Scientific Integrity

Marine Biological Laboratory
Policy No. K.1.2


Initiated by:Director of Research Administration and Educational Programs
Approved by:Director/CEO
Date:February 17, 1994
Revision:#2, December 2, 1996
Distribution:All scientific staff

1.0Policy Statement:
The Marine Biological Laboratory deplores any action or conduct on the part of its staff or personnel or those engaged in MBL-sponsored activities that compromises scientific integrity. Specifically, a compromise of scientific integrity—also referred to as “misconduct in science”— means fabrication or falsification of data or other documentation, plagiarism, or other unethical practices that seriously deviate from those practices that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting or reporting research. Honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data do not constitute a compromise of scientific integrity. Both a compromise of scientific integrity and any retaliation by individuals or institutions against a person who reports or provides information in good faith about suspected or alleged misconduct will be considered scientific misconduct under this policy.

For detailed information on issues of scientific and academic integrity, a list of references is given at the end of this document.

2.0Scientific Misconduct

2.1Suspicions of scientific misconduct (whether from MBL personnel or from others, including granting agencies) should be reported to the Director of the Laboratory, who will immediately initiate an inquiry to determine whether the facts warrant a formal investigation. This inquiry will be conducted by a small committee appointed by the Director, which will include individuals with the necessary and appropriate expertise to address the circumstances.

2.2In this inquiry, as well as in following investigation(s), every effort will be taken to respect and protect confidentiality in order to prevent possible damage to the reputation(s) of innocent individual(s), and to avoid intrusion into individual privacy; every effort will be made to protect the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent scientific misconduct, and to afford the accused individual(s) confidential treatment with a prompt and thorough investigation, and an opportunity to comment on allegations and findings of the inquiry and of any subsequent investigation. Anonymous allegations will be accepted and may be pursued, as long as sufficient information is provided to permit initiation of an inquiry.

2.3The MBL’s inquiry will be completed within sixty (60) calendar days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period, in which case those circumstances shall be clearly documented. Detailed documentation and reports from the inquiry will be maintained in a secure area for at least three (3) years, including evidence reviewed, interview summaries, and the conclusions of the inquiry. A copy of the report of the inquiry will be given to the individual(s) against whom the allegation was made, and their comments, if any, will be made part of the record.

2.4If the inquiry committee decides that grounds exist for suspecting that scientific misconduct has taken place, the Director will appoint a second committee responsible for a formal investigation of the allegations. This committee will include members of the Science Council of the Marine Biological Laboratory, supplemented as necessary to include persons possessing the necessary and appropriate expertise to conduct the investigation. Precautions will be taken against real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of those involved in any inquiry or investigation.

2.5The formal investigation will begin within thirty (30) days of the completion of the inquiry and will include examination of documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda or telephone calls. Interviews should be conducted, as far as possible, with all individuals involved either in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made, as well as with other individuals who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations. Complete summaries of these interviews will be prepared, provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and be included as part of the investigation file.

2.6The investigation will be completed and a written report of the findings will be presented to the Director within 120 calendar days of the initiation of the formal inquiry, unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. The report of both committees and the investigation file shall be maintained by the Director in a secure area for at least three (3) years. A copy of the report of the investigation will be given to the individual(s) against whom the allegation was made, and their comments, if any, will be made a part of the record.

2.7During and subsequent to the formal inquiry and investigation process, the Director is responsible for:

2.7.1.Requisite and appropriate reporting to funding agencies and to other institutions that may be required, as promulgated in 42 CFR Part 50 [esp. 42 CFR Part 50.104 (a)(4)], 45 CFR 689, and specific agency guidelines, which requirements are incorporated herein by reference;
2.7.2.Undertaking diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputation(s) of the person(s) alleged to have engaged in misconduct when allegations are not confirmed;
2.7.3.The protection of the position(s) and reputation(s) of the person(s) who, in good faith, made the allegations;
2.7.4.Imposition of appropriate sanctions on the individual(s) for whom the allegation of misconduct has been substantiated;
2.7.5.Imposition of appropriate sanctions on the individual(s) shown to have knowingly made false charges of scientific misconduct;
2.7.6.Taking appropriate administrative actions to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of the federal financial assistance are being carried out.

2.8These policies and procedures apply to all research (both publicly and privately funded) supported through the MBL. Although MBL cannot assume full responsibility for scientists at the MBL who are affiliated with and funded through other institutions, it will notify and assist the responsible institutions in matters related to this policy. Individuals for whom MBL does not bear direct responsibility include summer investigators and resident scientists employed by other institutions (e.g., NINDS, Boston University, University of Pennsylvania, Tufts University) and visiting investigators.

3.0Data Handling
It should be noted that MBL scientists are expected to keep proper records of their research. This requirement has several aspects. For example, federal regulations require that records that document research sponsored by federal grants be available in response to requests from the scientific community, and that the results and accomplishments of the federally-funded research should be made available to the public. Proper record-keeping practice is especially important in dealing with issues of possible misconduct.

The following is the MBL’s policy on data handling and record keeping:

3.1.All records of research that result in a scientific publication shall be retained at least five (5) years after the report appears. Records of unpublished results shall be retained also for at least five (5) years.

3.2.All records of research are the property of the MBL and shall be available at all times for inspection by duly authorized representatives of the MBL and/or funding agencies.

3.3.MBL expects that significant findings from research and educational activities will be promptly submitted for publication (consistent with the maintenance of intellectual property rights) and that investigators will share with other researchers, at the appropriate incremental cost, the data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of the work.

3.4.Each investigator receiving grant support through the sponsorship of the MBL who, upon leaving the MBL, wishes to retain research data obtained at the MBL, will be required to sign a statement acknowledging the MBL’s data accessibility requirements. The full text of the statement is given on a form for this purpose appended to this policy.


4.1.”Fostering Academic Integrity: Report of the Committee on Academic Responsibility” (MIT 1992). Available in the MBL Director’s Office.

4.2.PHS Grants Policy Statement. DHHS Publication No. (OASH) 94-50,000 (Rev.) April 1, 1994, p. 2-2.

4.3NSF Grant Policy Manual (Rev. April 25, 1994). para 666.

4.4.Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Policy on Misconduct in Science (WHOI 1993). The WHOI policy was used in developing the MBL Policies/Procedures on Scientific Integrity.

5.0Policy Clarification and Updates
Policy clarification and updates are available from the Office of Research Administration and Education.

Acknowledgment of Data Accessibility Policy form (PDF)