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Responsible Conduct in Research

Guidelines and Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Research Misconduct

In the application of any and all phases of the procedures outlined below, it must be kept in mind that persons making charges of misconduct, those so charged, as well as research subjects identifiable from research records or evidence, have rights to be scrupulously respected. It should also be understood that the process below must be appropriate for applications involving persons of any university position where such misconduct may occur.


“Research misconduct” means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

“Falsification of data” – Ranging from fabrication to deceptively selective reporting, including the purposeful omission of conflicting data with the intent to falsify results.

“Plagiarism” – Representation of another’s work as one’s own.

“Misappropriation of Others’ Ideas” – The unauthorized use of privileged information (such as violation of confidentiality in peer review), however obtained. This behavior is not specifically mentioned in the definition of research misconduct given above, but is generally considered to also constitute such misconduct.

Required Training

The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training is a part of funding requirements for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundations (NSF).

Principal Investigators (PIs) are responsible for not only overseeing and mentoring their students and researchers in the responsible and ethical conduct of research, but also for ensuring that all undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and any researchers supported by their NSF awards have successfully completed the designated modules of the online course.

NSF: The following procedures for complying with the NSF RCR Training Requirement apply to all NSF supported projects that were applied for on or after January 4, 2010: PIs are responsible for directing all undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and any researchers supported by their NSF awards to successful complete the CITI RCR training course within 30 days of commencing work on the project.

NIH:  NIH requires that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research.  This policy will take effect with all new and renewal applications submitted on or after January 25, 2010, and for all continuation (Type 5) applications with deadlines on or after January 1, 2011.  This Notice applies to the following programs:  D43, D71, F05, F30, F31, F32, F33, F34, F37, F38, K01, K02, K05, K07, K08, K12, K18, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26, K30, K99/R00, KL1, KL2, R25, R36, T15, T32, T34, T35, T36, T37, T90/R90, TL1, TU2, and U2R.   This policy also applies to any other NIH-funded programs supporting research training, career development, or research education that require instruction in responsible conduct of research as stated in the relevant funding opportunity announcements.


The specific procedures for Clark University adapted from the Association of American Universities (AAU) framework are as follows:

Allegations should be taken to the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies (DoRGS).

The claimant(s) is a party who is filing the inquiry, and respondent(s) is a party against whom the inquiry is filed.  The inquiry is initiated by an allegation/complaint involving the possibility of misconduct, and conducted by the DoRGS.  Scrupulous care must be taken to assure that no one with a conflict of interest (defined in accordance with established University policies as used by the Committee on Conflict of Interest) in the matter at issue sits in a position of judgment.[1]

An inquiry is not a formal hearing; it is designed to separate allegations deserving of further investigation from frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken allegations. Allegations that have not been brought in good faith may lead to disciplinary action. The Dean is responsible for notifying the respondent(s) within a reasonable time of the charges and process that will follow. When the inquiry is initiated, the respondent(s) is notified of the obligation to cooperate by providing material necessary to conduct the inquiry. During the inquiry, confidentiality is desirable in order to protect the rights of all parties involved to the extent possible.

The completion of an inquiry is marked by a determination of whether or not an investigation is warranted. The Dean is to develop a report summarizing the process and stating the conclusion of the inquiry, and inform the claimant(s) and respondent(s) whether or not there will be further investigation. Allegations found to require investigation is forwarded to the investigation panel.  Federal regulation requires that the agency sponsoring the research is notified at this point. If an allegation is found to be unsupported but has been submitted in good faith, no further formal action is taken. Allegations submitted in bad faith may result in discipline.

Investigations, if required, shall be conducted by a subcommittee of the Research Board, constituting at least 3 board members representing disciplinary diversity. A member outside of the Research Board, with appropriate scientific expertise, may be added to assure a relevant knowledge base.

The purpose of investigation is to explore further the allegations and determine whether fraud/misconduct has been committed. The investigation focuses on accusations as defined previously and examines the factual materials of each case. In the course of an investigation, additional information may emerge that justifies broadening the scope of the investigation beyond the initial allegations. The respondent is informed when new directions of investigation are undertaken.

The committee is to submit in writing the findings of the investigation to the Dean, and is advised to do so within 120 days of the start of the investigation. The report is shared with the respondent(s), or parts that are pertinent to his or her role if multiple respondents are involved. All federal agencies, sponsors, or other entities initially informed of the investigation is notified.  Findings include evidence to one of the following determination: a finding of fraud; a finding of serious scientific misconduct short of fraud; a finding that no culpable conduct was committed, but serious scientific errors were discovered; or a finding that no fraud, misconduct, or serious scientific error was committed.  If misconduct is found, no disciplinary measures is taken against the complainant if the allegations, however incorrect, are found to have been made in good faith, and every effort should be made to prevent retaliatory action against the complainant. If the allegations are found to have been made in bad faith, disciplinary actions may be taken against those responsible.  Relevant sections of the Faculty Handbook, student Code of Conduct, and other governing University policy documents should be applied.

Appeals of the investigative committee’s decision by the respondent(s) are restricted to the body of evidence already presented, and must be submitted to the Provost in writing within 30 days of the determination. The grounds for appeal are limited to failure to follow appropriate procedures in the investigation or new evidence that had not been considered by the committee.  New evidence, however, may warrant a new investigation.  The review and decision by the Provost is final.

Outcomes and Dispositions of Cases should be determined in accord with procedures and carried out by properly designated bodies within the University. Relevant sections of the Faculty Handbook, student Code of Conduct, and other governing University policy documents should be applied as they are now written for equally grave situations, including rights and procedures for appeal. Thus, for faculty subjects, if any personnel actions are envisioned, the Committee on Personnel would become involved; for students, the proceedings would go to the College Board of Graduate Board.

Reporting to the federal agency which is supporting the research, if applicable, must be done in accordance with the federal rules. All investigation reports, attachments, appeals, actions, and findings will be given to ORI (Office of Research Integrity) at the close of the investigation.

[1]If conflict of interest exists between the Dean and the claimant(s) or respondent(s), the Provost will designate someone to conduct the inquiry.


Contact Information

Sponsored Programs and Research

  • Geography 300 and 300A
    Clark University
    950 Main Street
    Worcester, MA 01610
  • Lisa Gaudette, Director
  • 1-508-421-3835
  • lgaudette[at]clarku[dot]edu