Overseeing the process for responding to research misconduct allegations is one of the Office of Research Oversight’s main areas of responsibility.
Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.
Allegations of research misconduct must be referred to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) at the responsible VA facility where the research referenced in the allegations was approved and the individual alleged to have committed the misconduct was employed. (See RIO Contact List.) Within one (1) business day of receipt of a formal allegation of research misconduct, the RIO must notify ORO Central Office of the allegation.
VHA Handbook 1058.02, “Research Misconduct”
The procedures for responding to allegations of research misconduct are set forth in VHA Handbook 1058.02, “Research Misconduct”. The most recent version of this Handbook was issued on February 7, 2014.
VHA Handbook 1058.02 adopts the federalwide definition of research misconduct and establishes detailed procedures for responding to research misconduct allegations involving VA employees and/or VA research. The potential consequences and severity of research misconduct necessitate a procedurally detailed mechanism for handling such allegations.
The response to a research misconduct allegation may involve several procedural stages. An initial assessment of the allegation is conducted to determine whether the allegation meets the criteria for opening an inquiry. If the criteria are met, an inquiry is opened to determine whether an allegation has sufficient substance to warrant an investigation. If warranted, an investigation is convened to make recommended findings about whether research misconduct occurred, and if so, the extent to which it occurred, who is responsible, and what corrective actions are appropriate. Based on the findings and conclusions of an investigation, the appropriate VISN Director adjudicates (determines the outcome of) each case of research misconduct. Respondents who are found to have committed research misconduct may appeal the finding and any recommended corrective action(s) to the Under Secretary for Health.
Research Integrity Officers (RIOs)
Each VA facility with an active research program must appoint an individual to serve as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) for the facility’s research program. (See RIO Contact List.) RIOs are responsible for: receiving and processing formal allegations of research misconduct; providing local oversight of research misconduct inquiries and investigations; sequestering, maintaining, and ensuring the confidentiality of documents and evidence; forwarding all information to the appropriate offices or persons as required by VHA Handbook 1058.02; and serving as a liaison between the VA facility and ORO Central Office.
ORO has developed checklists and other resources to facilitate the ability of RIOs to carry out their oversight responsibilities. (See Checklists.) ORO is also available for individual consultation, and provides remote and on-site training as needed.