Research and Scholarly Misconduct

From University System of Maryland Policy (the USM Policy):

The inherent requirement for integrity in the quest for knowledge and in the creation of scholarly and artistic works is fundamental to the academic purpose. Deviations from the proper conduct of scholarly work erode the public's confidence in science, in scholarship and in institutions of higher education. The University System of Maryland expects that the highest ethical standards as well as compliance with public laws and regulations will prevail in the conduct of its activities.

From the University of Maryland College Park’s Policy and Procedures Concerning Scholarly Misconduct (the University's Policy and Procedures):

Scholarly integrity is the responsibility of the entire academic community. All members of the university community—students, staff, faculty and administrators—share responsibility for developing and maintaining standards to promote honesty, accuracy, and objectivity in scholarly work and for reporting abuse of these standards. Misconduct in carrying out academic activities undermines the integrity of the educational system and the scholarly enterprise, and erodes the public trust in the university community. The responsibility to prevent and report misconduct, however, ought not create an atmosphere that discourages the openness and creativity that are vital to scholarship.

The Office of Faculty Affairs enforces the University’s Policy and Procedures governing research and scholarly misconduct, managing all phases of the process set forth therein. The Senior Vice President and Provost has designated the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs as the Designated Officer identified in the University’s Policy and Procedures. The Research Integrity Officer (RIO) in the Office of Faculty Affairs oversees inquiries and investigations into research and/or scholarly misconduct. More information about reporting concerns of potential research and/or scholarly misconduct is provided below.

Research and Scholarly Misconduct Defined

Derived from key federal regulations regarding research misconduct, the University’s Policy and Procedures define scholarly misconduct as “Fabrication, Falsification, Plagiarism" (the common definition of research misconduct) "or any other practice that seriously deviates from practices commonly accepted in the discipline or in the academic and research communities.”

  • Fabrication means intentionally generating research data or results that are fictitious in some regard, and recording or reporting these data or results as being genuine.
  • Falsification means manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting research data or results in a way that deviates from common practice in the field, such that the research purposely is not accurately represented in the research record.
  • Plagiarism means the representation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, words, images, or other creative works as one’s own without giving appropriate credit.

Scholarly misconduct may take many other forms, including, but not limited to:

  • improprieties of authorship;
  • abuse of confidentiality / misappropriation of ideas;
  • deliberate misrepresentation of qualifications;
  • deliberate material failure to comply with federal, state, or University requirements affecting research; and
  • violation of generally accepted research practices.

Scholarly misconduct does not include appropriative practices in the Creative Arts insofar as they accord with accepted standards in the relevant discipline. Scholarly misconduct also does not include unintentional error or differences in the interpretation or judgment of research data or results that can be reasonably substantiated by the data or results.

Reporting Research and Scholarly Misconduct

As stated in the USM Policy, reporting concerns regarding potential misconduct is a responsibility shared by everyone at the institution. If you suspect that research or scholarly misconduct may have occurred, you should report the information you have to the RIO in writing. You should not attempt to investigate concerns of potential misconduct on your own. The institution will make diligent efforts to protect individuals who report allegations in good faith.

To report allegations of or discuss matters related to research or scholarly misconduct, e-mail or call 301-405-6803. If you have questions before making a report, the RIO is available for informal discussions. Hypothetical scenarios can also be discussed. Anonymous allegations may be made; however, the inability to seek additional information from an anonymous complainant can impede the progress of the process to review the allegations. The institution will make diligent efforts to honor requests for confidentiality to the extent possible.

The RIO is also available to answer questions regarding the application of the University's Policy and Procedures.  Further guidance on reporting misconduct can be found here.

For all other matters related to research integrity (e.g., compliance, export controls, animal care and use, human subjects research, conflicts of interest, responsible conduct of research training), contact the Division of Research.

Research and Scholarly Misconduct Resources and Guides

The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has many resources on the topic of research misconduct.

  • "The Lab" is an interactive video that allows users to play the role of graduate student, post-doc, principle investigator, or research administrator. This video can be used both as an individual or as a training for a larger group. Click here to download the companion guide for using this video.
  • ORI videos regarding research integrity. Click here to watch or download the videos.
  • The Public Health Service (PHS) Policies on Research Misconduct.
  • ORI links to other resources and to recent cases of misconduct.
  • ORI case studies on falsification of data: click here and here.
  • Improper manipulation of experiments and images.
  • ORI’s Guide to Ethical Writing.
  • ORI authorship and publication cases.
  • ORI information on plagiarism and self-plagiarism.

University Resources

The University’s Division of Research has information about training that faculty or students can complete, as well as information on regulatory requirements and policies governing the responsible conduct of research. (Please note that students completing examinations or assignments for courses are governed by different policies, such as the Code of Academic Integrity.)

In addition, the University has multiple policies and procedures governing the conduct of research at the University. Those policies are available here.

Additional Resources

This online module from Columbia University examines several common reasons for research misconduct and discusses ways for those in supervisory roles to mitigate those risk factors.

This online module from the Online Ethics Center examines data fabrication.

A number of funding and regulatory agencies have articulated specific expectations regarding the conduct of the research that they support and have associated regulatory requirements or policies governing how allegations of research misconduct must be handled.