Key Practices for Integrity In Research

Integrity in research and creative activity is based not only on sound disciplinary practice but also on a commitment to basic personal values such as fairness, equity, honesty and respect. The following guidelines are intended to promote high professional standards by everyone— faculty, staff and students alike.

Honesty in Proposing, Performing and Reporting Research

The foundation underlying all research is uncompromising honesty in presenting your own ideas in research proposals, in performing your research and in reporting your data. It means that you must keep detailed and accurate records of primary data as unalterable documentation of your research and that you will be truthful and explicit in disclosing what you did, how you did it, and the results you obtained.

Assignment of Credit

Research proposals, original research, and creative endeavors often build on your own work and on the work of others. Both published and unpublished work must always be properly credited. Reporting the work of others as if it were your own is plagiarism.

Fairness in Peer Review

The peer-review process involves the sharing of information for scholarly assessment on behalf of the larger disciplinary community. To be a fair peer reviewer, you must be impartial in your judgments and participate only when conflicts of interest have been revealed. Also, the integrity of this process depends on confidentiality until the information is released to the public. Therefore, the contents of research proposals, manuscripts submitted for publication, and other scholarly documents under review should be considered privileged information not to be shared with others, including students and staff, without explicit permission by the authority requesting the review.

Collegiality in Scholarly Interactions and Sharing of Resources

Collegiality in scholarly interactions, including open communications and sharing of resources, facilitates progress in research and creative activities for the good of the community. At the same time, it has to be understood that scholars who first report important findings are both recognized for their discovery and afforded intellectual property rights that permit discretion in the use and sharing of their discoveries and inventions. Balancing openness and protecting the intellectual property rights of individuals and the institution will always be a challenge for the community. Once you have published the results of your research or creative activities or otherwise communicated those results to the public, you are expected to share materials and  information on methodologies with your colleagues according to the tradition of your discipline.

Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The public looks to university research as an independent, unbiased source of information. There is real or perceived conflict of interest when a researcher has material or personal interest that could compromise the integrity of the scholarship. Because some university researchers also conduct research for private entities or have private interests in entities that contribute to research, the federal government, State of Nebraska and UNL require disclosure of these interests. It is, therefore, imperative that you consider and act appropriately on potential conflicts of interest. It is the responsibility of all researchers to be aware of and comply with such requirements.

Protection of Human Subjects and Humane Care of Animal Subjects

Research techniques should not violate established professional ethics or federal and state requirements pertaining to the health, safety, privacy and protection of human beings or to the welfare of animal subjects. While it is the responsibility of faculty to help students and staff comply with such requirements, it is the responsibility of all researchers to be aware of and to comply with them. The Human Subjects Protection Program of the  University of Nebraska–Lincoln provides appropriate protection to all volunteer subjects enrolled in research through the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB reviews and approves all research involving human subjects before projects are initiated, and continually reviews and monitors approved studies. In this way, the university ensures that research is conducted in accordance with the ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence and justice as set forth in the Belmont Report, and in compliance with internal policies and federal regulations. The Institutional Animal Care Program (IACP) at UNL ensures the humane care, use and health of animals used in the teaching, research and extension missions of the university. These goals are met through review and approval by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of all research and educational activities involving vertebrate animals (including wild mammals and birds) before projects are initiated, to assure compliance with all laws, regulations and rules governing the care and use of animals, and continuing review and monitoring of approved studies.

Compliance with Institutional and Sponsor Requirements

As an investigator, you are granted broad freedoms in making decisions concerning your research. However, you are still guided – and in some cases limited – in these decisions by the laws, regulations and procedures established by the university and sponsors of research to protect the integrity of the research process and the uses of the information developed for the common good. Although the legal agreement underlying the funding of a sponsored project is a matter between the sponsor and the university, the primary responsibility for managing a sponsored project rests with you as the principal investigator and your academic unit.

Adherence to Fair and Open Relationships

The relationship between senior scholars and their coworkers should be based on mutual respect, trust, honesty, fairness in the assignment of effort and credit, open communications and accountability. The principles that will be used to establish authorship and ordering of authors on presentations of results must be communicated early and clearly to all co-workers. These principles should be determined objectively according to the standards of the discipline, with the understanding that such standards may not be the same as those used to assign credit for contributions to intellectual property.

It is the responsibility of the faculty to protect the freedom to publish results of research and creative activities. The university has affirmed the right of its scholars for first publication except for “exigencies of national defense.” It is also the responsibility of the faculty to recognize and balance their dual roles as investigators and advisers in interacting with graduate students of their group, especially when a student’s efforts do not contribute directly to the completion of his or her degree requirements.

Avoiding Misconduct in Research and Creative Activities

Federal and university policies define misconduct to include fabrication (making up data and recording or reporting them), falsification (manipulating research materials, equipment or processes, or changing or omitting data such that the research is not accurately represented in the record), and plagiarism (appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit). Serious or continuing non-compliance with government regulations pertaining to research may constitute misconduct as well. University policy also defines retaliation against whistle blowers as misconduct. Misconduct does not include honest errors or honest differences of opinion in the interpretation or judgment of data.

The university views misconduct to be the most egregious violation of standards of integrity and as grounds for disciplinary action, including the  termination of employment of faculty and staff, dismissal of students and revocation of degrees. No matter what your role – faculty, staff or student – you are responsible for understanding the university’s policy on misconduct in research and creative activities; reporting perceived acts of misconduct of which you have direct knowledge to the Research Compliance officer; and protecting the rights and privacy of individuals making such reports in good faith.

Adapted with permission from Research Integrity: A newsletter sponsored and presented jointly by The Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Michigan State University, Vol. 7 No. 2 Spring 2004.