FR Doc 05-21874
[Federal Register: November 2, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 211)]
[Page 66371-66373]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []
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Research Misconduct

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of policy on research misconduct.


SUMMARY: The United States Department of Education (Department) 
announces the establishment of a policy regarding research misconduct 
(Department's Policy). The Department's Policy implements the Federal 
Policy on Research Misconduct (Federal Policy) issued by the Executive 
Office of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy on 
December 6, 2000 (65 FR 76260).

EFFECTIVE DATE: The Department's Policy is effective December 2, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda Wolff, U.S. Department of 
Education, 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW., room 508C, Washington, DC 20208-
5643. Telephone: (202) 219-2067 or by e-mail:
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in this section.


Statement of Department of Education Policy Regarding Research 

    The Department recognizes the significant threat that research 
misconduct poses to the integrity, accuracy, and reliability of 
research funded by the Federal Government, including research funded by 
the Department. As an agency that provides funding for research, the 
Department is aware of the importance of establishing throughout the 
Government uniform policies and guidelines, to the extent practicable, 
as called for in the Federal Policy.
    The Federal Policy seeks to establish uniformity among Federal 
agencies in several key areas including the adoption of common 
definitions of research misconduct and related terms, as well as the 
establishment of uniform criteria for determining a finding of research 
misconduct (65 FR 76260, 76262, and 76263). In addition, the Federal 
Policy recommends that Federal agencies adhere to certain common 
policies and procedures in applying their respective research 
misconduct policies, including establishing guidelines to ensure fair 
and timely procedures for responding to allegations of research 
misconduct. The Federal Policy also provides guidance to assist Federal 
agencies in determining the appropriate sanctions for research 
    The Department has determined that the best method of fulfilling 
its obligation is to establish a policy that (1) adopts the Federal 
Policy and (2) within the framework of regulations governing research 
funded by the Department, applies the common definitions and criteria 
for responding to allegations of research misconduct.

Adoption of Common Definitions

    The Department adopts, and applies to research funded by it, the 
definition of research misconduct in the Federal Policy (65 FR 76260 
and 76262). Accordingly, the Department applies the following 
    Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism 
in proposing, performing, or reviewing research or in reporting 
research results. However, the term does not include honest error or 
differences of opinion.
    Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or 
reporting them.
    Falsification means manipulating research materials, equipment, or 
processes, or changing or omitting data or results so that the research 
is not accurately represented in the research record.
    Plagiarism means appropriating another person's ideas, processes, 
results, or words without giving proper credit.
    Consistent with the Federal Policy, the definition of research for 
purposes of the Department's Policy includes all basic, applied, and 
demonstration research in all fields, as more fully described in the 
Federal Policy (65 FR 76260 and 76263). The definition of research 
record as used in the Department's Policy is identical to the 
definition used in the Federal Policy (65 FR 76260 and 76263).

Adoption of Common Standards for the Purpose of Finding Research 

    As stated in the Federal Policy, the Department considers that 
research misconduct has occurred if (1) there is a significant 
departure from the accepted practices of the relevant research 
community; (2) the misconduct occurs as the result of an intentional 
act or a knowingly or recklessly committed act; and (3) the allegation 
is proven by a preponderance of evidence.

General Responsibilities of the Department and Research Institutions

    The Federal Policy describes, in general terms, the 
responsibilities that Federal agencies and research institutions share 
in responding to research misconduct. For purposes of the Department's 
Policy, the Department has adopted the Federal Policy's definition of 
research institution (65 FR 76260 and 76263). Thus, this term includes 
all organizations, regardless of size, using Department funds for 
research, including intramural research conducted for the Department by 
employees and contractors.
    To the extent that the responsibilities of the Department and 

[[Page 66372]]

institutions described in the Federal Policy are consistent with the 
Department's regulations and Federal law, the Department's Policy, 
elsewhere in this document, cites specific provisions that more fully 
describe the rights and responsibilities articulated in the Federal 
Policy. However, the Department's Policy is not controlling if it is 
inconsistent with Federal law, the Department's regulations, or the 
terms and conditions of any funding arrangement entered into by the 
    A research institution that has internal policies and procedures 
for responding to allegations of research misconduct may continue to 
rely on those procedures if appropriate. The Department's Policy does 
not require a research institution that lacks these types of formal 
internal policies and procedures to establish them. However, the 
absence of an internal process does not lessen the importance of an 
institution's self-policing in the administration of research funded by 
the Department. Any research institution that wishes to establish 
formal internal policies and procedures should refer to the Federal 
Policy's guidance.
    The Federal Policy requires a research institution to notify the 
funding agency (or agencies in some cases) of an allegation of research 
misconduct if (1) the allegation involves Federally funded research (or 
an application for Federal funding) and meets the Federal definition of 
research misconduct, and (2) if the institution's inquiry into the 
allegation determines there is sufficient evidence to proceed to an 
investigation. The Federal Policy also obligates a research institution 
to immediately notify a Federal agency if public health or safety is at 
risk, if agency interests or resources are threatened, if research 
should be suspended, or if there is a reasonable indication of possible 
civil or criminal violations. Additionally, the Federal Policy requires 
a research institution to notify a Federal agency if Federal action is 
required to protect the interests of those involved in the 
investigation or in situations in which the premature release of 
information related to an investigation into research misconduct 
requires possible Federal intervention to safeguard evidence and 
protect the rights of those involved (65 FR 76260 and 76263). The 
Department adopts the Federal Policy with regard to obligatory 
notification by research institutions and applies the Federal Policy to 
research institutions receiving funding from the Department.
    The Department's oversight responsibilities typically reside in the 
Principal Office (PO) responsible for making a research grant or 
awarding a research contract. Additional oversight responsibility lies 
with the Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG).
    OIG has independent authority to investigate a research 
institution's use of Department funds, as well as to conduct 
investigations related to waste, fraud, and abuse in programs funded by 
the Department. Anyone wishing to report alleged research misconduct 
may use the same hotline established by OIG for persons wishing to 
provide information concerning waste, fraud, and abuse. The telephone 
number for this hotline is 1-800-MIS-USED; the e-mail address is An individual making a report may choose to remain 


General Guidelines for Establishing Fair and Timely Procedures

    The Federal Policy provides general guidance to assist research 
institutions in developing fair and timely procedures for responding to 
allegations of research misconduct (65 FR 76260 and 76263). The 
guidelines are designed to provide safeguards for informants, as well 
as for persons alleged to have committed research misconduct. The 
guidelines address the importance of objectivity and expertise among 
those within a research institution tasked with reviewing allegations 
of misconduct.

Department Regulations Governing Research Misconduct

    It is the Department's Policy to pursue vigorously all allegations 
of misconduct involving research funded by the Department. While it is 
beyond the scope of the Department's Policy to reference every Federal 
statute and regulation that could conceivably be used by the Department 
or another agency of the Government in responding to allegations of 
research misconduct, reference is made in the following sections of 
this notice to several specific regulations applicable to research 
misconduct. Research institutions that receive Department funds through 
grants or contracts are also subject to the specific provisions of the 
grant arrangement or contract, as applicable.
    1. Grants and Cooperative Agreements. A research institution that 
receives a grant or cooperative agreement from the Department to 
conduct research is subject to the provisions of the Education 
Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). See generally 34 
CFR parts 74, 75, 77, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 97, 98 and 99.
    These regulations describe various remedies available to the 
Department, including the temporary withholding of cash payments, the 
disallowance of costs, and suspension or termination of the award (see 
34 CFR part 74, subpart C, and part 75, subpart G). EDGAR also includes 
provisions related to hearings and appeals.
    The Department may also initiate a suspension or debarment action 
against a research institution, notwithstanding the imposition of any 
other enforcement action. The regulations governing suspensions and 
debarments for non-procurement matters, including rights of hearing and 
appeal, are in 34 CFR part 85. Specifically, under 34 CFR 85.305, the 
commission of fraud, forgery, or falsification is grounds for 
suspension or debarment.
    2. Contracts. A research institution that enters into a contract 
with the Department is subject to the provisions of the Federal 
Acquisition Regulations (FAR). See generally 48 CFR parts 3400 through 
3499. General provisions available to the Department to address 
instances of research misconduct under contracts are in 48 CFR part 52. 
Additionally with regard to contracts, the Department may initiate a 
debarment or suspension action under 48 CFR 9.406 and 9.407.

Research Misconduct Involving Department Employees

    The Department's Policy applies to employees of the Department, 
each of whom is subject to standards of conduct that apply to research 
conducted within the Department. Federal regulations require an 
employee to (1) put forth an honest effort in his or her work; and (2) 
protect and conserve Federal property and only use that property in 
authorized ways (5 CFR 2635.101(b)(5) and (6)). Additionally, an 
employee must disclose instances of fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption 
(5 CFR 2635.101(b)(11)).
    As indicated in the Department's Personnel Manual Instruction 
(PMI), possible sanctions for employee misconduct in research may 
include suspension or termination from Federal employment (PMI 751-1, 
Table of Penalties, item 24). An employee's supervisor has initial 
responsibility for responding to employee research misconduct. To 
assist supervisors in administering an appropriate remedy, the Merit 
Systems Protection Board has established 12 criteria, commonly referred 
to as the ``Douglas Factors,'' used in determining the appropriate 
penalty. See Douglas v. Veterans Administration, 5 Merit Systems 
Protection Board 313 (1981).

[[Page 66373]]

    An employee who faces disciplinary proceedings has available a 
number of established procedures providing for the employee's rights to 
appeal or otherwise challenge a disciplinary matter. These may include 
rights under the Merit Systems Protection Board regulations, Equal 
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations, and grievance 

Additional Considerations

    The authority and responsibility for responding to allegations and 
instances of research misconduct in the Department's programs are 
shared among a wide variety of offices within the Department. The 
procedures described in this notice for investigating, adjudicating, 
and punishing instances of research misconduct are general in nature. 
Therefore, it is the Department's Policy to pursue not only the 
remedies described in this notice, but, also all legal remedies 
available to the Department and other Federal agencies in responding to 
instances of research misconduct.
    Thus, while the Department's Policy is intended to comply with the 
Federal Policy, it is not intended to create, waive, amend, or 
otherwise abrogate any statutory or regulatory right that may otherwise 
exist or come into existence concerning the subject of research 

Electronic Access to This Document

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(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number does not apply.)
    Dated: October 27, 2005.
Margaret Spellings,
Secretary of Education.
[FR Doc. 05-21874 Filed 11-1-05; 8:45 am]