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.
Research integrity is defined as adherence to ethical principles and professional standards essential for the responsible practice of research including 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. Research misconduct is defined as "fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." Examples include intentional misrepresenting or selective reporting of data. Honest errors, authorship disputes and sloppy record keeping may violate accepted professional norms but are not considered research misconduct.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, along with the agencies that fund research conducted here, have explicit policy requirements related to allegations, investigations and reporting of research misconduct. 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 the policy on research misconduct.
Reports of research misconduct are investigated internally by a team lead by the chief scientific officer. Reporting such concerns in good faith is a service to the Hospital and to the larger academic community, and will not jeopardize anyone's employment. Efforts are made to protect both the complainant and the respondent during the investigation. Per federal regulations, findings of misconduct must be reported with full disclosure and are a matter of public record.
Ask the Experts
Research Compliance and Regulatory Affairs
Wendy Williams, Ph.D.
Office of Responsible Research Training
Deputy Compliance Officer, Research
Office of Compliance and Privacy
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CHOP Research Resources
- Responsible Department: Office of Research Compliance and Regulatory Affairs
- The CHOP Research Institutes' Policy on Research Misconduct
- National Academy of Science: Errors and Negligence in Science
- National Academy of Science: Misconduct in Science
- National Academy of Science: Responding to Violations