Policies & Guidelines
Student Advisory Committee
Third Party Monitoring
Code of Conduct for Research
Student Grievance Procedure
Appointment & Termination
Handbook: Research Degrees in Affiliated Research Centres
The bulk of the scientific research project, in fulfilment of the requirements for a Ph.D. with the Open University, consists of experimental laboratory investigation, in addition to any specific training needs, and submission and oral defence of a written thesis.
The student must keep an organized, accurate and up to date record of their experimental procedures and results, conforming to the Stowers Institute’s policy on Recording of Laboratory Data, Policy Number 606.
Full time students must complete their program of study in a minimum of two and maximum of four years.
The student will meet regularly with the research supervisor(s) to discuss research progress and plans.
These meetings will be documented and meeting notes should be kept by the student. Copies of these records should also be given to the supervisor(s). This information should include meeting date, participants, achievements and goals/plan of action.
The student must actively participate in the training program of the Stowers Institute, which includes an ethics course, verbal and written skills required for scientists, safety training, animal care and use training (if appropriate), human subjects protection training (if appropriate), as well as any courses and workshops that are recommended by the supervisors and/or the Student Advisory Committee.
The student must participate in the continuing skills audit, training and development program. Coursework related to the student’s research project may be recommended by the Student Advisory Committee.
The student must present annually at the Friday Science Club (FSC) or a similar venue(ie. Young Investigator Day or a Super Group presentation, that the student’s advisory committee members are invited to attend). Invite supervisors to a practice session. Notify committee members when you will be presenting internally or locally. The first presentation should be before the end of the 10th month of registration, before the probationary review is completed.
The student is required to give the RDC in the ARC at least three months notice of her/his intention to submit a thesis. Notification should include confirmation of the thesis title and a proposed date for submission.
Biannual meetings with their Student Advisory Committee will be arranged by the RDC administration. The student must prepare a summary of the progress and proposed future goals, send that to the committee members for their review and approval, and submit the final approved version to the RDC office within two weeks of each meeting.
Successfully complete the Student portion of the Probationary assessment and report as outlined in the OU guidance documents. Nearing the end of the 1st year, as a part of the probationary review process, the student must undergo a mini-viva – an independent oral examination on the project report. It must be conducted by at least two experienced academic researchers who are not the student’s supervisors. The probationary review is due to the Open University before the 1st day of the 11th month of registration.
Fulfil the annual report requirements as outlined in the Open University Guidance. Following the probationary report and assessment, subsequent annual reports which cover the reporting period of 1 January to 31 December are required. Personalised versions of the progress monitoring report forms will be provided to students via their student home web page. The RDC Administrator Office will send timely reminders and the internal deadline for the Student and Supervisor completed forms will be Feb 1st. The final documents require a section to be completed by the RDC and submission to the Open University by March 1st each year.
In all OU student co-authored publications, the fact that the student is enrolled in our Open University program must be acknowledged either in the author address, as a footnote or in the acknowledgment section of the paper. An acknowledgement statement could look something like this: "This work was done to fulfill, in part, requirements for XXX's PhD thesis research as a student registered with the Open University."
All students must format the PhD dissertation according to the Open University recommendations. MS Word Templates and recommended Endnote reference formatting styles are also available from the RDC administrative office.
One of the duties of the Student’s Advisory Committee is to identify any training needs, including generic skills training, and subject and project specific training which the individual student requires.
Coursework related to the project may also be recommended by the students’ Advisory Committee. Such courses, which are offered at the Stowers Institute or at associated universities, include but are not limited to topics in computer software training, bioinformatics, “state of the art” technologies, literature reviews (journal clubs) etc.
The student must actively participate in the training program of the Stowers Institute, including an ethics course, verbal and written skills required for scientists, safety training, animal care and use training (if appropriate), human subjects training (if appropriate), as well as any courses and workshops that are recommended by the supervisors and/or Student’s Advisory Committee.
In summary, students
- must initiate and continually update their skills assessment and development log as outlined in SMT895 course materials.
- are encouraged to attend the Crossroad professional development series.
- must attend the research integrity course offered biannually at SIMR.
- attend the institute’s Friday Science club and Stowers Wednesday Seminar
- are expected to present to the Science club annually (the first must be prior to the 11th month of registration, in fulfilment of the Probationary Review process)
- with supervisor’s guidance, are expected to consider attending some of the other weekly seminars and workshops available at the institute and at affiliated research establishments. See http://www.stowers-institute.org/BioLog/BioLog.asp for a current listing.
- must participate in lab meetings
Before registering with the Open University, a principal supervisor must be identified and the research project must receive initial scrutiny by the Research Degree Coordinator to ensure that it is likely that the program will meet the Open University’s requirements. The student and principal supervisor, together with the Research Degree Coordinator, must select a Student Advisory Committee comprising at least four members. The chair of the committee should be the principal supervisor and should be listed as an Open University recognized supervisor (or Director of Studies on the application form). A second supervisor is required. If the principal Supervisor does not have experience in supervising post-graduate students in the UK system, the co-supervisor must have this experience. An additional member of the committee may also be registered as a co-supervisor (maximum of three including the primary supervisor/Director of Studies). The remaining member(s) of the committee may be members of the Stowers Institute or members of affiliated research institutions. The Research Degree Coordinator must approve the composition of the Student Advisory Committee and any changes. Changes to the named supervisors must also be approved by the Open University.
The Student Advisory Committee will meet with the student at least twice each year. After each meeting, the student will write an evaluation summarizing the student’s progress and a revised timeline. This evaluation is sent to the committee for comments and approval. The final report and any visual aids (i.e. PowerPoint presentation to the committee) must be submitted to the Research Degree Coordinator within three weeks of each meeting. These reports aid during the preparation of the annual progress report provided to the Open University.
The duties of the Student Advisory Committee include:
Identification of any training needs, including generic skills training, and subject and project specific training. This development evaluation needs to be an inclusive process, between the committee and the student. Progress in acquiring these skills and training will be monitored by the Student Advisory Committee.
Guidance in early development of the thesis project.
Evaluation and report of student progress after the 12 months probationary period to determine the appropriate degree registration (Ph.D. or M.Phil.). The probationary period report involves a major review of the student’s progress so that a recommendation can be made about which degree s/he is to be registered for (see Open University's Progress Guidelines).
After successful completion of the probationary period, the committee will continue to guide the student’s dissertation research.
Review and evaluate the dissertation to help prepare the student for his/her dissertation’s oral defence (viva).
Third party monitoring is a system of support for Open University research students to provide support for the student outside of the supervisory environment, to identify and resolve potential problems, to provide a dispassionate view if difficulties arise with the student’s progress and to identify resource management problems.
Within the first month of registering with the Open University, each student will be assigned a faculty member who is outside the supervisory environment to provide support to the student as outlined in the Third Party Monitoring guidance from the Open University.
In addition, the Institute also provides access to a number of resources, which include the Employee Assistance Program and access to “LifeWorks”, a service provided by the Stowers Institute that offers help with personal and work-related issues. LifeWorks trained consultants are available to help with family problems, managing relationships, preparing for a new baby, getting out of debt, stress, depression and other problems affecting personal or work life. LifeWorks is free, confidential, and provides resources to help with many life issues. Information about this program and how to access it, are provided at the time of Orientation (See also SIMR Policy 213, Employee Assistance Program).
The Stowers Institute for Medical Research requires all its staff, researchers and students engaged in research or peer review of research processes to be aware of and agree to comply with its code of conduct for research. The institute is committed to conduct research in accordance with the seven principals identified by the Nolan committee on standards in Public Life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The institute expects these standards to be maintained by all academic, research and support staff, students and their supervisors and other individuals conducting research or involved in the peer review of research process within or on behalf of the institute.
Honesty and Integrity
Researchers should be honest in respect to their own actions in research and in their responses to the actions of other researchers. This applies to the whole range of research, including experimental design, generating and analyzing data, applying for funding, publishing results, and acknowledging the direct and indirect contributions of colleagues, collaborators and others. All researchers should refrain from plagiarism, piracy, the fabrication of results or infringement of intellectual property. Committing any of these actions is regarded as a serious disciplinary offence. Researchers should also declare and manage any real or potential conflicts of interest, both financial and professional.
Openness and Accountability
Whilst recognizing the need for researchers to protect their academic research interests in the planning, carrying out and writing up of research and, where appropriate, handling of intellectual property, the institute encourages all researchers to be open as possible in discussing their work with other researchers and with the public. Once results have been published, the institute expects researchers to make available relevant data and materials to other researchers, on request, provided this is consistent with ethical approvals and consents which cover the data and materials, and any intellectual property rights in them.
Professional Guidance and Legislation
The institute expects researchers to comply with the guidance provided by funding bodies, academic and scientific societies and also other relevant professional bodies. All researchers should be aware of the compliance requirements of their work noting particularly environmental health and safety standards, the US National Standards to Protect the Privacy of Personal Health Information (HIPAA) and data protection of other private personal information; NIH guidelines with respect to human subjects research; recombinant DNA research; and animal welfare legislation. Ethical approval of all research at the Institute must be obtained from the relevant committees. Researchers must obtain the necessary regulatory approval from the relevant national regulatory and/or statutory bodies.
Leadership and Supervision
Research Management and the Research Faculty should ensure that a research culture of mutual cooperation is created in which all members of a research team are encouraged to develop their skills and in which the open exchange of research ideas is fostered. Research group leaders and supervisors must ensure the appropriate direction of research and its financial propriety. Scientific misconduct is unlikely to arise in an environment where good research practices, including documentation of results, peer review of research, regular discussion and seminar, are encouraged and where adequate supervision exists at all relevant levels.
Throughout their work, researchers are required to keep clear and accurate records of the procedures followed and the approvals granted during the research process, including records of interim results obtained as well as of the final research outcomes. This is necessary not only as a means of demonstrating proper research practice, but also in case questions are subsequently asked about either the conduct of the research or the results obtained. All primary data as the basis for publications should be securely stored for at least 5 years unless otherwise required by contractual terms or the guidance of relevant professional bodies in a paper and /or electronic form, as appropriate, after the completion of a research project. Proper documentation and storage procedures will minimize cases of allegations of scientific misconduct where original data cannot be found or was allegedly lost. Researchers should utilize means of data storage appropriate to the task.
Dissemination of Results and Publication Practice
The institute encourages the publication of and the dissemination of results of high quality research but believes that researchers must do this responsibly and with an awareness of the consequences of any such dissemination in the wider media. The Institute believes that although researchers must have academic freedom, the funding sponsor should be notified in advance when the research might be published or disseminated. The Institute also acknowledges the legitimate interest of the sponsor in securing patent protection for inventions in the course of research prior to publication or dissemination of the results. All funding sources must be acknowledged in any publication or publicity. Researchers should make every effort to ensure research is peer reviewed prior to publication or dissemination.
The practice of honorary authorship is unacceptable, i.e. only those who have contributed to the research should be included as authors on the publication. The contributions of formal collaborators and all others who directly assisted or indirectly supported the research should be specified and properly acknowledged.
The Institute recognizes that publication of the results of research may need to be delayed for a reasonable period pending protection of any intellectual property arising from the research. Any such periods of delay should be kept to a minimum.
All members of the Institute have a duty to report misconduct in research to the head of the appropriate department. For the purpose of this code of conduct, misconduct in research includes any breach of this code of conduct, but is not limited to the following, whether deliberate, reckless or negligent:
- Fabrication, falsification or corruption of research data
- Plagiarism or dishonest use of acknowledged sources
- Unauthorized use of another person` s research data, materials or writing
- Unjustified destruction of research materials
- Deception in relation to research proposals
- Fraud and misuse of research funds
Any allegations made against institute members, including research students, will be dealt with in accordance with the Institute Regulations. The Institute undertakes to inform the relevant body of any substantiated allegations of scientific misconduct when appropriate.
If a student has a complaint or grievance about any aspect of student life, it should be raised with an appropriate person at the earliest opportunity, as complaints that are dealt with informally at an early stage have the best chance of being resolved effectively. This includes complaints relating to supervision or teaching, which should not be raised for the first time at a formal examination appeal.
The Institute will make every effort to deal with complaints sympathetically. It is helpful for students to concentrate on desired outcomes. Students may raise complaints jointly if they wish.
The Institute may not entertain complaints or grievances that are made substantially after the matters complained about, unless there is good reason for the delay.
Examination and other academic appeals
The Open University has a clearly defined formal appealprocedure for academic matters; ‘a request for a review of a decision taken by an individual or academic body charged with making decisions about students’ progression, assessment, and awards’. These issues should be raised directly through the Open University as outlined in the Queries and Appeals Process which includes the Complaint procedure (“When you are dissatisfied with a programme of study or related service”) and an Appeals Procedure (“a review of a decision taken about your progression, assessment or awards”).
Appeals should be made directly to The Open University following the Research Degree Appeals Procedure which you can find in section 10.3 of the “Research Degrees in Affiliated Research Centres” handbook.
Grievances covered by this procedure
We define a grievance as ‘an expression of dissatisfaction concerning the provision of a program of study or related academic or administrative service. This definition does not include complaints that arise out of matters covered by specific Institute policies. These include scientific misconduct, racial or sexual harassment, or reasonable accommodations, which are covered under related SIMR policies and the relevant regulations.
Dignity at work and study
The Institute has policies on dignity at work and study, sexual harassment and equality and diversity. The Institute will not tolerate discrimination and harassment and will take immediate steps to protect all members, including students, from harassment or bullying.
In the first instance, a student should raise a complaint with an appropriate member of staff. This may be the student's supervisor, the Research Degree Coordinator, or the Scientific Director.
If information is to be kept confidential, the student should make this clear to the person to whom a complaint is made. Students should understand that in exceptional circumstances it may be difficult for confidentiality to be respected, for instance where a criminal offense has been disclosed. Students should also understand that in some circumstances the demand for confidentiality may make it difficult for the Institute to assist them with their grievance. If confidentiality is a problem, students are advised to discuss how their grievance might be addressed with the VP for Administration.
Where informal procedures have failed to resolve the problem, a student may bring a complaint or grievance to the Vice President for Administration, who will act impartially and will be happy to give advice to students about any matter of concern to them. In some cases, in co-operation with the Research Degree Coordinator or other individuals, the Vice President for Administration may be able to sort out the student's difficulty. Where that is not possible, provided the student is willing, complaints and grievances will be referred to an ad hoc Advisory/Complaint Panel comprised of one senior faculty member, one junior faculty member, and one senior-level student or postdoctoral who, together, will find a resolution to the problem.
The Advisory/Complaint Panel will discuss the matter with those about whom the complaint is made, and, in an appropriate manner, recommend a resolution to the Research Degree Coordinator and the Scientific Director. The Panel will act promptly and the process is confidential. When the dispute is resolved, the mediator may put an agreement between the parties in writing for their benefit.
If the dispute remains unresolved, the Panel will discuss the reasons with the student and take no further part in the complaints process. The Panel may make recommendations to the Institute to prevent similar difficulties from arising again in the future.
Complaints’ Appeal Procedure
If the dispute is unresolved, the student may nevertheless have received a satisfactory explanation and decline to take the matter further. If the student remains unsatisfied, however, he or she may take the complaint, grievance, or appeal to the President and CEO of the Institute. The complaint must be in writing and make clear the exact nature of the complaint and the desired outcomes.
On receipt of the complaint, the President and CEO will review all available information related to the complaint and respond in writing to the student within 30 days from receipt of the complaint. The grievance/complaint procedure ends with the President and CEO and his decision is final.
Final Recourse: Open University and the UKbased Independent Adjudicator
When an OU student has completed internal review and complaints procedure as outlined above with the Stowers Institute, he or she may, if still dissatisfied, ask first the Open University as outlined in their complaints procedure.
and, if still dissatisfied, the U.K. National Independent Adjudicator to review the matter. This independent adjudication service is free to students. Please note that there are time limits for applying, and some limits as what can be reviewed. Information about the service is given at http://www.oiahe.org.uk/.
Nature of Studentship Appointment and Termination
This policy on Nature of Studentship Appointment and Termination applies to all Open University-registered students of the Affiliated Research Centre, Stowers Institute for Medical Research (“institute”). An appointment will continue at the discretion of the training mentor and is subject to approval of the Scientific Director of the Stowers Institute. The appointment period may not continue longer than completion of the requirements for the doctoral degree. The Stowers Institute will pay the student’s tuition at Open University while she/he is in good standing. The student will be responsible for the cost of books and activities fees.
Although the institute generally hopes and expects that students will advance through their degree requirements to successfully achieve the goal of an Open University awarded Ph.D. degree, from time to time, circumstances may arise in which the institute or a student terminates the appointment. Advancement through the program is assessed as described in SIMR-ARC documents.
As a general procedure, prior to termination by the institute, the institute will seek to attain its goal of giving students opportunities to succeed through application of the Policy on Coaching and Counseling and mentoring programs outlined in the SIMR-ARC and other Institute Policy (available on request) documents. The purpose of this policy is to establish the events in which a student’s appointment with the institute will terminate and under what conditions the student may be allowed to complete the degree requirements with the Open University.
The typical OU Graduate Program at SIMR lasts three, but no longer than four, years (including write up), full-time. These are the standard maximum periods of study, which may be extended or reduced (but not reduced to less than two years) depending on an individual student's previous qualifications and/or in response to the progress made by an individual candidate during their period of study.
Research degree students register for one year at a time, and renewal is subject to the annual review process as outlined in the SIMR and Open University Progress Review guidelines. For the first 12-18 months the student is considered in a probationary phase. See additional guidance on this process and options.
If the student has an institute appointment, the appointment by the institute will terminate upon (i) the expiration of the student’s appointment term, subject to annual review and approval, (ii) the death of the student, (iii) the termination of registration by the Open University, (iv) the resignation of the student, (v) the termination of the student’s permission or authorization to study in the United States at the institute, or (vi) for cause (as defined below).
Following the end of the fourth year period of study, candidates who have not yet submitted their thesis for examination may enter the write-up period, which may last a further twelve months (full-time). During this time, at the discretion of the Research Degree Coordinator, the student’s supervisors, and subject to approval of the Scientific Director of the Stowers Institute, students may continue to access institute resources, including the library and computing facilities, with the support of the institute administration including the payment of tuition fees for that year.
If a student withdraws from her/his research degree program, the Research Degree Coordinator must inform the Open University using the Notification of Withdrawal form (ARC10).
“Cause” is established if (i) the student is convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude or has entered a plea of nolo contendere (or similar plea) to a charge of such offenses, (ii) the student uses alcohol or any narcotic drug or other controlled or illegal substance in violation of institute policy, (iii) performs duties in an unsatisfactory manner, (iv) commits any act of fraud, gross negligence, willful misconduct, misappropriation or personal dishonesty, (v) violates, or fails to carry out, any express direction of the Institute’s Board of Directors or any supervisor or manager of the student, or violates any rule, regulation, policy or plan that may be established by the Institute from time to time regarding the conduct of its students and/or its business, or (vi) misrepresents a material fact or omits information necessary to make the information supplied materially misleading in any application or other information provided by the student to the Institute or any representative of Institute or placement agency in connection with the student’s appointment by the Institute. The existence of circumstances necessary for a finding of cause will be determined by the President and CEO or such person’s designee.
In cases of illness or personal problems, a student may suspend her/his studies for a total maximum period of twelve months for full-time students, subject to the approval of the Institute Graduate Program Coordinating Committee and the Open University.
To request a suspension of studies, students must complete and submit to the Research Degree Coordinator the “suspension of registration request” form (ARC11) along with a letter of support from the principal supervisor. This will be forwarded by the Research Degree Coordinator to the Open University.
Students unable to resume study after the maximum permitted suspension length will be required to relinquish their registration.