Research Conduct

Research integrity is essential in any field of study. How can results be reliable and useful to a larger audience if the research is not conducted with the highest ethical principles? A system of principles known as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) has evolved over centuries of research. These principles include how data are collected and reported, the nature of authorship, intellectual property and relationships between mentor and apprentice. Because of the importance of RCR, Utah State University has created an increasingly sophisticated set of courses where students can learn about research ethics.

Research Ethics and Misconduct

According to the Department of Health and Human Services – Public Health Service Policies on Research Misconduct 42 CFR Part 93, research misconduct is defined as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” Research misconduct, however, does not include honest error or differences of opinion. The complete text of PHS Policies on Research Misconduct 42 CFR Parts 50 and 93 is available.


When the reported or recorded data or results are made up, it is considered as fabricated. This includes faking the names and information of participants to support claims.


“Manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.”


One of the biggest and most common blunders that researchers make is the act of plagiarizing. Plagiarism refers to the act of copying someone else’s work or ideas without giving proper credit to the original author. Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional and it is not necessarily a black and white issue. Its scope can be very broad and complex, thus making it more difficult to understand. To make things clearer, here are several important points to remember regarding plagiarism:

Intentional plagiarism occurs when you use, copy, borrow, and/or submit ideas and materials by someone else and pass it as your own.

Lifting ideas and phrases from various sources and putting them together to create a statement is considered as patchwork plagiarism. This includes using synonyms of the original words in the text to give the illusion of paraphrasing the original work.

Plagiarism by non-attribution includes failure to cite and quote the original source. Whenever you summarize, paraphrase, or quote another author’s work, make sure that you cite the original source in the footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical notes. Also, whenever you use the author’s exact words, make sure that you enclose them in quotation marks or put them as block text.

There is also such thing as self-plagiarism. It occurs when a student submits an essay or article written for one subject to fulfill course requirements of another subject.

Plagiarism can be avoided by taking precautionary steps and by double checking your work before turning it in. A more extensive look on plagiarism and how to avoid it. The Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) and Purdue OWL also provide an informative guide on avoiding plagiarism. The Purdue OWL article.

Human Subjects Research

Researchers at Utah State University conduct research designed to create new knowledge and promote an improved quality of life for citizens of Utah, the nation, and the world. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Utah State University (USU) is a committee designated to review and approve research involving human participants prior to the initiation of such research, and to conduct periodic reviews of such research.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) supports all researchers who do studies involving human participants, helping to ensure participant protection while promoting high-quality research that can provide rewards to participants and/or society. Such research might be conducted by a faculty member as their own scholarly work or as research assignments for classes they teach, or by undergraduate/graduate students who are pursuing individual research projects.

Individuals who conduct research involving human participants must complete an online training program provided through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) prior to conducting their research. Researchers at USU may access CITI training at any time, and certification lasts for three years.

The IRB website provides a variety of resources including the USU Investigator Handbook, a list of frequently asked questions, example consent documents, tips for pre- paring applications, several training presentations and information for researchers working with marginalized ethnic and cultural groups. Four IRB staff members provide additional guidance and manage the review process in conjunction with the IRB Chair and Board of 18 members.

The IRB uses the online program Protis for IRB application submission, review, and protocol management. Archived forms are available on the IRB website to review the types of questions that will be asked in the Protis application.

For more information, please visit IRB website.

Research Using Animals

In accordance to the Animal Welfare Act, both the USU Laboratory Animal Resources (LAR) facilities and personnel and the USU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) fulfill their ethical and legal obligations in ensuring the care and safety of animals in any research.  The IACUC oversees all research or teaching activities involving live vertebrate animals, including biomedical, agricultural, and wildlife activities. The IACUC has the right to approve, modify, disapprove, suspend and/or terminate activities in USU that involves animals. All research projects involving animals must follow the prescribed protocol and guarantee that:

  • Animals will not be abused or treated inhumanely.
  • All personnel working with the animals must receive proper training prior to performing any experiment and/or meet with the Supervisor first to discuss proper handling techniques
  • All animals must be properly handled all the time
  • Anyone involved in the research shall wear appropriate protective clothing, and follow the appropriate safety procedures

Note that if you do not comply with the research policies involving animals, your privilege of working with animals in research may be suspended

For more information, read the Animal Care and Use section of the Policy Manual and the Policies and Regulations section for research involving animals.