Research Integrity

From the Director

Thomas Zacharia Thomas Zacharia (hi-res image)
We enjoy an excellent scientific reputation at ORNL, thanks to a solid record of ethical conduct in every aspect of research. It is essential to our future that we maintain and nurture this reputation. We also have a responsibility to mentor the next generation of researchers to ensure that they too understand and adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct.

ORNL’s Research Code of Conduct was developed by a committee of scientists and engineers from across the Laboratory. This committee studied codes of conduct from various professional societies and research institutions, as well as federal policies on research misconduct. The Code was further reviewed and revised by staff across ORNL.

Our Research Code of Conduct provides a summary of the standards that we have set for ourselves as a scientific community here at ORNL. The additional resources listed below offer further information and guidance. Our hope is that these materials will serve you in upholding our record of excellence.

Thomas Zacharia

ORNL research code of conduct

Research and development shall be conducted and communicated in accordance with the highest scientific, professional, and ethical standards and in a manner that fosters mutual respect and enhances the reputation of the individual researcher, his/her colleagues, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in its mission to address the Department of Energy's and the nation's scientific and technical challenges.

As a member of the ORNL scientific community, I subscribe to the following principles:

When performing research activities, I shall:

  • Conduct, manage, judge, and report scientific research objectively, honestly, and thoroughly.
  • Be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data and understand the limitations of my knowledge.
  • Use appropriate diligence in preserving and maintaining documentation, such as original data records, so that others may reproduce results.
  • Acknowledge all conflicts of interest and not knowingly engage in activities where a conflict of interest impedes my ability to act in an objective, honest, and ethical manner.
  • Recognize past and present contributors to my research and not accept or assume credit for another's accomplishments.
  • Properly reference and acknowledge past work and accomplishments of my colleagues and others in the scientific community.
  • Take responsibility for safety and the impacts of my research on the environment and human and animal subjects.

When communicating and proposing research, I shall:

  • Claim authorship in a work only if I have made a significant intellectual contribution as part of conception, design, data collection, data analysis, or interpretation and made significant contributions to the scientific communication's preparation.
  • Claim authorship only if I am willing to be held responsible for the validity and interpretation of data from my contributions and for the conclusions as presented.
  • Ensure that co-authors on publications and proposals have the opportunity to review and comment on the scientific communications prior to their release.
  • Clearly define expectations for proposals and projects for which I am the principal investigator, including research roles and support for co-investigators.
  • Use technical review to achieve the high-quality research product essential to maintaining both my reputation and that of the scientific community at ORNL.
  • Ensure that my research products represent substantive new contributions to the field.
  • Accurately describe research methodology and data processing in all research products, including clear traceability of all figures and images to original data.

When dealing with others, I shall:

  • Be honest and professional in my interactions with students, colleagues, staff, supervisors, sponsors, reviewers, editors, and the public.
  • Welcome constructive criticism of my personal scientific research and offer the same to my colleagues in a manner that fosters mutual respect and objective scientific debate.
  • Mentor new colleagues, students, and guests on the ORNL Research Code of Conduct, leading them by example on how to conduct and report their research in an ethical manner.

Research misconduct

All federally funded research is covered by a research misconduct policy issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Each federal agency has developed policies based on this foundation, which may be found at the website of agency. As a Department of Energy laboratory, ORNL follows DOE's policy on research misconduct. According to this policy:

Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results, but does not include honest error or differences of opinion

  • Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification means 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.
  • Plagiarism means the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Finding of Research Misconduct means a determination, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that research misconduct has occurred. Such a finding requires a conclusion that there has been a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community and that it be knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly committed.

Other agencies have their own policies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS, includes NIH, NCI, and NIEHS), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA).