The complainant (whistleblower) is an essential element in the effort to protect the integrity of PHS supported research because researchers do not call attention to their own misconduct. Prior to making an allegation of research misconduct a complainant should carefully study the policy established by their institution for responding to such allegations to:
- determine what information should be included in the allegation,
- to whom the allegation should be reported,
- what protections are provided for the complainant,
- and what role the complainant will play in the ensuing proceedings.
Research misconduct allegations should be made to the institutional official named to receive such allegations in the institutional policy for responding to research misconduct allegations. Allegations may also be made to ORI.
Because of the likelihood of retaliation against the complainant, the PHS Policies on Research Misconduct (42 C.F.R. 93.300) obligates institutions to "provide confidentiality to the extent required by § 93.108 to all respondents, complainants, and research subjects identifiable from research records or evidence" and "take all reasonable and practical steps to protect the positions and reputations of good faith complainants, witnesses and committee members and protect them from retaliation by respondents and other institutional members." A good faith allegation is made with the honest belief that research misconduct may have occurred. An allegation is not in good faith if it is made with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation.
On the role of the complainant in misconduct proceedings ORI policy states "it is the responsibility of the investigative body and ORI, not the complainant, to ensure that the allegation is thoroughly and competently investigated to resolution. Therefore, once the allegation is made, the complainant assumes the role of a possible witness in any subsequent inquiry, investigation, or hearing. For purposes of the research misconduct proceedings, the complainant is not the equivalent of a 'party' in a private dispute between an 'accuser' and 'accused'."
» NPRM Protection of Research Misconduct Whistleblowers (PDF) (Comment period closed 1/29/01)
» PHS Policies on Research Misconduct - 42 C.F.R. 93 (PDF)
» Complainant Issues in Research Misconduct: The Office of Research Integrity Experience (PDF)
» ORI Guidelines for Institutions and Whistleblowers: Responding to Possible Retaliation against Whistleblowers in Extramural Research - Being revised to comply with 42 C.F.R. 93.
» Consequences of Whistleblowing for the Whistleblower in Misconduct in Science Cases--Final Report (PDF)
» Retaliation Complaints from Complainants
» Federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, 5 U.S.C. 1201 (external link)
» ORI Responses to Issues Arising from Inquiries and Investigations