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If all research is ultimately about creating knowledge, then research integrity is about ensuring that this knowledge can be trusted. Trustworthy research maintains its integrity when researchers keep accurate records and data, and follow uniform procedures throughout the research process.

Scholarly misconduct is the intentional falsification, fabrication, distortion, or misrepresentation of data or another part of the research process. This offense can have severe repercussions within the university and the larger research community, and can also have legal ramifications.

Scholarly misconduct is especially harmful because it undermines the integrity of not only the offending work, but of the entire field of research. For example, take the case of a renowned biologist who falsified data about intelligence in monkeys: The researcher lost his job and was forced to retract a scholarly paper, which had been cited over 100 times in the literature. Even worse, this instance of scholarly misconduct cast doubt on the researcher’s other publications, especially those that cited the retracted paper — and some of these other papers had been cited thousands of times in the literature. Ultimately, even when just a small piece of the scientific literature lacks integrity, the science underlying a whole research area can become tainted.

If you’re unclear about the ways to ensure the integrity of the research you’re involved with, you can refer to these examples and guidelines. The Office of the Vice President for Research houses UT Austin’s Research Integrity Officer.