ACU responds to media enquiries from The Australian

ACU has been asked a number of questions that question our integrity. In each case the University has provided a response to counter these claims.

Some of our response have been included in the articles. Following is a full account of our replies to these enquiries.

Questions received on 30/31 August 2017

Questions: Enquiries about the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research in regard to allegations of research misconduct, and alleging details about specific staff members.

ACU response:

“An independent external investigation found that none of the allegations constituted research misconduct under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The University has worked transparently with the NHMRC in its investigations.

“ACU is committed to research excellence and handles any allegation of research misconduct in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

"The University respects the privacy of all staff and treats all staffing matters confidentially.

“ACU is committed to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment and has processes for addressing formal workplace complaints.”

– Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Wayne McKenna

Questions received on Tuesday 5 September 2017

Questions:

Enquiries about an anonymous letter that was sent to the Archbishop of Melbourne about ACU’s handling of workplace issues.

ACU response:

“ACU follows its established processes for addressing formal workplace complaints.

“ACU has policies and procedures that cover specific complaints, including bullying and harassment.

"The University respects the privacy of all staff and treats all staffing matters confidentially."

– A University spokesperson

Questions received on Thursday 7 September 2017

Questions:

Detailed enquiries about the dissolution of a research trial funded by a Collaborative Research Networks (CRN) grant.

ACU response:

“ACU has clear protocols for managing the progress and completion of all research projects and I am confident that this project was finalised according to these protocols.”

– Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Wayne McKenna

Further information for the journalist:

Funding for the TRANSCare Program was terminated in February 2016. DVCR Professor Wayne McKenna communicated termination of the project directly with the lead ACU researcher on the project and the office of the DVCR also communicated this with the associate lead ACU researcher.

The research lead informed the other researchers, the trial patients and the ACU Human Research Ethics Committee in February 2016.

ACU notified the Government in the May 2016 Collaborative Research Networks (CRN) Program Progress Report that the TRANSCare Program had been terminated.

Funding for the program had been part of ACU’s Collaborative Research Network funding. The funding was reallocated to another research project.

The CRN Program was fully acquitted in December 2016 and the Final Report submitted in June 2017 has been approved.

A number of conference papers were published as a result of the project.

Questions received on Friday 8 September 2017

Questions:

Enquiries about a protected disclosure case handled by an external legal firm.

ACU response:

“ACU has a Protected Disclosures Policy that aligns with the relevant Australian Standard (Whistleblower Protection Programs for Entities). ACU’s Protected Disclosures Policy sets out how ACU will receive and manage reportable conduct. All protected disclosures are treated confidentially and ACU cannot comment on any individual matters.”

– A University spokesperson

Questions received on Monday 11 September 2017

Questions:

Enquiries about international researchers/academics, their workload, and how their work contributes to the University’s research rankings.

ACU response:

“The recruitment of overseas academics as Professorial Fellows supports Australian Catholic University's strategy of building research excellence through international partnerships and collaboration in a small number of high quality research clusters.

“ACU is bringing together its best researchers with leading researchers from overseas who we seek to integrate into research programs that develop networks of international collaborators. The fraction of their engagement varies according to the relationship, and the proportion of part-time international researchers compared with the number of research staff overall employed by ACU is low.

“This strategy is consistent with the guidelines for the last ERA in 2015 and is also consistent with the practice of other universities in the sector.

“ACU is in the top 10 universities in Australia for student satisfaction with teaching quality, according to the 2016 Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching’s (QILT’s) 2016 Student Experience Survey.

“The research investment that ACU has made, however, means that our academics have access to significant additional research opportunities and professional development in research excellence.

“Fractional appointments with academics from prestigious institutions attract other academics from those institutions and help build the University’s research profile.

“In addition to the work these academics conduct in Australia, ACU staff also travel to the universities in which the professorial fellows work. The University also uses its Rome Campus as a hub for international research teams to collaborate and share information. This helps establish the global connections and joint research opportunities which are valuable in a competitive global research environment.

“The appointment of international academics is already having an effect. Some of the overseas staff have been active in collaborating with our permanent full-time staff in the development of successful research grant applications to the ARC linkage and discovery schemes, and to research grant agencies overseas. They have also worked on research program proposals that have been submitted for internal funding support at ACU.

“ACU has many research only staff, who do not have an undergraduate teaching load or who provide a small amount of teaching. They would generally have a postgraduate teaching load such as supervision of research higher degree candidates.

“This strategy has helped ACU improve its ERA rankings and contributed to an enhanced research culture at the University.”

– Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wayne McKenna

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