Reporting Research Practice Concerns at Duke

Thursday, January 31, 2019
Picture of a referee

A referee uses a whistle to ensure that the ‘rules of the game’ are being followed. In the game of research, you may encounter a time when you may need to play the role of whistleblower and report a problem. However, before reporting a concern, you may want to learn more about the role of a whistleblower, who to contact, and what happens after you report your concern.  You can also speak with someone about any concerns you may have about the consequences of reporting and the obligations of the institution to potential whistleblowers. It may seem like you have “nothing to gain and much to lose”, particularly if you are a staff member or trainee, and talking with someone about the process may be helpful. The integrity of the research enterprise depends on committed individuals, who see the potential harm from questionable practices that go unreported, to alert the institution to the problem.  

What happens at Duke when you report a research-related concern:

Where to report a research-related concern depends on the nature of the concern, but all of the offices listed below can assist in determining what the best place to start may be. If you are uncertain where to begin, it is always an option to start with your unit’s leadership (such as a department chair or supervisor), your ombuds-person, or to call the Integrity Line (1-800-826-8109).

For animal-subjects concerns, you would report to the Duke Animal Care and Use Program. For human-subjects concerns, you would direct your research concern to the Institutional Review Board. Reporting concerns of research misconduct (fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism) should be directed to the Research Integrity Office.  

Non-retaliation Policy at Duke:

Regardless of the outcome of the internal review of your allegation, there should not be any retaliation as a result of reporting problems in good faith. In fact, retaliation at any level is a violation of the Code of Conduct to which we are all bound.

Once you have reported your concern, the process would follow the policies and procedures of the specific office overseeing that type of concern. Generally, an initial assessment is conducted by the designated person in the office, who determines the next steps for the complaint. You can ask that person about the next steps and how long the process may take. If there is a written policy that will be followed, you can ask for a copy.

Do you need more support or information about reporting research practice concerns? If so, we are here to ASIST.

To learn more about whistleblowing, read the ORI Whistleblower Bill of Rights

How to report your concerns at Duke:

• Tell your supervisor, the Department/Division head, or Dean’s office

• SoM Student and Postdoctoral Ombudsman:

                        Jean Spaulding, 919-668-3326

• Undergraduate, Graduate, or Professional Students may contact:

                        Ada Gregory in the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs at 919-660-2444

• Faculty Ombudsman:

Thomas B. Metzloff at 919-613-7055

• Call the Integrity Line: 1-800-826-8109 - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  You do not need to leave a name.  Your call will not be traced. 

• Call the IRB (human research) or the IACUC (animal research)

• Call the Research Misconduct Office: 919-668-5115