Toward global standardization of conducting fair investigations of allegations of research misconduct

When a research institution receives a whistleblowing of research misconduct, a research misconduct investigation committee is set up according to the content of the whistleblowing, and an investigation is conducted. At that time, there may be a problem that the experience and policy differ depending on the person in charge of the investigation and the committee members. Although the investigation is conducted based on the guidelines of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the details are not defined, and it cannot be denied that there may be differences in the criteria for fraudulent recognition among the investigation committees.

The APRIN Subcommittee on Medical and Life Sciences has held the “Meeting for Standardization of Research Misconduct Investigation” with 22 specialists who have deep experience in this field, with the aim of preventing such a possibility and supporting researchers in charge at each research institution and those appointed as committee members. During the 15 meetings, the opinions of editors in Europe and U.S., experienced specialists in U.S. government agencies, and people from Japanese government agencies have been also referred.

Then, we have summarized the points to be considered when conducting research misconduct investigations and reported them at international conferences. Now, the culmination of these achievements had been published in Accountability in Research, an internationally acclaimed journal in the field of research integrity.

The article provides an easy-to-understand explanation of how to respond to allegations of misconduct in research institutions, what procedures to follow, what to consider, and what to base decisions on. This paper is now open access.

APRIN Research Misconduct Investigation Standardization Committee

Our article entitled “Standardizing Procedures in Japan for Conducting Investigation of Allegations of Research Misconduct and Reporting Their Results” was published in the December issue of Trends in the Sciences in 2018. This article was prepared by the APRIN Research Misconduct Investigation Standardization Committee, aiming to standardize institutional research misconduct investigation procedures, with valuable inputs from experts, either in Japan or overseas, and government officials.

In addition, the article, “How to investigate allegations of research misconduct: A checklist,” was published on Retraction Watch (dated January 8, 2019). This article, which explains the above article, was written in order to publicize worldwide the activities in Japan against research misconduct, hoping to provide a first foothold for standardization of misconduct investigation in the world.