An international study of research misconduct policies

Account Res. 2015;22(5):249-66. doi: 10.1080/08989621.2014.958218.


Research misconduct is an international concern. Misconduct policies can play a crucial role in preventing and policing research misconduct, and many institutions have developed their own policies. While institutional policies play a key role in preventing and policing misconduct, national policies are also important to ensure consistent promulgation and enforcement of ethical standards. The purpose of this study was to obtain more information about research misconduct policies across the globe. We found that twenty-two of the top forty research and development funding countries (55%) had a national misconduct policy. Four countries (18.2%) are in the process of developing a policy, and four (18.2%) have a national research ethics code but no misconduct policy. All twenty-two countries (100%) with national policies included fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism in the definition of misconduct, but beyond that there was considerable diversity. Unethical authorship was mentioned in 54.6% of the misconduct definitions, followed by unethical publication practices (36.4%), conflict of interest mismanagement (36.4%), unethical peer review (31.8%), misconduct related to misconduct investigations (27.3%), poor record keeping (27.3%), other deception (27.3%), serious deviations (22.7%), violating confidentiality (22.7%), and human or animal research violations (22.7%). Having a national policy was positively associated with research and development funding ranking and intensiveness. To promote integrity in international research collaborations, countries should seek to harmonize and clarify misconduct definitions and develop procedures for adjudicating conflicts when harmonization does not occur.

Keywords: definitions; ethics; international variation; policies; research misconduct.

MeSH terms

  • Authorship / standards
  • Humans
  • Peer Review / standards
  • Plagiarism
  • Policy*
  • Scientific Misconduct / ethics*