Research Misconduct

An important component of the Research Integrity program at UMB is the handling of allegations of research misconduct. The office of the vice president for academic affairs oversees investigation of such allegations.

The UMB Policy and Procedures Concerning Research Misconduct (formerly UMB Policy and Procedures Concerning Misconduct in Scholarly Work), which fulfills the requirements of the University System of Maryland (USM) Policy on Misconduct in Scholarly Work, specifies what misconduct is and how allegations of misconduct are handled by the University. As its title suggests, this policy is limited to research misconduct. The policy also is intended to satisfy the requirements of major sponsors of UMB research, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH requirements are found in the federal regulation Responsibility of PHS Awardees and Applicant Institutions for Dealing with and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science #42CFR50A

Questions concerning the policy and its application may be directed to Dr. Roger J. Ward, Chief Accountability Officer. He can be reached at 410-706-1850 and by email.

What Constitutes Research Misconduct

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

  • Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification means 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 means the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Illegal acts, such as misappropriation of research funds, destruction of research equipment or facilities, or harassment of research subjects or personnel are usually investigated and managed through University, city, state, or federal criminal mechanisms. Other academic or scholarly misconduct such as plagiarism by students in coursework also is managed by other administrative mechanisms. Authorship disputes are managed by the dean’s office of the appropriate school.

How do I report potential research misconduct?

You can submit a report through the UMB hotline (hotline link or 866-594-5220)
OR
You can contact Sarah N. Archibald, Research Integrity Officer (sarchibald@umaryland.edu or 410-706-0149).

FAQs Regarding the Research Misconduct Process

Who is covered by the University policy?

All University employees and trainees as well as others who are formally affiliated with the University are covered. This includes faculty, staff, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scientists, and contractors.

What happens when an allegation of research misconduct is made?

When the Research Integrity Office receives an allegation of research misconduct, the Research Integrity Officer meets with the complainant to review the evidence available. If there is not enough information, a preliminary review is conducted. The sole purpose of this review is to determine if an allegation meets the requirements for examination under this policy (Section VII. D. Intake and Preliminary Review). The Responsible Official (RO) or designee may consult with experts as part of the evaluation.

If there is enough evidence to make the determination that the allegation meets the requirements under this policy, the Responsible Official will decide if the allegations will be reviewed by an inquiry committee.

“Upon deciding to proceed with an Inquiry, the Responsible Official will gather and sequester all original data and other original records relevant to the issues on or before the date which the Respondent is notified or the Inquiry begins, whichever is earlier. It is the responsibility of the Complainant, the Respondent, and others holding relevant materials to provide them upon request. Upon request, the Respondent will be provided copies of, or reasonably supervised access to, the sequestered records” (Section VIII.C Inquiry). For each sequestration, a team comprised of members from the Office of Accountability and Compliance (OAC), Center for Information Technology Services (CITS), and security. Materials that are sequestered include, but are not limited to, computers, laboratory notebooks, flash drives, thumb drives, and gels. The Respondent is interviewed at the time of sequestration.

The inquiry committee is charged with determining if there is enough evidence to warrant a full investigation. The inquiry committee is given access to all the materials collected and the transcripts and audio files of interviews conducted by the Research Integrity Officer. The inquiry committee can request additional information and can re-interview the complainant, respondent, witnesses, or experts. A report is written and sent to the RO. The report is provided to the respondent by the RO and the respondent is given an opportunity to respond. If the committee recommends a full investigation, the RO can decide if the allegations will be reviewed by an investigation committee.

The investigation committee is charged with determining if there is enough evidence to warrant a finding of research misconduct. The investigation committee is given access to all the materials collected and to the transcripts and audio files of interviews conducted by the Research Integrity Officer, in addition to any information gathered by the inquiry committee, a copy of the inquiry committee report, and the respondent’s response to the inquiry committee report. The investigation committee can request additional information and can re-interview the complainant, respondent, witnesses, or experts. A report is written and sent to the RO. The respondent is again provided a copy of this report and provided an opportunity to respond.

The RO makes the determination, based on information from the investigation committee, whether a finding of research misconduct is warranted and what the sanctions should be.

Is the respondent told that sequestration will take place?

No. Our policy states, “Upon deciding to proceed with an Inquiry, the Responsible Official will gather and sequester all original data and other original records relevant to the issues on or before the date which the Respondent is notified or the Inquiry begins, whichever is earlier” (VI. C. Inquiry). This not only protects the integrity of the data and evidence available but is also designed to protect the respondent from accusations of evidence tampering.

What if the sequestered materials are needed for current work? Will the respondent have access to them?

Yes. “Respondent will be provided copies of, or reasonably supervised access to, the sequestered records” (VI. C. Inquiry). The Research Integrity Office will make arrangements for access to the sequestered materials.

Who serves on the inquiry and investigation committees?

The inquiry and investigation committees are composed of three faculty members each. The committee members should have the appropriate expertise to evaluate the allegation and materials. The committee members cannot come from the department of either the complainant or the respondent and cannot have a conflict of interest with either of them (See Sections VI.B. Inquiry and Section VII. B. Investigation).

If an allegation is made and the RO determines that an inquiry is warranted, am I considered guilty of research misconduct?

No. Throughout the research misconduct process, there is a presumption of innocence.

What sanctions may be imposed for research misconduct?

Sanctions may range from requiring that the scientific record be corrected to termination from University employment. If the misconduct involves federal research funding or proposals, the U.S. Public Health Service may prohibit service on study sections, application for federal research support, or participation on any federally funded research award for a period of time, or may require oversight. Findings of misconduct involving federal research funding or proposals are posted publicly online by the U.S. Public Health Service. A finding of significant misconduct is usually disastrous to a scientist’s career.

FAQs Regarding Reporting Research Misconduct

Am I obliged to report research misconduct?

The USM policy says that “reporting misconduct in scholarly work is a responsibility shared by everyone at UMB” (III-1.10 - POLICY ON MISCONDUCT IN SCHOLARLY WORK, Section IV (A)).  But care should be taken to avoid bringing allegations that are without foundation. Staff in the Research Integrity Office are available to discuss concerns relating to potential misconduct allegations.

What protections exist for complainants (whistleblowers)?

The University will undertake diligent efforts to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations of scientific misconduct. If you feel you are being retaliated against, please contact the Research Integrity Officer (Sarah N. Archibald, at sarchibald@umaryland or 410-706-0149) or report it through the hotline.

Can allegations of research misconduct be made anonymously?

While anonymous allegations will be accepted via the hotline, it is often difficult or impossible to fully investigate a matter without the source of the allegations becoming obvious. For this reason, among others, anonymity cannot be assured. Often, if anonymity is required, an ongoing investigation gets to a point where it cannot proceed and must be abandoned because more information is needed but cannot be obtained. An anonymous source cannot be apprised of the status or outcome of an investigation.