Research misconduct

Understanding research misconduct and how to report it.

What is research misconduct?

The University of Edinburgh Research Misconduct Policy defines research misconduct to include (but not limited to):

  • fabrication: making up results or other outputs (e.g. artefacts) and presenting them as if they were real
  • falsification: manipulating research processes or changing or omitting data without good cause
  • plagiarism: using other people’s material without giving proper credit
  • misrepresentation: for example, misrepresentation of data, of interests, of qualifications or experience, or of involvement, such as inappropriate claims to authorship or attribution of work
  • breach of duty of care: breach of confidentiality such as disclosing the identity of individuals or groups involved in research without their consent; improper conduct in peer review such as failing to disclose conflicts of interest; or not observing legal and ethical requirements or obligations of care
  • failure to meet ethical, legal and professional obligations: for example, failure to declare competing interests; misrepresentation of involvement or authorship; misrepresentation of interests; breach of confidentiality; lack of informed consent; misuse of personal data; and abuse of research subjects or materials
  • improper dealing with allegations of misconduct: failing to address possible infringements such as attempts to cover up misconduct and reprisals against whistleblowers.

Importantly, research misconduct can include errors which are made unwittingly, for example submitting a manuscript to several journals at once or the improper use and interpretation of statistical analyses.

Vexatious complaints are themselves also subject to misconduct proceedings and will be taken seriously by the University.

Breaches to research integrity can be damaging to individuals and to institutions, undermine public trust, and in worst cases can cause harm. Understanding what constitutes misconduct, and seeking training where necessary, is key to avoiding breaches of research integrity.

Allegations relating to the research undertaken by University students will be investigated using the Academic Misconduct Investigation Procedure.

Academic Misconduct University of Edinburgh Information (webpage)

Academic Misconduct Investigation Procedure

How to report research misconduct

Professor Christina Boswell, Vice-Principal Research and Enterprise, is the main responsible contact for Research Misconduct.  Professor Boswell delegates responsibility for research misconduct in each College.

The University encourages self reporting, which is important in minimising harm to both participants, researchers or the public, minimising risk exposure for the university and improving future practice of the researcher(s).

College guidance on reporting misconduct may vary, and each college has its own procedures and key contacts for reporting of misconduct.  Please view the following links for your relevant college research ethics and integrity webpages.

Russell Group Statement of Cooperation in respect of cross-institutional research misconduct allegations

In circumstances where allegations of research misconduct involve more than one institution, the Russell Group Statement of Cooperation in respect of cross-institutional research misconduct allegations sets out principles for the management of misconduct investigations. 

Russell Group Statement (external website)


You can report misconduct malpractice and raise concerns centrally under the public interest disclosure legislation (Whistleblowing)