Research Integrity and Compliance

Scientific Misconduct

In the scientific endeavor, no principle is of greater importance than integrity. The advancement of knowledge relies on the collaboration of theorists and experimentalists through a system of information sharing that takes place primarily in scientific publications. Though these publications are "refereed" by fellow scientists, it is a moral imperative that the information submitted accurately and completely reflects the findings of the authors. Each article is used by colleagues in subsequent inquiries as a launching point. It follows that scientific progress relies wholly on the integrity of scientists in truthfully reporting their observations. Whenever there is a breakdown in this honor system, progress is impeded, and the public trust is lost. Years may be spent in attempting to replicate results that were never actually observed.

Scientific misconduct is defined by federal statute (Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 50), and in USU policy as any incident of fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Fabrication refers to the making up of data which were not observed as purported. Falsification includes the changing of data or the way in which observations are reported, and spans a broad spectrum, from omitting observed data points from reported data sets to wholesale changing of data to fit the investigator's hypothesis. Plagiarism is the claiming as one's own material that is the product of someone else's work.

USU assures that it supports scientific integrity through an established program of guidelines for reporting incidents of misconduct, and conducting prescribed inquiries and investigations. 

USU Policy #306, "Research," (under development) provides guidance to all university employees and students regarding scientific misconduct. In addition, Policies #407, "Academic Due Process: Sanctions and Hearing Procedures," and #403, "Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibilities," address scientific misconduct, also referred to in the policies as "research fraud."

Whenever an instance of scientific misconduct is observed, employees and students of USU are encouraged to bring an allegation forward, which will be handled in accordance with USU's most recently published "Scientific Misconduct Procedures."