Research Misconduct

Common Federal Policy

To set minimum standards for the handling of misconduct in Federally funded research, the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) finalized the Federal Research Misconduct Policy on December 6, 2000.

This policy defines research misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

  • Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
  • Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion."

As used in the OSTP policy, "research" includes "all basic, applied, and demonstration research in all fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. This includes, but is not limited to, research in economics, education, linguistics, medicine, psychology, social sciences, statistics, and research involving human subjects or animals."

Research practices qualify as misconduct if:

  • "There is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and
  • The misconduct is committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and
  • The allegation is proven by a preponderance of evidence."

The policy outlines what responsibilities agencies and institutions have regarding the prevention, detection, and investigation of research misconduct. While Federal agencies are the ultimate oversight authorities for Federally funded research, institutions bear primary responsibility for the development of regulations regarding the research conducted at their facilities and the handling of misconduct allegations.

 

Misconduct Policies of Federal Agencies

Each Federal agency that funds research is responsible for implementing its own research misconduct policies which are consistent with the Federal OSTP policy. Five departments are still in the process of developing their policies (Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Interior, and Justice). All other Federal departments supporting research have published final rules regarding research misconduct:

 

Misconduct Policy of Florida State University

Florida State University defines research misconduct in accordance with the common Federal OSTP policy. As outlined in the Florida State University Faculty Handbook, every department on campus engaging in research or creative activities must keep a copy of their procedures for fostering integrity in research and creative activity on file in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Every researcher funded by a granting agency must also be aware of the policies and procedures of that agency. The Faculty Handbook states that any instances of suspected misconduct should be reported to the proper university authority, which is in most cases a department chair or college dean.

If an allegation of misconduct is made, a three-member inquiry committee is assigned to do a preliminary assessment of the validity of the accusation. If the allegation is deemed frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken, all records of the accusation and proceedings are removed from the faculty member's evaluation file. If the allegation appears to be valid, the committee recommends a full investigation. If a full investigation is warranted, a three-person faculty committee is appointed to conduct the investigation and the accused faculty member is informed of the investigation. Both the university and affected faculty member may gather evidence and call witnesses. The results of the investigation are reported to the dean, and the dean, the Dean of the Faculties, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs decide what action should be taken.

The university protects those who make good faith reports of research or creative activity misconduct. The importance of protecting individuals from job-related disciplinary reprisals and preserving their reputation is recognized, so, dependent on the circumstances, confidentiality is maintained to the highest degree possible.

Please see Section 6 of the Florida State University Faculty Handbook for more details regarding the reporting and investigation of misconduct at Florida State University.