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Oklahoma State University
University Research Compliance

A unit in the Division of the Vice President for Research

Responsible Conduct of Research - Definitions

Ethical Conduct Core Service Areas

Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership

This core instructional area is described as the accepted practices for acquiring and maintaining research data. Proper methods for record keeping and electronic data collection and storage in scientific research. It includes defining what constitutes data; keeping data notebooks or electronic files; data privacy and confidentiality; data selection, retention, sharing, ownership, and analysis; data as legal documents and intellectual property.

Mentor/Trainee Relationships

This area includes training on the responsibilities of mentors and trainees in predoctoral and postdoctoral research programs. It include the role of a mentor, responsibilities of a mentor, the conflicts that emerge between a mentor and the trainee, collaboration and competition, selection of a mentor, and abuses that can occur between the mentor and the trainee.

Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship

This area is one of the most important. Many serious disagreements that can lead to allegations of scientific misconduct occur because of misunderstandings and ignorance of the ethical practices. This instructional area includes topics such as collaborative work and assigning appropriate credit, acknowledgments, appropriate citations, repetitive publications, fragmentary publication, sufficient description of methods, corrections and retractions, conventions for deciding upon authors, author responsibilities, and the pressure to publish.

Peer Review

The purpose of peer review in determining merit for research funding and publications is important for many reasons. The topics discussed in this instructional area include the definition of peer review, impartiality, and the composition and operation of peer reviews, editorial boards, and ad hoc reviewers. Responsibilities of reviewers are discussed in this section. Critical elements of privileged information and confidentiality are emphasized.

Collaborative Science

Research collaborations are critical to the advancement of science. Yet many problems emanate from these collaborations. Issues emphasized in this area include defining ground rules for collaboration, avoiding authorship disputes, data sharing and ownership.

Human Subjects

Institutions receiving PHS funding have oversight boards for research with human subject. Issues the Institutional Review Boards address include definition of human subjects research, ethical principles for conducting that research, informed consent processes, confidentiality and data privacy, risks and benefits to being a research subject, composition of the Institutional Review Boards, protocol development and IRB review, proper conduct of the study, and special protections for targeted populations.

Research Involving Animals

Issues important to conducting research involving animals include the definition of such research, ethical principles for conducting research on animals, federal regulations governing this type research, the institutional animal care and use committee, and treatment of animals.

Research Misconduct

All institutions that receive PHS funding are required to have a policy governing research misconduct. Topics that must be covered are fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, error versus intentional misconduct, identifying misconduct, internal procedures for investigating and reporting misconduct, protection of whistleblowers, and outcomes of investigations. The OSU policy 4-0125 "Complaints of Research Misconduct," Adobe PDF(PDF)* can be reviewed online.

Conflict of Intrest and Commitment

Conflict of interest and conflict of commitment are similar concepts. Typically, conflict of interest focuses on identifying financial issues that left unmanaged might cause a conflict between the investigator and his/her research or between the institution and its research enterprise. Conflict of commitment, on the other hand, has its focus on the obligations of the researcher to his or her commitment to the institution as defined by the workload and any conflict that might arise from consulting or other entrepreneurial activities. Topics covered, then, include conflicts associated with internal and/or external collaborators, financial conflicts, obligations to other constituencies, and other types of conflicts.