August 15, 2014

Office of Science's Management of Research Misconduct Allegations

To protect the integrity of Federally-funded research, and preserve public trust and confidence, the Department in June 2005, published its interim final Policy on Research Misconduct in the Federal Register. Research misconduct is the fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. There are three basic steps to processing an allegation — an inquiry, an investigation, and finally adjudication. The Department assigns primary responsibility for a research misconduct inquiry and investigation to the entity conducting the research, while the Department provides oversight.

We found that the Office of Science (Science) and the National Laboratories included in our review established organizational and procedural mechanisms for receiving and reviewing research misconduct allegations. Further, nothing came to our attention to indicate that allegations we reviewed were not appropriately evaluated and addressed. While each allegation appeared to be properly evaluated and addressed, we did identify instances where Science and the National Laboratories did not make required notifications or follow local laboratory procedures.

To ensure that research misconduct allegations are handled appropriately, we recommended that Science provide additional education and guidance on the procedures and responsibilities for conducting research misconduct allegation reviews to Department officials, laboratories, and financial assistance recipients. Management concurred with our findings and recommendation.

Topic: Science & Innovation