Research misconduct

The University of Oxford expects all its members to observe the highest standards in the conduct of their research, as set out in its Academic Integrity in Research: Code of Practice and Procedure

Not upholding such standards, either intentionally or through lack of knowledge, damages the scientific process and may harm research participants, colleagues, the University and society as a whole. The University's code also defines how allegations of misconduct in research should be reported, and how these will be assessed and investigated. Allegations are taken very seriously and the University is committed to ensuring that these are investigated thoroughly and robustly.

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Misconduct in research for the purpose of the University’s Code and Procedure means the doing, planning or attempting of any of the following while proposing, carrying out or reporting the results of research:

  • falsification or fabrication of data, including the intentionally misleading or deliberately false reporting of research information
  • misrepresentation of data, including the invention of data and the omission from analysis and publication of inconvenient data
  • failure to follow good practice for the proper preservation, management and sharing of primary data, artefacts and material
  • unacknowledged appropriation of the work of others, including plagiarism, the abuse of confidentiality with respect to unpublished materials, or misappropriation of results, physical materials or other resources
  • misrepresentation of involvement in a research project; for example, the failure to include legitimate author(s) on outputs, or granting authorship where none is warranted
  • failure to declare conflicts of interest
  • failure to follow accepted procedures, legal or ethical requirements, or to exercise due care in carrying out responsibilities for avoiding unreasonable harm or risk to humans, other vertebrates, cephalopods or the environment
  • failure to follow existing guidance on good practice in research, including proper handling of privileged or private information collected on individuals during the research

Misconduct in research can include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. It excludes genuine errors that are not due to negligence, differences in interpretation or judgement in evaluating research methods or results, or misconduct unrelated to research processes. It does not include poor research.

 

When suspected research misconduct involves external funding, the University must comply with any additional regulations, policies and reporting obligations required by the funder. Several research funders (eg the Wellcome Trust, UKRI, Cancer Research UK) expect to be kept informed, at an early stage, of any allegations of misconduct received by the University relating to research that they have supported and how these allegations will be investigated.
Similarly, the University may need to inform other third parties (eg journals or the employers of research collaborators) of any allegation of misconduct in research in which they have a legitimate interest.

The Russell Group of UK universities has produced a statement of cooperation in respect of cross-institutional research misconduct allegations, that sets out principles for the management of the review of allegations of research misconduct that involve more than one institution. When assessing and investigating such allegations, the University of Oxford will adhere to the principles outlined in this statement.

Russell Group Statement of Cooperation in respect of cross-institutional research misconduct allegations

Misconduct or poor practice in research should be challenged. Queries from students or researchers regarding research ethics and integrity should initially be raised and discussed within your department or faculty as appropriate.

Sources of advice and support for University members include:

  • fellow students and colleagues
  • supervisors
  • mentors
  • senior tutors
  • directors of graduate studies
  • heads of department
  • research ethics committees
  • Research Services
  • Clinical Trials and Research Governance team
  • UK Research Integrity Office

Contact details of central sources of advice include:

Kathryn Dally, Senior Assistant Registrar, Research Services: kathryn.dally@admin.ox.ac.uk
Clinical Trials and Research Governance Team: ctrg@admin.ox.ac.uk  

As set out in the Procedure in the event of suspected misconduct in research, formal allegations of misconduct in research should be made in writing to the Registrar (Professor Ewan McKendrick).

Third parties (eg representatives of research funders, research journals, professional bodies) wishing to raise concerns, in confidence, about the integrity of research at the University of Oxford are invited, in the first instance, to contact Kathryn Dally, Research Services, University of Oxford.

As set out in the Procedure in the event of suspected misconduct in research, formal allegations of misconduct in research should be made in writing to the Registrar (Professor Ewan McKendrick).

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