Office of Science and Technology Policy

For Immediate Release October 14, 1999


Research Misconduct - A New Definition and New Procedures for Federal Research Agencies

October 14, 1999

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today issued a proposed government-wide Federal policy that addresses research misconduct.  The policy was developed through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).  This Cabinet-level council is the principal means for the President to coordinate science and technology policies across the diverse parts of the Federal research and development enterprise.  The proposed policy, published today in the Federal Register, provides for a 60-day comment period.  It addresses behavior that has the potential to affect the integrity of the research record and establishes procedural safeguards for handling allegations of research misconduct.  Following any necessary revisions based on public input, Federal research agencies will be directed to implement the policy.


 Advances in science and engineering depend on the reliability of the research record, as do the benefits associated with them in areas such as health and national security.  Sustained public trust in the scientific enterprise also requires confidence in the research record and in the processes involved in its ongoing development.  In the interest of ensuring uniformity in Federal agency policies, the NSTC initiated discussions in April 1996 regarding the development of a government-wide research misconduct policy.  The policy builds upon the experience of Federal agencies and research institutions and draws on previous government and public-sector studies.

Policy Development

The policy is the result of an extensive consultative process with the major research agencies of the Federal government.  Conducted under the auspices of the NSTC, it began in April 1996 with the establishment of an NSTC panel (the Research Integrity Panel) of agency representatives from the major research agencies (NIH, NSF, DOE, NASA, USDA, DOD) and OSTP.  The panel was charged with developing a definition of research misconduct, as well as establishing procedural guidelines for handling allegations of research misconduct.  The panel's recommendations have been under review and revision since they were circulated in January 1997 to all the NSTC agencies.
What Is Covered By the Policy?

The proposed policy defines the scope of the Federal government's interest in the accuracy, the reliability, and the process involved in developing the research record.  It consists of a definition of research misconduct and establishes basic guidelines for responding to allegations of research misconduct, including procedural safeguards.  This policy will establish a uniform definition of research misconduct across the Federal agencies and will install consistent policies for responding to allegations of research misconduct.  The policy will apply to all research funded by the Federal agencies, including intramural research, research conducted or managed by contractors, universities, or research institutes.

Who Is Covered By the Policy?

 The policy will apply to all Federally-funded research regardless of where the research is conducted or by whom.  All research is covered that is funded by the Federal government that is conducted at universities, private laboratories, Federal intramural laboratories, or Federal laboratories operated by contractors.

How This Policy Differs From Current Policy

 The new research misconduct policy builds upon on the experience of Federal agencies and research institutions.  Most, if not all, agency definitions currently in place define research misconduct as including fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.  In addition to specifically defining these terms, the new proposed definition of research misconduct now explicitly includes plagiarism of ideas that occurs during the peer review process.  It also defines research misconduct as the falsification of data by inappropriate manipulation of research equipment.  Other kinds of misconduct that may occur in the course of research may be addressed through other mechanisms, thus the "other serious deviations" clause contained in some agencies' definition was deemed unnecessary.  Authorship disputes, unless they involve plagiarism, are not covered.

What About Other Kinds of Misconduct?

The new policy does not supersede existing government policies, criminal or civil laws, or other procedures for addressing other misconduct that might occur during the course of research, such as the unethical treatment of human research subjects, or the mistreatment of laboratory animals used in research.  It does not limit agency or institutional policies and prerogatives in addressing other forms of misconduct, including those that might occur in the course of conducting research, including the misuse of public funds.  Agencies will address these other issues as authorized by law and as appropriate to their missions and objectives

Policy Implementation

This policy will be carried out in a two-step process.  Following consideration of public comments received during the next two-month period, agencies will be directed to implement the policy.  In some cases, agencies may revise or replace existing regulations or policies addressing research misconduct.  In other cases, agencies may put new regulations in place or implement the policy through administrative mechanisms.  The end result will be that policies regarding research misconduct will be uniform across the government.

Proposed Definition of Research Misconduct

The following is the definition of research misconduct included in the proposed policy:
Research  misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

·   Fabrication is making up 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 record.

·   Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results,
      or words without giving appropriate credit, including those obtained through
      confidential review of others' research proposals and manuscripts.

·  Research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences of

See the Federal Register notice for the complete policy, including procedural guidelines and safeguards.  For further information, please contact the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, 202-456-6047.

Office of Science and Technology Policy
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W
Washington, DC 20502
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