Research Misconduct Process at Penn State

Once an allegation of potential research misconduct has been brought to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO), the process as outlined in policy RP02 will be followed. Learn about reporting potential research misconduct as as well how to navigate authorship and plagiarism concerns

As depicted below, each allegation goes through a preliminary assessment to determine if it is credible and warrants moving to the next stage, which would be to notify the Respondent that an Inquiry will be conducted and to sequester the data. Data sequestration is the securing of data, files, and other evidence pertinent to the research misconduct allegation. This is the Respondent's opportunity to provide relevant information to the case that could help to show if research misconduct did not occur. An Inquiry is an initial gathering and review of evidence related to a research misconduct allegation to determine whether an Investigation is warranted. An Inquiry Official or Inquiry Committee will be charged by the RIO to conduct the Inquiry. The Official or Committee members are most commonly tenure-line faculty from a similar field of expertise as the Respondent. An Investigation establishes if research misconduct has occurred, who is responsible, and/or assesses the extent of the misconduct to determine appropriate action. Both the Inquiry and Investigation (if warranted after the Inquiry) end with a report, which will be provided to the Respondent. An Investigation Committee will be charged by the RIO to conduct the Investigation, which is also most commonly tenure-line faculty from a similar scientific background as the Complainant. The Investigation Committee members will not include those who assisted in the conduct of the Inquiry. 

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Notifications

As stated in RP02, "To the maximum extent possible, the RIO and all participants in the process will endeavor to protect the confidentiality of Respondents and Complainants, and of research subjects identifiable from research records or evidence, by limiting disclosure of information related to the research misconduct proceedings to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective, and fair research misconduct proceeding or as required by law."

While confidentiality is of the upmost importance, the RIO may provided notification to and consult with other University officials and offices as necessary. Additionally, per the Standard Operating Procedure for Notifications (SOP Notifications.docx), the RIO will provide the following notifications:

  1. Moving to Inquiry and Outcome of Inquiry

    • Complainant 

    • Respondent 

    • Respondent's Associate Dean for Research and Department Head (or other relevant college/unit leadership) (cc'd on Respondent's notification) 

    • Federal sponsors, other sponsors as applicable (may also share report with federal agencies, per regulatory requirements) 

  2. Moving to Investigation and Outcome of Investigation

    • Complainant 

    • Respondent 

    • Respondent's Associate Dean for Research and Department Head (or other relevant college/unit leadership) (cc'd on Respondent's notification) 

    • Federal sponsors, other sponsors as applicable (may also share report with federal agencies, per regulatory requirements) 

 

Standard Operating Procedures

For more details about the research misconduct process and the handling of research misconduct allegations, see the standard operating procedures linked below.