Clinton Administration Issues Final Research Misconduct Policy More than four and one-half years after discussions began about the development of a research misconduct policy, the Clinton Administration last week issued a final "Federal Policy on Research Misconduct." This government-wide policy is to be implemented by December 6, 2001, with the assistance of a National Science and Technology Council implementation group.
The new policy is about three pages long. It begins with "Research Misconduct Defined: Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." The policy provides the following definitions: "Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them. 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. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit." The definition also states, "Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion."
The policy then describes "Findings of Research Misconduct." "A finding of research misconduct requires that: There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and The misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence."
The policy has separate sections for "Responsibilities of Federal Agencies and Research Institutions," "Guidelines for Fair and Timely Procedures," "Agency Administrative Actions," and "Roles of Other Organizations."
Two hundred and thirty-seven comments were received in response to an initial notice of this policy that was first published in the Federal Register in October 1999 (see FYI #151 in 1999.) The Office of Science and Technology Policy web site on this policy devotes five pages to the comments that were received. In many instances, revisions were made to the original notice.
In a preamble to the policy, OSTP explains, "This policy applies to federally-funded research and proposals submitted to Federal agencies for research funding. It thus applies to research conducted by the Federal agencies, conducted or managed for the Federal government by contractors, or supported by the Federal government and performed at research institutions, including universities and industry."
In explaining the reason for this new policy, the preamble states: "Advances in science, engineering, and all fields of research depend on the reliability of the research record, as do the benefits associated with them in areas such as health and national security. Sustained public trust in the research enterprise also requires confidence in the research record and in the processes involved in its ongoing development."
The "Federal Policy on Research Misconduct" can be accessed at http://www.ostp.gov/html/001207_3.html while the preamble containing the summary, summary of comments, other comments, and next steps, can be accessed at the following site: http://www.ostp.gov/html/001207_2.html
Richard M. Jones