Research Misconduct

Columbia University is committed to ensuring the integrity of research conducted under its auspices and has put in place policies and procedures that define misconduct, outline the process for investigating allegations, and explain the consequences of committing misconduct.

The University’s Standing Committee on the Conduct of Research implements the Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research ("Policy"). The Office of Research Compliance and Training helps administer the Policy and is a resource for anyone with concerns or questions about possible research misconduct. Naomi Schrag, the Vice President for Research Compliance, Training and Policy, is Columbia's Research Integrity Officer.

The University defines research misconduct, in accordance with federal policy, as any fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research or in the reporting of research results. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion, authorship disputes that do not involve plagiarism, and violations of other University policies (e.g., sexual harassment policy).

Research Misconduct Overview

Confidentiality and Other Safeguards

The University has a strong commitment to assuring confidentiality when investigating allegations of misconduct. This commitment is reflected in the Policy, which states:

“To the extent possible consistent with a fair and thorough investigation and as allowed by law, knowledge about the identity of a Complainant, a Respondent and any Witnesses shall be limited to those persons identified in this Policy and others who need to know and all written materials and information with respect to any proceedings shall be kept confidential.”

For additional safeguards, see section K in the Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research.

Resolution Process

The University has a process for handling formal allegations of research misconduct that can include the following steps: Inquiry, Investigation, Adjudication and Appeal. Not every case will include each of these steps. The Resolution Process flow chart details the University’s formal process for addressing allegations of research misconduct. 

Findings of Misconduct

For there to be a finding of research misconduct following a resolution process, three requirements must be met:

  1. There must be a significant departure from accepted practices in the relevant research community;

  2. The Research Misconduct must have been committed intentionally, knowingly or recklessly;

  3. The Allegation must be proved by a Preponderance of the Evidence

The University does not tolerate retaliation against those who report a compliance concern in good faith.  

If you have a question with respect to possible research misconduct there are several places you can go to discuss your concern, such as:

Some issues may be able to be resolved informally through a Dean or department Chair, or other official in the relevant department, center or institute before any formal allegations of misconduct are made.

An individual may begin a formal misconduct proceeding by submitting a written allegation of research misconduct to the Chair of the Standing Committee or to the Executive Vice President for Research.

The University takes seriously each allegation of research misconduct.