Research integrity is an important part of carrying out research. Imperial College expects all staff and research students to adhere to a code of ethics and professional standards appropriate to carrying out research.
This can be a complex and difficult area to negotiate. To help you the Graduate School offer a set of courses called Ensuring Integrity.
You will also find help and advice from Imperial's library research support service.
All research you carry out must be original and all reports and manuscripts you produce must be your own work with correctly cited references included where appropriate. Read more about plagiarism and originality.
To provide help and support with understanding what is and isn’t plagiarism the Graduate School has developed an online training course.
After completing the course you should be able to explain what plagiarism is, be familiar with the concept of academic integrity, be able to explain how to avoid plagiarism and learn what the College’s policy concerning plagiarism is.
You will be required to take the online plagiarism course before your early stage reiew.
Imperial College London has an overall Ethics code [pdf] which sets out how the College expects its members to behave. The code is intended to provide a starting point to help members of the College identify and tackle ethical issues faced in the course of their activities. There are specific ethics considerations when working in the following research areas:
- Human, Clinical and Healthcare Research
- Animal Research
- Genetic Modification Work
- Plant Pathogens and Pests
Your supervisor should be your first point of call for ethical advice, but the links above will provide further information. For students who have to apply for ethical approval (particularly students working with human subjects or samples) there is a course to help in the preparation of an application to the Research Ethics Committee.
Careful data collection and storage are essential parts of performing high quality research. You need to develop a good system for recording and storing your data, and find a way to ensure your data is regularly backed up. You'll find this very helpful when you come to prepare manuscripts describing your findings and your final thesis. Being able to access well-documented methodologies and data will also be of great help to other researchers coming after you.
It is likely that your group will have defined mechanisms for managing data including lab books, backup discs, DropBox and the central College servers. Find out about these methods and ensure you know which ones you will be using.
Laboratory Notebook Protocol
A lab notebook is a complete record of the actions you take, the observations you make, and the relevant thought processes that would enable another scientist to reproduce your observations. As well as aiding you and other researchers in tracking your progress, your lab notebook is a legal document. If your research ends up contributing to a patent application, your lab book will be closely examined as a key part of the legal process.
The Graduate School's Information Management course can help you learn more about how to manage your online profile as well as how to use specialist software to manage, store and distribute your research data.
When you finish your thesis, it should be made publicly available through the College’s open access repository, Spiral.
Since the thesis will be openly accessible it is important that copyright laws are not infringed through use of material copyrighted by journals. Journals are usually happy to allow reuse of copyrighted materials provided permission is sought and the source of the material is declared. Read more advice and guidance about copyright on the Library website.
The Scholarly Communications website also offers help and support available on how to prepare your thesis for deposition on Spiral, as well as wider distribution to the academic community.
Collaborations with industry can be an exciting opportunity to explore how research is done in a different environment from academia, and can extend the scope and applicability of any research findings. In these cases it may be that you are using resources and data generated by industry and covered by legal agreements.
It is important that you understand what these legal agreements mean, how they affect your use of any materials, and how that use affects your thesis. Your supervisor should be able to help but Imperial also has legal experts on hand to advise you.