It is not an uncommon observation that disputes about a research integrity issue can have their origin in poor quality relationships or in relationships that have broken down. This is particularly the case for authorship disputes, but may also arise in data integrity and management questions, conflicts of interest and peer review.

When relationships are healthy and marked by open and honest communication, the risk of a dispute becoming problematic is reduced.

Moreover, power imbalances characterise many relationships between researchers, which adds another dimension that may need particular care. Those in authority over others need to be careful how they exercise their authority, and conversely those over whom the authority is exercised need to recognise the particular responsibilities that a position of authority brings.

For both parties, observation of a simple yet timeless moral axiom may help; that is, an ethic of reciprocity - treating others as one would wish to be treated.

For supervisors and research degree students, the University’s Code of Good Practice addresses particular aspects of these relationships as follows:

… the University believes it is important that staff avoid situations where family, sexual or other close personal relationships with students could influence academic or professional judgements and decisions as well as the climate in which the learning/teaching process occurs. [‘Family’ here is taken to incorporate the existing range of social and cultural kinship systems.]