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.
The ORO Research Misconduct Officer can be contacted at VHACOOROResearchMisconductProgram@va.gov or via the contact information on the right side of this page.
VHA Directive 1058.02, “Research Misconduct”
The procedures for responding to allegations of research misconduct are set forth in VHA Directive 1058.02, “Research Misconduct”. The most recent version was issued on July 10, 2020, which supersedes the version of VHA Handbook 1058.02 that was issued on February 7, 2014. The superseded version applies only to cases initiated under that policy (see FAQs).
VHA Directive 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 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.
The new version retains the fundamental procedural structure that conforms with the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, but is updated with the following changes:
- The Directive has been reorganized to include a menu of procedural Appendixes to be selected and applied according to particular circumstances.
- The facility-appointed Research Integrity Officer (RIO), rather than ORO, makes the determination about whether an allegation of research misconduct meets the threshold for opening an inquiry.
- The publication of findings of research misconduct is no longer listed as a potential corrective action, but rather, as a non-appealable administrative action taken by ORO with respect to final findings.
- New details are provided regarding the allegations on which the VA and non-VA committee members can deliberate and vote in a joint inquiry/investigation.
- The timeframe required to complete an inquiry has been increased from 45 to 60 days.
- Inquiry and Investigation Reports, with associated attachments and exhibits, are to be submitted electronically.
Sequence of Events for VA Research Misconduct Proceedings referenced in VHA Directive 1058.02.
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 Directive 1058.02; and serving as a liaison between the VA facility and ORO.
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.