First step when suspecting a misconduct

We are often contacted by people suspecting a misconduct in some research articles. However, our project, scientificredcards, doesn’t aim at assessing nor investigating misconducts because we are not legitimate to take such actions (we are simple researchers after all). Nevertheless, in such cases, we try to help as far as possible, for instance by recommending this person to agencies which mission is to investigate misconduct.

In case you find yourself in such a situation, we propose here a template of a typical email that you can send to the university in which research was carried out.

Dear Professor XXX, President of University XXX,

cc Office of Research Integrity (ORI) /or_equivalent/

I suspect a possible research misconduct in publications describing work funded by /name_of_the_funding_agency/.

I have downloaded the publications from /name_of_the_author(s)/, currently at your University, and believe an investigation needs to be carried out in accordance with your Policy and Procedures on handling complaints of scientific misconduct, and any relevant rules and regulations of the /funding_body/ and /ORI_or_equivalent/.

The specific allegations I wish to make are:

1. In the publication /add_ref/ (pdf attached), it states that …

2. In the publication /add_ref/ (pdf attached), the figure …

3. …

Could you therefore please carry out a preliminary investigation to determine whether you agree that these matters warrant the initiation of an Initial Inquiry by a Review Committee?
If such an inquiry is carried out, it should not be limited to only these items, but should be extended to determine whether this is the entire extent of possible misconduct.

Could you also please acknowledge receipt of this message?

Yours sincerely,


It would also be possible to add in cc the editor-in-chief of the journal(s) in which the suspected paper(s) has(ve) been published.

You might have also noticed that the Office of Research Integrity is mentioned several times in the email. For cases in the US, it seems to be the organization of choice to include in your email. If another country is involved, it seems more logical to replace the ORI by its equivalent in that country. If there is no such equivalent, well, you know what you have to do: convince your colleagues to lobby and ask for the creation of a permanent structure which missions is to handle misconduct cases!

(february 2013)


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