Definitions and Roles and Overview of Process
A. Definitions and Roles
1. Research Misconduct: Research Misconduct is defined in this policy as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion. To constitute research misconduct, the behavior must:
(a) represent a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community;
(b) be committed intentionally, knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the integrity of the research; and
(c) be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., the allegation is more likely than not to be true.
In limited circumstances, research misconduct may be established by a finding that an individual intentionally, knowingly or recklessly destroyed the research record or refused to produce the research record.
2. Research Integrity Officer: The University has designated the Associate Vice President for Research Compliance to serve as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) for both the Charles River and Medical Campuses. The RIO has primary responsibility for implementing the University’s policies and procedures on research misconduct. The specific responsibilities of the RIO are set forth in detail throughout the policy, but include (a) receiving and assessing allegations of research misconduct to determine if they fall under the procedures set forth in this policy; (b) overseeing sequestration of research data and evidence; (c) determining whether allegations warrant an inquiry; (d) overseeing inquiries and investigations; (e) providing assistance to respondents, complainants and witnesses, and committees as described in this policy; (f) providing training, technical assistance, and advice to the inquiry and investigation committees; (g) ensuring that respondents receive all notices and opportunities provided for in these policies and under any federal regulations; (h) ensuring that the University’s obligations to funding agencies, including all notification and reporting obligations, are fulfilled; (i) taking action, as appropriate, to notify other involved parties, such as sponsors, journals, or licensing boards of institutional findings; and (j) maintaining appropriate records of proceedings in accordance with these policies and federal regulations.
Questions concerning this policy, its application, or implementation should be addressed initially to the RIO, as should questions concerning the release of information about any specific allegations of misconduct, or inquiry or investigation concerning such allegations. In addition, it is the responsibility of the RIO to provide information and advice to all participants as to their rights under these procedures and to ensure their understanding of the procedures.
The RIO may designate an appropriate institutional official to carry out any of the RIO’s responsibilities under the RIO’s oversight.
3. Provost: Unless otherwise indicated, the word “Provost,” when used in this policy, should be understood to refer to the Medical Campus Provost for all allegations against researchers whose primary appointment or employment is with the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, School of Public Health, or other Boston University entities located on or associated with the Medical Campus, and to refer to the University Provost for all allegations against researchers whose primary appointment or employment is with schools or colleges on the Charles River Campus or with other Boston University entities not associated with the Medical Campus. Where the research at issue has been conducted on both campuses, the RIO will consult with the University and Medical Campus Provost to determine designation of the appropriate Provost.
The Provost is responsible for reviewing the decision of the RIO in any instance in which the RIO determines that an inquiry is not required. If an inquiry is required, the Provost will work with the RIO to constitute an inquiry committee and will review the inquiry report and decide whether an investigation is warranted. If an investigation is commenced, the Provost will choose members of the investigation committee and receive the committee’s report for review. The Provost will determine whether the University accepts the findings of the investigation committee and, if research misconduct is found, decide what, if any, institutional administrative actions are appropriate.
4. Complainant: The complainant is the individual who brings forward an allegation of research misconduct. The complainant is responsible for making allegations in good faith, maintaining confidentiality, and cooperating with the inquiry and investigation. An allegation is made in “good faith” if the Complainant has a belief in the truth of the allegation that a reasonable person in the complainant’s position could have, based on the information known to the Complainant at the time. An allegation is not in good faith if made with knowing or reckless disregard for information that would negate the allegation.
5. Respondent: The respondent is the individual against whom allegations of research misconduct have been made. The respondent is responsible for maintaining confidentiality and cooperating with the conduct of an inquiry and investigation. Respondents may consult with legal counsel or a non-lawyer personal adviser (who is not a principal or witness in the case) to seek advice and may bring counsel or a personal adviser to committee interviews. The respondent may also consult with the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Faculty Council regarding an accusation of research misconduct.
6. Office of the General Counsel: The Office of the General Counsel is available to provide legal assistance to the RIO, Provost, and any committee that is convened to review allegations of research misconduct.
7. Federal Agency: The term “federal agency” may refer either to the funding branch of the department or, where applicable, the investigative branch, e.g., the Public Health Service’s Office of Research Integrity. When a report must be provided to the federal agency, it should be sent to the branch of the agency designated by the federal regulations to receive the information. For example, reports regarding investigations involving PHS grants or applications are generally required to be sent to the PHS Office of Research Integrity; those involving the National Science Foundation (NSF) are required to be sent to the NSF’s Office of Inspector General.
8. Research Record: The research record means the record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from scientific inquiry, including but not limited to research proposals, laboratory records both physical and electronic, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, journal articles, and any documents and materials provided to a federal agency or a University employee in the course of the research misconduct proceeding.
B. Overview of Process
Subject to the specific procedures set forth in this policy, the University’s process for responding to allegations of research misconduct involves three distinct phases:
1. When an allegation is received, the RIO assesses whether the allegation falls under the definition of research misconduct and is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified. If these criteria are met, the Provost will establish an inquiry committee. The RIO will oversee the sequestration of original documents and materials if necessary to protect the integrity of the proceedings.
2. An inquiry is the procedure whereby a committee determines whether the allegation of misconduct provides a sufficient basis to warrant conducting an investigation. The outcome of an inquiry is not a finding of guilt but is a finding that the grounds to proceed to an investigation are either present or absent.
3. An investigation is a more exhaustive review of the allegation: the outcome of an investigation may be a finding by the University that a researcher is guilty of misconduct and that sanctions are in order. Sponsors of research and editors of journals and others may have to be notified about the investigation.
In reviewing the following procedures, it is important that this critical distinction be kept in mind: an inquiry is intended to be a preliminary process leading to a decision that there are or are not sufficient grounds to conduct an investigation. An investigation is the process that may result in a finding of misconduct.