Promoting Integrity in Research at OIST

It is essential that we uphold the highest ethical standards in our scientific research. Science is built upon the solid foundations of knowledge gained through objective experimentation and hypothesis. Activities that undermine scientific rigour damage science, the public perception of science, and our personal and institutional reputations.

1. Research Misconduct

Most research is published in reputable academic journals, which present the results fairly and honestly. However, there are several ways in which research publications can be misleading: as a deliberate act, through negligence, or simply due to an honest mistake. The first two are serious ethical and professional lapses; the third needs to be corrected as soon as it is discovered. Misconduct takes many forms – not only plagiarism (appropriating someone else’s work without acknowledgement), falsification (manipulating the data to fit the theory) and fabrication (inventing data to fit the theory), but also unethical experimentation, for example, on animal or human subjects. This is unacceptable whether deliberate or through negligence.

2. Promoting research integrity and ethics

Our policy on research ethics recognizes that scientific research is developed on a foundation of a public trust mandate, and so researchers must make honest and sincere decisions and act accordingly to ensure responsible conduct of research in line with the Code of Conduct for Scientists (2013, Science Council of Japan) and guidelines established by the government and academic communities.

The Dean of Graduate School and the Dean of Faculty Affairs are responsible for research ethics education for students and researchers (including faculty), respectively.

We require all students and researchers to complete the online training course Responsible Conduct of Research and to monitor compliance.

We have a mandatory course for students on research ethics taught by senior faculty members as part of their Professional Development course using case studies.

We provide training for faculty members and researchers on laboratory leadership and management taught by external experts to maintain an appropriate research environment.

We provide training for researchers applying for external funding using research ethics e-learning from JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) and CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative).

We have a program of seminars and webinars on research integrity provided by invited experts. For example, we invited an expert from iPS Cell Research and Application of Kyoto University in October 2020 and the Research Integrity Officer from Harvard University in December 2020 to discuss their experiences of research integrity and ethics.

The Provost is responsible for the preservation and disclosure of research data. A new policy on Research Data Archiving was developed in March 2017. The Data Archiving Coordinator appointed in December 2020 will work with the Dean of Faculty Affairs, Research Support Division, and IT to promote appropriate preservation and management of research data.

We have a “Postdoc Development Specialist” in the Faculty Affairs Office and a “Student Early Intervention Program Coordinator” in the Graduate School who can be consulted on various issues by postdocs and students, respectively.

We inform newly arrived faculty members and researchers as part of their orientation about guidelines developed by the Dean of Faculty Affairs to build a sustainable research environment, contact information for reporting misconduct, and mechanisms for consulting on various issues.

3.     What to do if you suspect research misconduct

If you have suspicions of research misconduct or any other concerns, they should be discussed with your unit PI, or if that is inappropriate, with the Provost, Dean of Faculty Affairs, Dean of the Graduate School, or the Chief Operating Officer. If you would prefer to discuss the issue confidentially, then either the Ombudsperson’s Office or the Ganjuu Well-being Service can offer advice and, with your agreement, report as appropriate, if necessary, anonymously. There is also the Misconduct Report Hotline mediated by external legal advisors to receive reports from whistleblowers, which will be formally investigated. The Dean of Faculty Affairs is responsible for receiving accusations of, and conducting investigations into, research misconduct. Our investigation procedures follow the MEXT “Guidelines for Responding to Misconduct in Research”, with a preliminary investigation to determine whether a substantial investigation is warranted. The results of substantial investigation must be reported to the Board of Governors and the Cabinet Office.