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Spring 2009, Issue 10

What To Do If You Suspect Research Misconduct

Research misconduct (sometimes called scientific misconduct) includes purposeful fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. This includes oral presentations. 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 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. If you become aware of the possibility that research misconduct has taken place, it is your responsibility as a member of the Tufts Univeristy community to report the possible misconduct to the appropriate institutional officials.

Gathering Information

First, take time to think through and write down your observations, including as many facts and dates as possible. Information on what constitutes research misconduct can be found on the University and government websites provided below. If you conclude that there is a reasonable possibility of misconduct, continue with the process of reporting it. You will not be held liable if the inquiry or investigation concludes that no misconduct occurred if you reported the possible misconduct in good faith. However, if you report misconduct frivolously, you may face serious consequences, including dismissal.

Reporting Possible Research Misconduct

Report possible research misconduct to the dean of the school where the research occurred, to the director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging where appropriate, or to the vice provost of Tufts University. A dean/director who receives an allegation of research misconduct will immediately notify the vice provost, who will be responsible for overseeing the process of investigation. Be prepared to provide the institutional official with whatever proof you have of the possible misconduct, including documented observations or witness statements. If it is not possible for you to report your concerns to the appropriate institutional officials, you may leave an anonymous message on the Research Misconduct Hotline (617-636-2492). For more on this hotline, please see http://viceprovost.tufts.edu/?pid=10.

The Inquiry and Investigation Process

The dean/director will appoint a fact finder, make a determination upon conclusion of the inquiry phase as to whether the matter must be forwarded for investigation, and provide a report to the vice provost. The inquiry phase is kept as confidential as possible. If the matter proceeds to investigation, an investigating committee will make a recommendation to the Tufts University provost, who will make the final determination on the finding of misconduct and related actions to be taken by the university. The provost-appointed investigating committee consists of five members from among the full-time faculty of Tufts University. If the Public Health Service or the National Science Foundation sponsored the research in question, the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services or the NSF Office of the Inspector General is notified that an investigation is proceeding and is provided with the written findings, including the names of the complainant and the respondent.

For more information, please go to http://viceprovost.tufts.edu/?pid=2.

The website of the HHS Office of Research Integrity offers news, updates, events, and training.


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