Sponsored Program Compliance
6. Scientific Integrity
Misconduct and Reporting
Research is a human enterprise. Scientists are susceptible to human error and may certainly engage in differences of opinion about interpretations or judgments of data. Researchers also work under difficult constraints, such that publication pressures, limited resources and other contingencies can push against the desire to maximize quality.
Responsible research conduct includes maintaining high quality standards, while acknowledging mistakes. Research integrity rests on the judgment and conscience of the researcher.
Beyond human error or negligence, there are also errors that involve deliberate deception. Scientific misconduct is defined as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results."
UR, along with the agencies that fund research conducted here, have explicit policy requirements related to allegations, investigations and reporting of scientific misconduct.
At the heart of discussion on these topics is concern about ethical responsibilities and reporting requirements. Integrity and conscience demand not only personal adherence to ethical standards, but reporting of suspected violations of those standards. Responsibilities in this regard are codified in three separate policies at UR, i.e, in the policy on Scientific Misconduct, the University's Code of Conduct, and in the Medical Center's Code of Conduct.
The importance of responsible conduct of research is emphasized during the earliest stages of a researcher's career. This is evidenced by several educational venues for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral fellows--some to meet mandates--such as the URMC Ethics and Professional Integrity in Research course and an annual one-day workshop held by Arts, Sciences & Engineering on responsible conduct of research.
Violations should be reported in confidence through normal organizational channels e.g. to the immediate supervisor. In the case of scientific misconduct, reports should be made to the Dean of the appropriate school.
Where reporting with a School structure is difficult, perceived violations of laws, regulations or grant/contract terms may be reported to the Director of University Audit, Medical Center Compliance Office or the General Counsel. Reports may be made confidentially, or even anonymously. Any report (whether from the Medical Center or River Campus) may also be made on the Strong Health Integrity Line at 756-8888. Reporting such concerns in good faith is a service to the University and to the larger academic community and will not jeopardize anyone's employment.
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