unacceptable for anyone to claim that they are not responsible for all the data in a paper on which they are named as an author, irrespective of whether they carried out or supervised the individual experiments themselves. The University has recently strengthened the seminars on responsible research conduct and made attendance obligatory for all academic staff.
- Our reporting responsibilities include those to the funding bodies, either the Research Grants Council (RGC)/University Grants Committee (UGC) or other agencies. We will of course also report to the University’s own Council as necessary. We will only consider making public statements on any individual case in exceptional circumstances, and only then after our internal procedures have been completed. We will respect confidentiality and we expect all other involved parties to do likewise.
Professor Peter Mathieson
President and Vice-Chancellor