General Policies and Principles

A. Responsibility to Report Misconduct

All institutional members should report observed, suspected, or apparent research misconduct to the RIO.  Any other official who receives an allegation of research misconduct must report it immediately to the RIO.  Reporting misconduct in scholarship and research is a serious responsibility shared by all members of the University community.  Reports may be made to the RIO by telephone, electronic means, or in-person meeting.

Individuals from outside the University (including other scientists, journal editors, or research subjects) should also report to the RIO any allegations of research misconduct involving persons employed by or affiliated with the University.

If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident falls within the definition of research misconduct, he or she may meet with or contact the RIO to discuss the suspected research misconduct informally, which may include discussing it without disclosing the identity of the accused and/or hypothetically.  If the circumstances described by the individual do not meet the definition of possible research misconduct, the RIO will refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the problem.

If the RIO determines that the circumstances described by the individual meet the definition of possible research misconduct, the University has an obligation to move forward under these procedures.

B. Prohibition of Retaliation for Reporting in Good Faith

Allegations should not be made capriciously, but evidence of misconduct should not be ignored.  An individual with information indicating misconduct in scholarship or research should be able to report in good faith such allegations without retribution.  University policy prohibits retaliation by the University or one of its members against a complainant because of his or her good faith reporting of an allegation or involvement in an inquiry or investigation.  Institutional members should immediately report any alleged or apparent retaliation to the RIO.  Conversely, an individual who makes an allegation that is not in good faith may be subject to administrative action pursuant to Section XI.C. below.

C. Confidentiality

Because of the potential jeopardy to the reputation of the individual(s) against whom allegations of misconduct have been made, the reporting of allegations and the following procedures for investigating them should be handled with care to avoid unnecessary disclosure of the identity of respondents, complainants, and research subjects  to the maximum extent consistent with the obligations of the University to the academic and scientific community and to any sponsors and external institutions that have provided support for the research.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary for the RIO to disclose the identity of the complainant to the respondent so that the respondent is able to defend him- or herself against the charges.  Therefore, if a potential complainant wishes to have confidential discussions and consultations about concerns of possible misconduct with an assurance of complete confidentiality, he/she is encouraged to speak with the University Ombuds, who does not act as an agent for the University and who can provide confidential informal advice to the potential complainant about options for reporting. Conversations with the University Ombuds are considered off-the-record and are not part of the formal complaint process. See http://www.bu.edu/ombuds/home/.

D. Cooperation with Research Misconduct Proceedings

Institutional members will cooperate with the RIO and other institutional officials in the review of allegations and in the conduct of inquiries and investigations.  Institutional members, including respondents, have an obligation to provide evidence relevant to research misconduct allegations to the RIO or other institutional officials.

E. Interim Administrative Actions and Notifications

Throughout the research misconduct proceeding, the RIO will review the situation to determine if there is any threat of harm to public health, funds and equipment, or the integrity of the research process.  In the event of such a threat, the RIO will, in consultation with other institutional officials and the appropriate funding agency, take appropriate interim action to protect against any such threat.  Interim action might include additional monitoring of the research process and the handling of funds and equipment, reassignment of personnel or of the responsibility for the handling of funds and equipment, additional review of research data and results or delaying publication.  The RIO shall, at any time during a research misconduct proceeding, notify the appropriate funding agency immediately if he/she has reason to believe that any of the following conditions exist:

  • Health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects;
    • Funding agency resources or interests are threatened;
    • Research activities should be suspended;
    • There is a reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law;
    • Funding agency action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding;
    • The research misconduct proceeding may be made public prematurely and agency action may be necessary to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved; or
    • The research community or public should be informed.