Research Misconduct

All employees and students of ECU have the responsibility to seek and promulgate the truth, ethically and honestly, in all phases of work. This responsibility governs the production and dissemination of research and creative activities, and it also includes applications for funding, reports to funding agencies, teaching, and the publication of teaching materials.

ORIC is responsible for handling allegations of research misconduct made against faculty, staff, or students engaged in research activities.

Research misconduct does not involve honest error. In accordance with federal policy, research misconduct means fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in the reporting of research results. The federal definitions for these terms are:

  • Fabrication: Making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification: Manipulating research materials, equipment or processes, or changing or omitting data and results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. The research record is the record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from the research inquiry and includes, but is not limited to, research proposals, physical and electronic laboratory records, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, books, dissertations, and journal articles.
  • Plagiarism: The appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

All reported allegations of research misconduct are handled in accordance with ECU’s regulation on research conduct. Additionally, allegations of research misconduct involving a Public Health Service funded research activity are handled in compliance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity (ORI) policy on research misconduct.

Confidential Reporting of Concerns Related to Research Misconduct

Regardless of status, members of the ECU community have the shared responsibility to report observed, suspected or apparent research misconduct. Allegations of research misconduct are to be directly reported to the research integrity officer (RIO). Becky Welch currently serves as ECU’s RIO and is available at or (252) 328-9478. In accordance with the strict confidentiality required for handling such allegations, no one else should be made aware of allegations outside of the RIO and/or ORIC staff designated by the RIO to assist in such cases. All parties involved in the alleged research misconduct case must adhere to maintaining strict confidentiality throughout the process. The RIO will ensure all parties are presented with and sign a confidentiality agreement.

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 hypothetically.

Reports can be made in writing, telephonically or in person and may be made anonymously.  Any individual making a report of research misconduct in good faith is protected against retaliation.

Process for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

The RIO assesses research misconduct complaints and initiates the research misconduct process, if necessary. The RIO fulfills the institution’s obligation in assuring compliance with the regulations of our federal funding partners.        

Process StepDescription
1. Receipt of AllegationResearch misconduct allegations should be made confidentially to the RIO. Allegations may be made anonymously by a complainant but must be made in good faith. The complainant should be prepared to cooperate with the inquiry and if warranted, the investigation. The RIO and all parties is to assure confidentiality to the greatest extent possible throughout the process.
2. Assessment
21 days
The RIO is charged with assessing allegations of research misconduct to determine if they fall within the definition of research misconduct, are covered by law, regulation, or research sponsor policy, and warrant an inquiry on the basis that the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified.
3. Inquiry
60 days
If the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and is sufficiently credible and specific, an inquiry must be initiated. An inquiry is conducted by a three-member panel appointed by the Deciding Official (DO). As a matter of good practice, a complainant should be interviewed at the inquiry stage.

The purpose of the inquiry is to conduct an initial review of the available evidence to determine whether to conduct an investigation. An inquiry does not require a full review of all the evidence related to the allegation.

The scope of the inquiry is not required to and does not normally include deciding whether misconduct definitely occurred, determining definitely who committed the research misconduct or conducting exhaustive interviews and analyses. The outcome of the Inquiry Panel should result in a written report of its findings to the DO.
4. Investigation
120 days
An investigation is initiated if the Inquiry Panel finds it warranted and the DO, after presented with the Inquiry Panel’s report, concurs with the Inquiry Panel’s findings. Any finding that an investigation is warranted must be made in writing by the DO. The Investigation Committee will consist of a minimum of five individuals, the majority of whom should be faculty members without administrative appointments.

The purpose of the investigation is to develop a factual record by exploring the allegations in detail and examining the evidence in depth, leading to recommended findings on whether research misconduct has been committed, by whom, and to what extent. The investigation will also determine whether there are additional instances of possible research misconduct that would justify broadening the scope beyond the initial allegations.
5. DecisionThe final investigation report, including any respondents’ comments, are provided to the DO who will determine in writing: (1) whether the institution accepts the investigation report, its findings, and the recommended institutional actions; and (2) the appropriate institutional actions in response to accepted findings of research misconduct if applicable.

If the DO’s determination varies from the findings of the investigation committee, the DO will, as part of his/her written determination, explain in detail the basis for rendering a decision different from the findings of the investigation committee. The DO may instead return the report to the investigation committee with a request for further fact-finding or analysis.

When a final decision on the case has been reached, the RIO will normally notify both the respondent and the complainant in writing.

Agency Reporting Requirements

Public Health Service
When an institution that is the recipient of a PHS award finds, learns of, or suspects research misconduct occurred that impacts–or could impact–the conduct or performance of that supported project(s), whether at the recipient organization or at a third-party sub-recipient organization, the recipient must work with the federal sponsor to assess the effect on the continuation of the project as originally approved by the sponsor. The recipient institution’s engagement with ORI as provided in 42 CFR 93 does not substitute for its engagement with the PHS agency sponsor to ensure ongoing compliance with the terms and conditions of the award.

National Institutes of Health


National Science Foundation

Federal Research Misconduct Assurance Program

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is responsible for the Assurance and Compliance Program that monitors institutional compliance with the PHS Policies on Research Misconduct (42 CFR 93).

An institution is eligible for PHS funding when it has an assurance on file with ORI stating that is has developed and will comply with an administrative process for responding to allegations of research misconduct in PHS-supported research that complies with the PHS regulation cited above. An institution establishes an assurance when an institutional official signs the face-page (SF 424 (R&R) or PHS 398) of a grant application form or when the institution files a separate assurance form.

Once established, institutions maintain their assurance by filing the Annual Report on Possible Research Misconduct (between January 1st and April 30th each year), submitting their policy for responding to allegations of research misconduct for review when requested by ORI, revising their policy when requested by ORI to bring the policy into compliance with the PHS regulation, and complying with the PHS regulation.

The Compliance Review Program ensures that institutions comply with their policy and the PHS regulation in responding to allegations of research misconduct, monitors the implementation of PHS administrative actions by institutions and PHS agencies, and responds to retaliation complaints from whistleblowers.

ECU maintains a Research Misconduct Assurance with ORI.  The institution’s Research Misconduct Assurance number is 0578209.