CQUniversity has been named as one of several universities being threatened with tough penalties for allegedly providing data that would artificially boost their performance on prestigious research rankings used to allocate government funding.
Fairfax Media reports that the Australian Research Council has written stern letters to several universities warning them they face punishments for providing misleading data for their research excellence assessments.
The council warned universities earlier this year that it would take the provision of any false or misleading information seriously, and that serious offences could be prosecuted under Commonwealth law.
The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) report evaluates the research performance of universities in various academic disciplines, assigning them a score from one to five. Those with the lowest scores are judged to have research well below world standard, while those with the highest scores are judged to be among the best in the world.
The allegations have been disputed by the ARC and CQUniversity.
ARC chair Aidan Byre said Fairfax did approach the ARC to seek confirmation of information a journalist had received about alleged data manipulation.
At the time the ARC advised Fairfax that as the ERA 2015 process was ongoing and details for the national report not yet finalised, it would be inappropriate to comment.
"Having now read the article that has been published I wish to advise that it is not correct that either of the universities named "coded" journal articles "multiple times" to "inflate a university's results".
"It is not fair that two particular universities have been named. I am concerned that assumptions may be made about these two universities that are not factual."
CQUniversity Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman rejects the allegations made by Fairfax.
"We completely reject the suggestion made by the SMH that CQU misrepresented research data, and we stand by the integrity of our ERA submission to the ARC," he told The Bulletin.
"Out of good faith to the ARC we have resisted commenting on this matter as ERA results have not been finalised and remain in-confidence by the ARC.
"But we can categorically rule out the thought that CQU will face any punishment or reprimand whatsoever, for the data submitted in our ERA assessments.
"I look forward to the publication of CQU's ERA results in December which will provide complete exoneration of any suggestion of wrongdoing.
"In fact, our 2015 ERA results will be a reflection on our growing research strengths in key areas, and the profound impact we are having on the communities we engage with. "
Read the ARC's full statement here: ERA 2015 SPECULATION