Responsible Conduct of Research

Guideline Date: September 2017      Revision: 1     Last Review: August 2017

Federal regulations require all research institutions to have policies and procedures for handling allegations of research misconduct, protecting whistleblowers and educating all personnel in the responsible conduct of research. For projects funded through the U.S. Public Health Service, the institution and principal investigators must formally certify the integrity of their research.

Allegations of research misconduct involving University faculty are reported through the vice president for research and innovation or the president's office and investigated by Research Integrity. The Research Integrity director is responsible for investigating research misconduct and ensuring that investigation reports are submitted to the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in a timely manner.

Definitions

  • Research. All basic, applied and demonstration research in all fields of science, engineering and mathematics including, but not limited to, research in economics, education, linguistics, medicine, psychology, social sciences and statistics, and research involving human subjects and animals.
  • Research misconduct. Fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in the proposal, performance or review of research, or in reporting research results.
  • Fabrication. Making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification. 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.
  • Plagiarism. The appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, result or words without giving appropriate credit.

Proving Research Misconduct

A finding of research misconduct requires proof of both items below:

  • Fabrication, falsification or plagiarism that constitutes a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant scholarly community.
  • Misconduct committed either intentionally or knowingly or recklessly.

The allegation of misconduct must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

Research misconduct does not include honest error, differences of opinion or authorship credit disputes. (See Ethics in Authorship below.)

Investigating Research Misconduct

The University's process for handling allegations of research misconduct is detailed in Title 2 - Nevada System of Higher Education Code, Chapter 6 and in section 6,515 of the University Administrative Manual . The process involves the following steps:

  1. Preliminary assessment. Does the allegation meet definitions? Is there sufficient evidence to go forward?
  2. Inquiry. Initial fact-finding to determine if the allegation of misconduct warrants an investigation.
  3. Investigation. A formal examination/evaluation of all relevant facts.
  4. Reporting. The University must report to the federal ORI when an investigation is initiated and when the outcome of the investigation is determined. The institution must notify ORI at any stage in the event of the following:
    • An immediate hazard or public health issue
    • An immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment
    • A possible criminal violation
    • A risk of premature public release of allegations

Role of the Complainant

The complainant is the person (or persons) who reports possible misconduct or makes a formal charge of misconduct. The complainant has a duty to report allegations of potential misconduct in good faith, meaning there must be a reasonable basis for the allegations and not merely a suspicion. The complainant is required to cooperate with the inquiry and investigation process while maintaining confidentiality during the process. Complainants have a right to protection against retaliation related to their good faith allegations.

Role of the Respondent

The respondent is the person (or persons) against whom an allegation of research misconduct is directed or the person(s) whose actions are the subject of the inquiry. The respondent has a reasonable duty to cooperate in the investigation process. Rights of the respondent include timely notification of allegations after sequestration of evidence, confidentiality and the opportunity to respond to allegations, present evidence and review and comment upon the investigation report. Respondents also have a right to restoration of their reputation if no misconduct is found.

Sanctions for Research Misconduct

  • The sanctions for findings of research misconduct can include any or all of the following:
  • Retraction of publications, certifications
  • Suspension/debarment
  • Job-related discipline up to and including termination
  • Imprisonment for criminal acts

Education Requirements

The America Competes Act and National Institutes of Health (NIH) regulations require that National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded students and postdoctoral scholars receive formal training related to the responsible conduct of research. All NIH-supported training programs must also include specific topics related to the responsible conduct of research. Further, awards received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) require program directors, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and any staff participating in the funded project to undertake appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.

The University offers opportunities to complete these requirements, primarily through its Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Program. The RCR Program provides graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, staff and NSF-funded undergraduate students with information, training and tools to address the increasingly complex ethical issues they will confront during their careers.

Ethical Considerations in Authorship

Author contribution means having substantial contributions to the development of the work, the generation, analysis and interpretation of data, and the drawing of conclusions and/or actual writing of the research publication. To be included as an author, each author must have made a substantial intellectual contribution to the work beyond providing instruction, lab space or equipment, financial support or dissertation guidance. Each author accepts responsibility for the contribution and scholarly conclusions and understands the methodology, the relationship to other similar research and significance and implications of the contribution.

Who to Contact

If you see or experience possible research misconduct:

Vice President for Research and Innovation

  • (775) 327-2365
  • (775) 327-2362 Fax

Research Integrity

  • (775) 327-2368
  • (775) 327-2369 Fax

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity

Additional Information