Misconduct in Scholarship and Research

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Policy Considerations:

Boston University is committed to the highest possible standards of integrity in scholarship and research. This commitment is fundamental to the University’s mission in fostering the pursuit of truth and the expansion of knowledge. The administration, faculty, students, and staff of the University share in the responsibility for preserving the integrity of scholarship and research. All members of the University community are responsible for promoting the highest ethical principles in each academic discipline and for holding members of the community accountable to these principles.

Scholarship and research are conducted within a system of academic peer review aimed at promoting truth and knowledge. Working within this system places considerable demands upon both young and established investigators to uphold rigorous principles and methods. A serious failure of discipline or rigor can lead to an incident of misconduct in scholarship or research.

Misconduct in scholarship or research includes such serious ethical violations as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.  However, it is important that misconduct be distinguished from honest error or honest differences in the interpretation of data.

Creativity in the exploration of new and untried concepts and method is encouraged in the scholarly community. The use of novel procedures and practices in the pursuit of truth raises no issues of concern simply because such procedures or practices are new or different. However, the manner in which a scholar discloses or fails to disclose the use of new methods or assumptions may be relevant in determining whether there has been any misconduct in the reporting of scholarship or research. The University’s statement on Academic Freedom provides:

The rights of the faculty member and the student to academic freedom, however, carry with them duties and responsibilities. The faculty member is entitled to full freedom to engage in research, scholarship, and creative work and to publish or produce the results, subject to responsible performance of these and other academic duties. The faculty member is likewise entitled to freedom in teaching and discussing the subject matter. Yet, as in research, the concomitant of this freedom must be a commitment to accuracy and integrity. (From Policy on Academic Freedom, approved by the University Council, March 24, 1987.)

The consequences of serious misconduct in scholarship and research may include not only damage to individual careers but also the erosion of public confidence in the integrity of scholarship and research both at the University and in the academic community generally. Similarly, false or inaccurate allegations of misconduct in research may also unfairly injure the reputation of scholars, researchers, and the institution. It is important that there be appropriate University procedures by which allegations of misconduct in scholarship or research may be fairly and thoroughly aired, both to expose and correct misconduct and to protect the scholar and researcher against false charges.