This section provides an overview of the process established by the Public Health Service (PHS) for responding to allegations of research misconduct in biomedical and behavioral research or research training supported by the PHS. The role of two major figures in the process are discussed first - the complainant and the respondent. Then process stages are covered - receipt of an allegation, preliminary assessment of the allegation, conduct of the inquiry and investigation, the institutional decision, the ORI oversight review, the PHS decision, the option to request a hearing before the an Administratative Law Judge, and the imposition of PHS administrative actions when research misconduct is found. Finally, case summaries provide some background information on previous cases.
Responding to an allegation of research misconduct tends to be a unique rather than a routine event at most institutions [for data, see New Institutional Research Misconduct Activity: 1992-2001 (pdf)]. Few institutions have any significant experience in responding to allegations, and the uniqueness of the event makes it difficult for an institution to develop expertise in conducting inquiries and investigations. There is potential, however, for a research misconduct allegation to have a high impact both on the individuals involved as well as on the institution where the alleged misconduct took place.
Factors such as the scope of the misconduct, the length of time the misconduct went undetected, the prestige of the individuals or institutions involved, the possible impact on public health or clinical treatment, retaliation against the complainant or other mishandling of the allegation, as well as the extent of media coverage can all play a role in the impact that a particular case may have on individual researchers or their institutions.
ORI is prepared to provide technical assistance to any institution that is responding to an allegation of research misconduct through its Rapid Response Technical Assistance (RRTA) Program. ORI has also developed an orientation video, The Role of the RIO, for new institutional research integrity officers (RIOs). ORI routinely provides documents to institutions that are conducting inquiries and investigations:
- Inquiry Report Checklist (pdf)
- Investigation Report Checklist (pdf)
- Outline for Inquiry-Investigation Reports (pdf)
- Submitting Electronic Records to ORI (pdf)