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Research Misconduct

What is Research Misconduct?

Research misconduct is defined by federal law and university policy as fabrication, falsification and/or 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 (using) of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.

An honest error, differences of opinion, and authorship/credit disputes do not constitute research misconduct.

Definitions:

Research Integrity Officer (RIO): the individual responsible for oversight of research misconduct at the University.

Respondent: the individual about whom an allegation of research misconduct has been made

Complainant: the individual who makes an allegation of research misconduct

A finding of research misconduct requires that the respondent engages in conduct which 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 allegation?

When the Office of Research Compliance and Integrity or the University Research Integrity Officer (RIO) receives an allegation of research misconduct from a complainant, the RIO conducts a preliminary assessment to determine whether 1) the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and 2) the allegation is credible and specific enough so that evidence of the misconduct can be identified. Often, faculty members or staff who have expertise in the subject area assist with the assessment.

If the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and there is sufficient evidence to support an allegation of misconduct, the RIO appoints a panel of UC Merced faculty and/or staff members who have the expertise to review the matter. The inquiry panel reviews available evidence and interviews key witnesses. If the inquiry panel concludes there is evidence of research misconduct, the next step is a full investigation.

During an investigation, a separate panel of experts explores the evidence in depth and interviews all relevant witnesses. At the conclusion of the investigation, the panel makes a recommendation regarding whether the respondent engaged in research misconduct and, if so, whether the respondent acted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.

The panel’s recommendation is transmitted to the RIO, who decides whether to accept the panel’s conclusions.

The Office of Research Compliance and Integrity has developed the UC Merced Research Misconduct Policy outlining procedures taken when an allegation of research misconduct is received.

Please see this policy below for more detail about the assessment, inquiry, and 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 respondent. The following are some strategies researchers can employ to avoid being the subject of an allegation of research misconduct:

  • Discuss authorship with all research collaborators at the outset of a project so everyone involved understands who will be listed as an author, and the expectations regarding the use of the data by those involved in the research.
  • 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.
  • Set reasonable expectations about the time it will take to collect the necessary data.
  • Maintain thorough and complete research records.
  • Respect the research process.
  • Do not stray from the protocol without obtaining the necessary approvals.
  • Communicate any actual or perceived problems with the research. Most research misconduct allegations are the product of communication difficulties between researchers.
  • Carefully and accurately report the research. Be specific about methods and procedures used and the data obtained.
  • Thoroughly review all papers where you are listed as an author.
  • Do not give or agree to guest-author status.
  • 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 Compliance and Integrity.

How do I report suspected research misconduct?

If you suspect that research misconduct has occurred, you can report your suspicion directly to the UC Merced RIO, Vice Chancellor Sam Traina at straina@ucmerced.edu, or 209-228-7964.

If you are not sure whether your complaint constitutes a complaint of research misconduct, you can consult with the Assistant Vice Chancellor Deborah Motton (dmotton@ucmerced.edu) or with the RIO, VCR Traina confidentially.

Resources on Research Misconduct