Research Misconduct

Policy Statement 69 is LSU's governing policy on research misconduct. This policy adheres to all federal standards with regard to the definition of research and research misconduct, as well as with how allegations of research misconduct are to be processed and adjudicated. 

Allegations of research misconduct can be reported directly or anonymously to the Research Integrity Official or through the LSU Ethics Hotline. In all cases, allegations are handled confidentially for the protection of both the complainant and the respondent.

Definitions

The Code of Federal Regulations provides clear and detailed guidelines with respect to all federal programs, including grants and the oversight of such grants. This includes definitions of research, research misconduct, and the component activities that may constitute misconduct.

  • Research is defined as "a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” 45 CFR 46.102(l)
  • Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. 42 CFR 93.103
    1. Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
    2. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
    3. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
    4. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
  • A finding of research misconduct requires that all aspects of the following criteria must be met (42 CFR 93.104)
    1. There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and
    2. The misconduct be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly; and
    3. The allegation be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • Complainant is the person who discloses the allegation of misconduct.
  • Respondent is the person(s) accused of misconduct.
  • Research Integrity Officer (RIO) is the person on campus responsible for overseeing the process and review of all reported cases of research misconduct. By definition, this is the Vice President of Research & Economic Development, or their designee.
  • Deciding Official is the person on campus who makes the final determination on all research misconduct cases. By definition, this person is the President of the university.

 

Review Process

The review of research misconduct allegations is handled through a three-step process. The Research Integrity Officer or their designee (RIO) is responsible for managing this process.

Initial Review

When an allegation of research misconduct is received, the RIO reviews the claim against the following criteria:

  • Assuming the claim is true, would it constitute research misconduct?
  • Is there sufficient evidence to allow a followup?

If the answer to both questions is yes, the RIO requests from the Deciding Official that a charge letter be drafted and an inquiry committee be appointed to continue the review.

Inquiry Committee

A three-person committee, consisting of senior tenured faculty (or other qualified individuals), is appointed by the Deciding Official to review the allegations and initial evidence. The committee reviews available evidence, interviews the complainant, respondent, and relevant key witnesses, and deliberates on the following criteria:

  • Are the allegations credible?
  • Is there sufficient evidence that research misconduct occured?

If the answer is yes to both questions, the inquiry committee can report to the RIO a recommendation for a full investigation.

Investigation Committee

A six-person committee, consisting of senior tenured faculty of whom at least three have expertise in the relevant field of research, is formed to investigate all aspects of the allegation(s), Their goal is to determine "whether research misconduct occured, by whom, and to what extent." (PS-69 VII.A.) Further, they are asked to determine if additional instances of research misconduct occured in any other research, publications or grant applications by the complainant or other persons.

The Investigation Committee provides a written report, which is reviewed by the RIO, who then makes recommendations to the Deciding Official as to the conclusions of the committee and any sanctions that are appropriate for the scale and scope of misconduct (if found). The Deciding Official reviews all of the reports and makes a final determination.

Findings & Administrative Actions

Findings of research misconduct can result in various sanctions or administrative actions, including but not limited to supervision, retraction of publications, or disbarment from funding, depending on the scope and severity of the misconduct. Such sanctions may come from the university, or from the relevant federal agency if the research was supported by external funds. Additional actions may also be taken by the university and would follow any relevant administrative processes.

Findings of research misconduct in projects funded by the Public Health Service (PHS), including the National Institutes of Health, are also referred to the Office of Research Integrity for their review.

 

Confidentiality

Complainants and respondents are both to be protected through confidentiality throughout the initial review, inquiry and investigation process to the extent possible. Should either fail to protect the process, sanctions limiting access to information or other sanctions may be imposed. 

Determinations by the RIO, inquiry committee or investigation committee that the allegations were made in bad faith can be referred for administrative actions.