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The Graduate School / Academics & Research / Research and Scholarly Integrity / Info by Topic Area

Info by Topic Area

It is the responsibility of those conducting scientific investigations to understand the rules and guidelines put in place by their government, institution, funding agency, and discipline to uphold research integrity. Each of the following links provides information specific to a core area of responsible conduct in research, as well as links to other resources.

 

Research Misconduct

Avoidance of research misconduct may seem to be a matter of common sense. Anyone in a research field should already be aware that practices such as making up data or taking credit for the work of others are wrong, but instances of research misconduct do occur and can be very damaging to the public’s trust of science. For this reason it is important to be able to recognize and know how to report instances of research misconduct when they occur. Federal and institutional policies are in place to provide guidance on these issues.

Data Management

Data collection and analysis is a fundamental aspect of scientific investigation. Researchers must give careful consideration to how data will be collected, managed, and analyzed before an investigation even begins. The question of data ownership may also become an issue if policies are not made clear ahead of time.

A doctoral student leaves her institution to start a postdoctoral position elsewhere and wants to take some data she collected with her to follow up on a project. Is it okay to take possession of data she collected?

Publication and Authorship

The results of research projects are commonly shared through publication, and a researcher's publication record is often used as an indicator of their productivity and success. Violations of research integrity may occur if a researcher under pressure to rapidly produce numerous publications decides to take certain shortcuts. Integrity may also become an issue if a researcher decides to include undeserving authors on a publication. Disagreements regarding authorship are common, so one should be aware of the guidelines set by their field or working group before research begins.

A graduate student collected all the data for a particular project and turned it over to his PI for analysis and publication. He later notices the final draft of the publication on his PI's desk and is disappointed to see he is not included as an author. Is he justified in his expectation of authorship?

Peer Review

Peer review—evaluation by colleagues with similar knowledge and experience—is an essential component of research and the self-regulation of professions. The average person does not have the knowledge and experience needed to assess the quality and importance of research. Peers do.

 A researcher received a request from a peer-reviewed journal to review the work of another faculty member at a public university. He wants to help, but he is involved in his own research and is reviewing two other articles. What are his choices?

Mentoring

While conducting investigations, researchers often assume the added role of mentors to mentees. The mentor-mentee relationship is complex and brings into play potential conflicts. Knowing the importance of personal commitments, researchers should carefully consider what responsibilities they have to mentees before they take on the essential task of training new researchers. Mentees, in turn, should be we aware of their responsibilities to mentors before accepting a position in a laboratory or program.

 What responsibilities do mentors and mentees have for one another?

Conflicts of Interest

Researchers’ interests can and often do conflict with one another. The advancement of knowledge is usually best served by sharing ideas with colleagues, putting many minds to work on the same problem. But personal gain is sometimes best served by keeping ideas to oneself until they are fully developed and then protected through patents, copyrights, or publications. Legitimate research interests can create competing responsibilities and lead to what is commonly called conflicts of interest.

 A doctoral student developed a compound that may be used in the future for premature infants. Who will own the compound?

Collaborations

Researchers increasingly collaborate with colleagues who have the expertise and/or resources needed to carry out a particular project. Collaborations can be as simple as one researcher sharing reagents or techniques with another researcher. They can be as complex as multi-centered clinical trials that involve academic research centers, private hospitals, and for-profit companies studying thousands of patients in different states or even countries.

 Researchers from three public universities plan to develop interventions for certain geriatric conditions following strokes. Who should submit the proposal? Do all three researchers need to apply for IRB approval?

Animal Welfare

Animal research is as carefully regulated as human research, but for different reasons. With humans, regulation stems from the need to assure that the benefits all humans gain from human research do not impose unacceptable burdens on some research participants. Animals may benefit from the information gained through animal experimentation and some research with animals is conducted specifically for the purpose of improving animal health (veterinary medicine and animal husbandry research). But most animal research is conducted primarily for the benefit of humans, not animals.

 When a doctoral researcher learns that her major professor will expand her research using amphibians to include mammals, she is horrified. Why are there more objections to using some animals in research compared to others?