Research Misconduct Frequently Asked Questions
What constitutes Scientific Misconduct?
University policy defines scientific misconduct as fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly work. It also includes any form of behavior, including the making of allegations that involve frivolous, mischievous or malicious misrepresentation, whereby one’s work or the work of others is seriously misrepresented. It 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 authorship disputes and plagiarism by students in coursework are also managed by other administrative mechanisms.
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.
How will an allegation of Scientific Misconduct be managed?
Management will be handled by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs according to the policy. Management of a particular allegation is not negotiated by or with the Complainant or the Respondent. Rather, the process is managed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, utilizing an Inquiry Committee and an Investigation Committee. Final decisions regarding findings and sanctions are made by the Dean of the School with which the Respondent is affiliated. Please consult the policy for details.
What sanctions may be imposed for Scientific 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, on-line by the U S Public Health Service. A finding of significant misconduct is usually disastrous to a scientist’s career.
Am I obliged to report Scientific Misconduct?
The University policy says that “reporting… misconduct in scholarly work is a responsibility shared by everyone at UMB.” 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.
Can allegations of Scientific Misconduct be made anonymously
While anonymous allegations will be accepted, 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.