Skip to Content

Office of Research Compliance

Responsible Conduct of Research Policies and Procedures

Data Acquisition and Management, Sharing and Ownership 

The integrity of research data and the usefulness of the research it supports depend on careful attention to detail, from initial planning through final publication. While different disciplines and types of research may differ in data management practices, there are generally accepted standards that the University community should be aware of and adhere to relative to data ownership, data collection, data protection and data sharing. Key considerations for data collection include using the appropriate method, providing attention to detail, obtaining the appropriate permissions for use of certain categories of data and the accurate and secure recording of data. Data should be maintained and secured in such a way as allow it to confirm research findings, establish priority, and be reanalyzed by other researchers. Data should be stored in such a way as to protect confidentiality, be secure from physical and electronic damage and destruction and be maintained for the appropriate time frame dictated by sponsor and University policies. Conditions imposed by sponsors, the University, and other sources may affect data acquisition, management, sharing and ownership.

Conflict of Interest and Commitment 

The University of South Carolina is committed to ensuring that the research, consultation, and other activities of faculty and non-faculty employees are conducted properly and consistently with the principles of openness, trust, and free inquiry that are fundamental to the autonomy and well-being of a university and with the responsible management of the University's business. Toward that end and consistent with federal regulations, USC has formulated a policy and procedures to identify and address potential, actual, and apparent conflicts of commitment and conflicts of interest. The fundamental premise of this policy (ACAF 1.50 – Outside Professional Activities) is that each member of the USC community has an obligation to act in the best interests of the University, and must not allow outside activities or outside financial interests interfere with that obligation.

Human Subjects

In accordance with federal law, accepted ethical principles, and University policy, every USC investigator conducting human subject research, whether or not funded by a federal sponsor, must submit a proposed research plan to the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) for review and approval. In addition, investigators who participate in human subject research must complete training in human subject research, and otherwise must comply with IRB policies and procedures. Research may not begin until the IRB approves the research plan and all related consent documents. Further information and a full statement of applicable University policies and procedures are available on the Office of Research Compliance website.

Animal Welfare

Dedication to the humane care of animals used in research and teaching is part of the University of South Carolina’s (USC) commitment to ethical conduct of research. USC will conduct matters related to animal care and use in compliance with federal and state laws and implementing regulations including, but not limited to, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy), and principles set forth in the Guide for the Care & Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide). USC will assure that its faculty, staff, and students understand the importance of humane care and use of animals and will implement practices to prevent injury and illness related to the care and use of animals.

Research Misconduct

The integrity of the University's research programs require that faculty, students and staff be aware of the potential for misconduct involving themselves or others, and understand what constitutes misconduct. Research Misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research results, or in reporting research results. A finding of misconduct requires that there be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community, that the misconduct be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, and the allegation be proven by the preponderance of evidence. Ordinary errors, good faith differences in interpretations or judgments of data, scholarly or political disagreements, good faith personal or professional opinions, or private moral or ethical behavior or views are not misconduct under this definition.

Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship

Researchers share the results of their works with colleagues and the public in a variety of ways. Early results are usually shared during laboratory meetings, in seminars, and at professional meetings. Final results usually are communicated to others through scholarly articles and books. Whether structured or informal, responsible publication in research should ideally meet some minimum standards. All forms of publication should present: a full and fair description of the work undertaken; an accurate report of the results; and an honest and open assessment of the findings. In assessing the completeness of any publications, researchers should ask whether they have described: what they did (methods); what they discovered (results); and what they make of their discovery (discussion).

The names that appear at the beginning of a paper serve one important purpose. They let others know who conducted the research and should get credit for it. It is important to know who conducted the research in case there are questions about methods, data, and the interpretation of results. Likewise, the credit derived from publications is used to determine a researcher's worth. Researchers are valued and promoted in accordance with the quality and quantity of their research publications. Consequently, the authors listed on papers should fairly and accurately represent the person or persons responsible for the work.

Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities

While conducting investigations, researchers often assume the added role of mentor. The mentor-trainee relationship is complex and brings into play potential conflicts. The essential elements of a productive mentor-trainee relationship are difficult to codify into rules or guidelines, leaving most of the decisions about responsible mentoring to the individuals involved. Common sense suggests that good mentoring should begin with: a clear understanding of mutual responsibilities; a commitment to maintain a productive and supportive research environment; proper supervision and review; and an understanding that the main purpose of the relationship is to prepare trainees to become successful researchers. Knowing the importance of personal commitments, researchers should carefully consider what responsibilities they have to trainees before they take on the essential task of training new researchers. Trainees, in turn, should be we aware of their responsibilities to mentors before accepting a position in a laboratory or program.

Peer Review

Peer review, evaluation by colleagues with similar knowledge and experience, is an essential component of research and the self-regulation of professions. The average person does not have the knowledge and experience needed to assess the quality and importance of research; therefore, many important decisions about research depend on advice from peers, including: which projects to fund (grant reviews); which research findings to publish (manuscript reviews); which scholars to hire and promote (personnel reviews); and which research is reliable (literature reviews and expert testimony). The quality of the decisions made in each case depends heavily on the quality of peer review. Peer review can make or break professional careers and directly influence public policy. The fate of entire research programs, health initiatives, or environmental and safety regulations can rest on peer assessment of proposed or completed research projects. Researchers who serve as peer reviewers should be mindful of the public as well as the professional consequences of their evaluations and exercise special care when making these evaluations.

Collaborative Science

Researchers often collaborate with colleagues who have the expertise and/or resources needed to carry out a particular project. Collaborations vary from being as simple as one researcher sharing specific techniques with a colleague or as complex as multi-centered clinical trials that involve academic research centers, private hospitals, and for-profit companies studying thousands of patients in different geographic regions. Any project involving more than one person requires some collaboration. Collaborative projects require that researchers assume some additional responsibilities stemming from relationships with co-investigators, research associates and consultants involved in the research.



Office of Research Compliance

    Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.