Upholding Research Integrity at HHS

ORI’s work is often unseen as it protects the integrity of research conducted at HHS and by PHS-funded grantees. Learn about its impressive work.

The mission of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health’s Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is to promote research integrity, prevent research misconduct, and protect science, public health, and Public Health Service (PHS) funds. ORI works to prevent research misconduct in and promote the integrity of PHS-funded research through: (i) oversight review of research misconduct investigations conducted at PHS-funded research institutions, and (ii) outreach activities that support these institutions in their efforts to foster research integrity and the responsible conduct of research. ORI also works with grantee institutions to help train Research Integrity Officers to handle allegations of research misconduct and provides educational resources on the responsible conduct of research. This role is critical to promoting research integrity and thus the mission of HHS.

This work is done year after year with impressive results that have been reported since ORI’s first Annual Report in CY1993. Now ORI is unveiling FY2020’s results. The report highlights ORI’s activities from the past fiscal year in the following areas:

  • Research misconduct investigations
  • Communications with stakeholders
  • ORI’s grant program and ORI-funded research projects
  • Research projects conducted by/in collaboration with ORI
  • ORI’s compliance programs

In FY2020, ORI received 204 new allegations related to research misconduct or integrity and closed 45 cases and 27 allegations (for a total of 72 closures). As estimated by a preliminary analysis within ORI, over $75 million in PHS funding was tied to published papers citing grants in which research misconduct had occurred. Of the cases closed in FY2020, 11 cases resulted in findings of research misconduct, 8 cases did not result in findings of research misconduct, and 26 cases were closed when ORI declined to pursue findings (due to insufficient evidence to establish culpability, sufficient action being taken by the institution, or lack of significance to the scientific community). When ORI makes findings of research misconduct, the administrative actions rendered can include federal-wide debarment, supervision of PHS-funded research, prohibition from PHS advisory service, and/or a requirement that the respondent request the correction/retraction of published papers. Also, it is important to note that although ORI may decline to pursue findings in a particular case, an institution may still draw its own conclusions about research misconduct for that case and implement administrative actions at the institutional level.  

ORI conducted a research project on retractions and corrections of published papers cited in its findings of research misconduct. ORI found that a group of 164 papers, all of which contain instances of fabrication, falsification, and/or plagiarism, had been cited by 7,318 research papers, and those 7,318 papers in turn had been cited in an additional 301,716 papers. By stopping misinformation early, ORI helps to keep faulty science out of the literature to ensure that future research is built on genuine data and research results.

ORI also conducted 361 technical assistance sessions to provide stakeholders at grantee institutions responding to allegations of research misconduct with guidance and information about forensic image analysis, statistical analyses of data, sequestration of research records, and review of institutional research misconduct proceedings.

While ORI’s work is often unseen, it protects the integrity of research conducted at HHS and by PHS-funded grantees. ORI remains committed to handling allegations of possible research misconduct in PHS-funded research, supporting the training and education of researchers on the responsible conduct of research, and supporting PHS-funded institutions as they work to foster research integrity and the responsible conduct of research. To learn more about the world of research integrity, visit ori.hhs.gov. The full FY2020 annual report is available in digital (PDF) format and can be viewed and downloaded here.

Statement for ORISE Fellow:

This project was supported in part by an appointment to the Research Participation Program at the Department of Health and Human Services administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services.

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