Research Misconduct

What is Research Misconduct?

Research misconduct is defined by federal law and University policy as:

➢ fabrication
➢ falsification
➢ plagiarism
in proposing or performing 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 records. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit. Honest error, differences of opinion and authorship/credit disputes do not constitute research misconduct. A finding of research misconduct requires that the accused engage in conduct that constitutes a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community and that the misconduct is committed intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.

What is the process for investigating a research misconduct complaint?

When the Office of Research receives a complaint of research misconduct, we conduct a preliminary assessment to determine whether the complaint falls within the definition of research misconduct and whether there is sufficient evidence of misconduct to warrant further inquiry. Often, faculty members who have expertise in the subject area assist with the assessment.

If the complaint falls within the definition of research misconduct and there is sufficient evidence of misconduct, Vice Chancellor for Research will appoint a panel of at least three UC Merced faculty members who have the expertise to review the matter. The inquiry panel will review the available evidence and interview key witnesses. If the interview panel concludes there is evidence of research misconduct, the next step is a full investigation.

During an investigation, the panel explores the evidence in depth and interviews all relevant witnesses. At the conclusion of the investigation, the panel makes a recommendation regarding whether the accused engaged in research misconduct and, if so, whether the accused acted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. The panel’s recommendation is transmitted to the Vice Chancellor for Research who decides whether to accept or reject the panel’s conclusions.

The Office of Research has developed the UC Merced Research Misconduct Policy outlining the procedures taken when an allegation of research misconduct is received. Please see this policy for more detail about the investigation process and the rights of the individuals involved.

How can I avoid being involved in research misconduct?

Research misconduct investigations are difficult for everyone involved, particularly the accused. The following are some strategies researchers can employ to avoid being accused of research misconduct:

1. Discuss authorship with all research collaborators at the outset of a project so that everyone involved understands who will be listed as an author and the expectations regarding use of the data by those involved in the research.

2. Monitor the research in which you are involved – inform your staff, students, and collaborators that you will verify data collection, entry and reporting. Ask questions about questionable results.

3. Set reasonable expectations about the time it will take to collect the necessary data.

4. Maintain thorough and complete research records.

5. Respect the research process.

6. Do not stray from the protocol without obtaining the necessary approvals.

7. Communicate any actual or perceived problems with the research. Most research misconduct allegations are the product of communication difficulties between researchers.

8. Carefully and accurately report the research. Be specific about the methods and procedures used and the data obtained.

9. Thoroughly review all papers on which you are listed as an author.

10. Do not give or agree to guest author status.

11. Promote research integrity – teach the responsible conduct of research in your courses and labs and encourage attendance at Responsible Conduct of Research programs sponsored by the Office of Research.

How do I report suspected research misconduct?

If you suspect that research misconduct has occurred, you can report your suspicion to the Director of Research Compliance at (209) 383-8655. If you are not sure whether your complaint constitutes a complaint of research misconduct, you can consult with the Director of Research Compliance or the Vice Chancellor for Research confidentially.


Office of Research Integrity

Department of Health and Human Services

Federal Policy on Research Misconduct 42 CFR 50, 93

UC Merced Policy and Procedures on Research Misconduct

UC Statement of Ethical Values

UC Policy on Research Misconduct

Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty

ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research