A. General Policy Considerations
- Boston University is committed to the highest possible standards of integrity in research. This commitment is fundamental to the University’s mission in fostering the pursuit of truth and the expansion of knowledge. The administration, faculty, students, and staff of the University share in the responsibility for preserving the integrity of research. All members of the University community are responsible for promoting the highest ethical principles in each academic discipline and for holding members of the community accountable to these principles.
- The consequences of misconduct in research may include not only damage to individual careers but also the erosion of public confidence in the integrity of scholarship and research at the University, and in the academic community and society generally. Similarly, false or inaccurate allegations of misconduct in research not in made in good faith may injure the reputation of scholars, researchers, and the institution. It is important that there be appropriate University procedures by which allegations of misconduct in research may be fairly and thoroughly aired, both to expose and correct misconduct and to protect the researcher against false charges.
- Boston University adopts the following procedures with the goals of protecting all researchers and other individuals against false and injurious allegations, protecting from reprisal individuals who in good faith wish to bring forward evidence of improper conduct, ensuring that all allegations of research misconduct will be reviewed fairly and accurately, and ensuring that scholarship and research performed under the auspices of Boston University meet the standards of academic integrity and truth expected by the academic community.
This statement of policy and procedures has two purposes: First, it is intended to carry out Boston University’s federally-mandated responsibilities under the Public Health Service (PHS) Policies on Research Misconduct, 42 CFR Part 93, as well as the University’s responsibilities under regulations issued by other funding sources, for example, the NSFNational Science Foundation at 45 CFR 689. In such cases, the requirements of this policy as well as any additional regulatory requirements must be followed.
Second, this policy normally will be used, at the discretion of either Provost, to respond to any allegation of research misconduct in the form of falsification or fabrication committed by any individuals at Boston University, regardless of funding source. It also may be used to respond to allegations of research misconduct in the form of plagiarism. In all such cases, the University may modify the requirements of this policy as it deems appropriate, given the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Nothing in this policy limits the University’s ability to investigate all matters of concern in the conduct of research, even if the matter is not within the definition of research misconduct set forth in this policy.
In both instances, research misconduct is understood to mean acts of fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results when these acts involve a person who, at the time of the alleged research misconduct, was employed by, was an agent of, or was affiliated by contract or agreement with Boston University. When these procedures are being used to carry out Boston University’s responsibilities under the PHS regulations, they apply only in the following situations:
- PHS-supported biomedical or behavioral research, research training or activities related to that research or research training, such as the operation of tissue and data banks and the dissemination of research information;
- applications or proposals for PHS support for biomedical or behavioral research, research training or activities related to that research or research training; or
- plagiarism of research records produced in the course of PHS-supported research, research training, or activities related to that research or research training. This includes any research proposed, performed, reviewed, or reported, or any research record generated from that research, regardless of whether an application or proposal for PHS funds resulted in a grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or other form of PHS support.
Further, these procedures apply only to research misconduct alleged to have occurred within six (6) years of the date the University receives an allegation, except to the extent the respondent continues or renews any incident of alleged research misconduct that occurred before the six-year limitation (for example, through citation, republication or reuse of the research record), or if it is determined that the alleged misconduct could have a substantial adverse effect on the health or safety of the public.
This statement of policy and procedures does not apply to (a) authorship or credit disputes; (b) conduct which deviates from institutional or governmental standards to protect the safety and well-being of human subjects, animals, or the laboratory work environment; (c) scholarship or research performed by a student for academic credit while not working on a project funded by a federal research sponsor and not otherwise engaged to perform services for the University; or (d) misuse of funds dedicated to support research or scholarship.
II.Definitions and Roles and Overview of Process
A. Definitions and Roles
- 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:
- represent a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community;
- be committed intentionally, knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the integrity of the research; and
- 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.
- 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
- receiving and assessing allegations of research misconduct to determine if they fall under the procedures set forth in this policy;
- overseeing sequestration of research data and evidence;
- determining whether allegations warrant an inquiry;
- overseeing inquiries and investigations;
- providing assistance to respondents, complainants and witnesses, and committees as described in this policy;
- providing training, technical assistance, and advice to the inquiry and investigation committees;
- ensuring that respondents receive all notices and opportunities provided for in these policies and under any federal regulations;
- ensuring that the University’s obligations to funding agencies, including all notification and reporting obligations, are fulfilled;
- taking action, as appropriate, to notify other involved parties, such as sponsors, journals, or licensing boards of institutional findings; and
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
III. General Policies and Principles
A. Responsibility to Report Misconduct
All institutional members should report observed, suspected, or apparent research misconduct to the RIO. Any other official who receives an allegation of research misconduct must report it immediately to the RIO. Reporting misconduct in scholarship and research is a serious responsibility shared by all members of the University community. Reports may be made to the RIO by telephone, electronic means, or in-person meeting.
Individuals from outside the University (including other scientists, journal editors, or research subjects) should also report to the RIO any allegations of research misconduct involving persons employed by or affiliated with the University.
If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident falls within the definition of research misconduct, he or she may meet with or contact the RIO to discuss the suspected
research misconduct informally, which may include discussing it without disclosing the identity of the accused and/or hypothetically. If the circumstances described by the individual do not meet the definition of possible research misconduct, the RIO will refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the problem.
If the RIO determines that the circumstances described by the individual meet the definition of possible research misconduct, the University has an obligation to move forward under these procedures.
B. Prohibition of Retaliation for Reporting in Good Faith
Allegations should not be made capriciously, but evidence of misconduct should not be ignored. An individual with information indicating misconduct in scholarship or research should be able to report in good faith such allegations without retribution. University policy prohibits retaliation by the University or one of its members against a complainant because of his or her good faith reporting of an allegation or involvement in an inquiry or investigation. Institutional
members should immediately report any alleged or apparent retaliation to the RIO. Conversely, an individual who makes an allegation that is not in good faith may be subject to administrative action pursuant to Section XI.C. below.
Because of the potential jeopardy to the reputation of the individual(s) against whom allegations of misconduct have been made, the reporting of allegations and the following procedures for investigating them should be handled with care to avoid unnecessary disclosure of the identity of respondents, complainants, and research subjects to the maximum extent consistent with the obligations of the University to the academic and scientific community and to any sponsors and external institutions that have provided support for the research. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary for the RIO to disclose the identity of the complainant to the respondent so that the respondent is able to defend him- or herself against the charges. Therefore, if a potential complainant wishes to have confidential discussions and consultations about concerns of possible misconduct with an assurance of complete confidentiality, he/she is encouraged to speak with the University Ombuds, who does not act as an agent for the University and who can provide confidential informal advice to the potential complainant about options for reporting. Conversations with the University Ombuds are considered off-the-record and are not part of the formal complaint process. See www.bu.edu/ombuds/.
D. Cooperation with Research Misconduct Proceedings
Institutional members will cooperate with the RIO and other institutional officials in the review of allegations and in the conduct of inquiries and investigations. Institutional members, including respondents, have an obligation to provide evidence relevant to research misconduct allegations to the RIO or other institutional officials.
E. Interim Administrative Actions and Notifications
Throughout the research misconduct proceeding, the RIO will review the situation to determine if there is any threat of harm to public health, funds and equipment, or the integrity of the research process. In the event of such a threat, the RIO will, in consultation with other institutional officials and the appropriate funding agency, take appropriate interim action to protect against any such threat. Interim action might include additional monitoring of the research process and the handling of funds and equipment, reassignment of personnel or of the responsibility for the handling of funds and equipment, additional review of research data and results or delaying publication. The RIO shall, at any time during a research misconduct proceeding, notify the appropriate funding agency immediately if he/she has reason to believe that any of the following conditions exist:
- Health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects;
- Funding agency resources or interests are threatened;
- Research activities should be suspended;
- There is a reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law;
- Funding agency action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding;
- The research misconduct proceeding may be made public prematurely and agency action may be necessary to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved; or
- The research community or public should be informed.
IV. Determination of Whether to Initiate a Formal Inquiry
- Upon receipt of an allegation, the RIO will first determine, pursuant to the provisions of Section I.B, whether the allegations should be handled under these procedures, including a determination of whether PHS or other federal or non-federal funding is involved, whether it falls within the six-year limitations period, and, if so, whether any agency-specific regulations are applicable.
- If it is appropriate to handle the allegation under this procedure, the RIO will determinate whether sufficient basis exists to commence an inquiry. In general, an allegation will provide a sufficient basis to commence an inquiry if:
- the allegation falls under the definition of research misconduct; and
- the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified.
- If the allegation, on its face, is not deemed a sufficient basis to commence an inquiry, the RIO, will either:
- determine that no inquiry is warranted and proceed under Section IV.E below; or
- if there is reason to believe that additional relevant information may provide a sufficient basis to commence an inquiry, take appropriate steps to attempt to obtain promptly a more complete statement of the allegation and the basis for it and, if appropriate, attempt to obtain relevant information from the individual accused of misconduct. In so doing, the RIO will make reasonable efforts to protect the privacy of those who in good faith report alleged misconduct, to afford confidential treatment to the accused and to avoid unwarranted publicity regarding unverified allegations.
- If the RIO determines that there is sufficient basis to commence an inquiry, then the RIO will
- determine whether emergency, interim, or other appropriate institutional notifications or actions need to be taken;
- immediately take reasonable and practical steps to obtain custody of relevant research records and evidence relating to the allegation that are needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding, inventory the records and evidence, and sequester them in a secure manner. When appropriate, the University will give the respondent copies of, or reasonable supervised access to the research records. If, during the course of the proceeding, it is discovered that additional research records or evidence should be taken into custody, the RIO will continue to take such steps to obtain and maintain custody of such records; and
- notify the respondent that an inquiry will be commenced, and provide a summary of the nature of the allegations.
- If the RIO, in consultation with the Provost, determines that no inquiry is warranted, a written summary of the reasons for such determination will be prepared and kept on file in the RIO’s office. This summary will then be available in the event of any future authorized inquiries concerning the research or researchers or concerning the reasons for dismissing the allegations. A copy of this summary shall be provided to the individual against whom the allegation was made.
- The RIO will inform the complainant of the decision as to whether or not an inquiry will commence.
- In general, the RIO should notify and consult with the Office of the General Counsel prior to deciding whether to commence an inquiry.
V. Appointment of the Inquiry Committee and Committee Charge
A. Appointment of Inquiry Committee
- If the RIO has determined that an inquiry will be conducted, the Provost will appoint an inquiry committee.
- The inquiry committee will consist of two or more members of the faculty together with such technical, administrative, or other staff as may be deemed appropriate. The Provost should generally designate a member to serve as chair of the committee. In selecting members of the committee, the Provost will seek to ensure that the committee has available to it the necessary and appropriate expertise in relevant disciplines and has an appropriate understanding of the process and procedures that must be followed. The Provost, in consultation with the committee, may add or replace members of the committee as needed to ensure the timely completion of the inquiry and the committee’s competence to review the allegations. The RIO will be responsible for making available to the committee appropriate administrative and clerical assistance to facilitate a prompt and thorough inquiry and the preparation of an appropriate report.
- Individuals selected to serve on the inquiry committee or to provide professional assistance to the committee will be expected to disclose to the Provost any factors, including but not limited to unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest, which would prevent them from serving fairly, objectively, and without bias, or which reasonably would give the appearance of a lack of fairness, lack of objectivity, or the presence of bias. All persons who participate in the inquiry as committee members, administrative or clerical staff, witnesses, or in any other capacity shall maintain the confidentiality of the inquiry and of all information obtained in the course of the inquiry, except as may be necessary in conjunction with the conduct of the inquiry, including subsequent related reports or proceedings, and reports to officers of the University.
B. Committee Charge
- The RIO will prepare a charge for the inquiry committee that:
- describes the allegations and any related issues identified during the allegation assessment;
- states that the purpose of the inquiry is to conduct an initial review of the evidence, including the testimony of the respondent, complainant and key witnesses, to determine whether an investigation is warranted, not to determine whether research misconduct definitely occurred or who was responsible;
- states that an investigation is warranted if the committee determines that there is a reasonable basis for concluding that the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and the allegation may have substance, based on the committee’s review during the inquiry;
- informs the committee that they are responsible for preparing or directing the preparation of a written report of the inquiry that meets the requirements of this policy and any applicable federal regulations; and
- sets the time for completion of the inquiry.
A copy of the charge will be provided to the respondent.
- If during the course of the inquiry, the committee determines that the scope of the inquiry should be expanded beyond that covered by the initial charge, the committee will so notify the RIO and, with the approval of the RIO, will give appropriate notice to the respondent of the expansion of the inquiry. The RIO and/or Provost may meet with the committee at any time to review the progress of the inquiry and to assist its focus. The inquiry committee may direct that additional research documents or materials be sequestered with the assistance of the RIO.
VI. Inquiry Process and Report
A. Inquiry Process
- The inquiry committee will normally interview the complainant, the respondent, and key witnesses and will examine relevant research records and materials. The committee should keep general minutes of its meetings and should, as a general rule, prepare written summaries of testimony from witnesses. The inquiry committee will then evaluate the evidence, including the testimony obtained during the inquiry. After consultation with the RIO, the committee members will decide whether an investigation is warranted based on the criteria in this policy and, if appropriate, any applicable regulations. The scope of the inquiry is not required to and does not normally include deciding whether misconduct definitely occurred or conducting exhaustive interviews and analyses.
- The inquiry, including preparation of the final inquiry report and the decision of the Provost on whether an investigation is warranted, should generally be completed within 60 calendar days of initiation of the inquiry, unless the committee requests and the RIO determines that circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. If the RIO approves an extension, the record of the inquiry should include documentation of the reasons for exceeding the 60-day period.
B. The Inquiry Report, Decision of Provost and Required Notifications
- The inquiry committee will prepare a written report for submission to the RIO, that includes:
- the name and position of the respondent;
- a description of the allegations of research misconduct;
- the source of funding for the research, including, for example, grant numbers, grant applications, contracts and publications listing such support;
- a description of the general procedures under which the inquiry was conducted, including reference to these procedures as well as any federal regulations governing the conduct of the inquiry:
- a statement of the relevant evidence assembled and preliminarily reviewed by the committee; and
- a statement of the conclusion of the committee as to whether the allegation appears to have substance and the information supporting that conclusion. The inquiry report should be written in a form which, if accepted, may serve as an appropriate institutional statement of reasons for further institutional action, including commencement of an investigation or dismissal of the allegations.
- The RIO shall notify the respondent whether the inquiry found an investigation to be warranted, and will provide the respondent with a copy of the draft inquiry report. The respondent will be asked to provide any comments on the report to the RIO and committee chair within seven (7) calendar days. The RIO will determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the report or relevant portions thereof should also be provided to the complainant for comment within seven (7) days. The committee will decide whether, in view of any comments received, any revisions to the report are warranted and will then provide the final report to the RIO.
- The RIO will provide the final report as well as any comments submitted by the respondent to the Provost. The Provost, in consultation with the RIO, will decide whether to accept, reject, or modify the report of the committee and will determine in writing whether an investigation is warranted. The Provost will provide written notification of his or her final decision to the respondent.
- Within thirty (30) calendar days of the Provost’s decision that an investigation is warranted, the RIO will provide the appropriate funding agency with the Provost’s written decision and a copy of the inquiry report. 5. If the Provost decides that an investigation is not warranted, the RIO shall secure and maintain for seven (7) years after the termination of the inquiry sufficiently detailed documentation of the inquiry to permit a later assessment by the appropriate funding agency of the reasons why an investigation was not conducted. These documents must be provided to a federal agency upon request.
VII. Appointment of an Investigation Committee and Committee Charge
If the Provost has determined that an investigation should be conducted, the investigation will generally be commenced within thirty (30) days after such a determination.
The RIO will take all reasonable and practical steps to obtain custody of and sequester in a secure manner any research records and evidence needed to conduct the investigation that were not previously sequestered during the inquiry.
A. Appointment of Investigation Committee
- The Provost, with the advice of the RIO, will appoint an investigation committee. The function of the committee will be to conduct an investigation of the allegations and to prepare a report to the Provost containing the committee’s determination as to whether misconduct has occurred.
- The investigation committee will consist of two or more members of the faculty together with such technical, administrative, or other staff as may be deemed appropriate. Faculty members, or other individuals who do not hold appointment or employment at the University, may be selected to serve. With the consent of the respondent, individuals may be appointed to the investigation committee who previously served on the inquiry committee. The Provost should generally designate a member to serve as chair of the committee. In selecting members of the committee, the Provost will seek to ensure that the committee as a whole has the necessary and appropriate expertise in relevant disciplines as well as an appropriate understanding of the process and procedures that must be followed. The Provost, in consultation with the committee, may add or replace members of the committee as needed to ensure the timely completion of the investigation and the committee’s competence to review the allegations. The RIO will be responsible for making available to the committee appropriate administrative and clerical assistance to facilitate a prompt and thorough investigation and the preparation of an appropriate report.
- Individuals selected to serve on the investigation committee or to provide professional assistance to the committee will be expected to disclose to the Provost any factors, including but not limited to unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest, which would prevent them from serving fairly, objectively, and without bias, or which reasonably would give the appearance of a lack of fairness, lack of objectivity, or the presence of bias. All persons who participate in the investigation as committee members, administrative or clerical staff, witnesses, or in any other capacity shall maintain the confidentiality of the investigation and of all information obtained in the course of the investigation, except as may be necessary in conjunction with the conduct of the investigation, including subsequent related reports or proceedings, and reports to officers of the University.
B. Committee Charge
- The RIO will define the subject matter of the investigation in a written charge to the committee that:
- describes the allegations and related issues identified during the inquiry and identifies the respondent;
- defines research misconduct;
- informs the committee of the general procedures pursuant to which the investigation should be conducted;
- informs the committee that it must evaluate the evidence and testimony to determine whether, based on a preponderance of the evidence, research misconduct occurred and, if so, the type and extent of it and who was responsible;
- informs the committee that in order to determine that the respondent committed research misconduct it must find that a preponderance of the evidence establishes that: (i) research misconduct, as defined in this policy, occurred (respondent has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence any affirmative defenses raised, including honest error or a difference of opinion); (ii) the research misconduct is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (iii) the respondent committed the research misconduct intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly;
- informs the committee that it must prepare a written investigation report that meets the requirements of this policy and any applicable federal regulations; and
- sets the time for completion of the investigation.
A copy of the charge will be provided to the respondent.
VIII. Investigation Process and Report
A. Investigation Process
- The investigation normally will include examination by members of the committee, or staff assisting the board, of all relevant documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, and correspondence. The investigation committee should keep general minutes of its meetings and must:
- use diligent efforts to ensure that the investigation is thorough and sufficiently documented and includes examination of all research records and evidence relevant to reaching a decision on the merits of each allegation;
- take reasonable steps to ensure an impartial and unbiased investigation to the maximum extent practical;
- provide the respondent with reasonable opportunity to present evidence, testify, and present witnesses with relevant information to the committee. The committee will interview the respondent and other available persons who have been reasonably identified by the respondent as having information regarding any relevant aspects of the investigation;
- interview the complainant and other available persons, including those who have been reasonably identified by the complainant or others as having information regarding any relevant aspects of the investigation. The respondent may listen contemporaneously to any interviews conducted by the investigation committee and submit any relevant questions to be asked of any witness by the committee. For the protection of the witness, the committee may require the respondent to listen to or observe the interview from another room.
- allow any person who appears as a witness before the investigation committee to be accompanied by counsel or a representative of his or her choice; however, the chair of the committee may limit the participation of counsel or representative to advising the witness;
- record or transcribe each interview, provide either the recording or transcript to the interviewee for review and correction and thereafter provide the respondent with the recording or transcript as soon as practicable; and
- pursue diligently all significant issues and leads discovered that are determined to be relevant to the investigation, including evidence of any additional instances of possible research misconduct, and continue the investigation to completion.
- The committee shall use its best efforts to complete the investigation within 120 days of its start, including conducting the investigation, preparing the report of findings, providing the draft report for comment and sending the final report to any federal agency if required. If the RIO determines that the investigation will not be completed within this 120-day period, he/she will request an extension of time from the appropriate federal agency setting forth the reasons for the delay. If extension is approved, the record of the investigation should include documentation of the reasons for exceeding the 120-day period.
- The ultimate burden of proof for a finding of research misconduct is on the University, and such a finding must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the respondent has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, any and all affirmative defenses raised or any mitigating factors relating to possible sanctions. Note that the destruction, absence of, or respondent’s failure to provide research records adequately documenting the questioned research may constitute evidence of research misconduct if done intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly and if the respondent’s conduct constitutes a significant departure from accepted practices of the research community.
B. The Investigation Report
- The investigation committee will prepare a draft written report that
- describes the nature of the allegation of research misconduct, including identification of the respondent;
- describes and documents the source of funding for the research, including, for example, the numbers of any grants that are involved, grant applications, contracts, and publications listing such support;
- describes the specific allegations of research misconduct considered in the investigation;
- includes a description of the general procedures under which the inquiry was conducted, including reference to these procedures as well as any federal regulations governing the conduct of the inquiry;
- identifies and summarizes the research records and evidence reviewed and identifies any evidence taken into custody but not reviewed;
- includes a statement of findings for each allegation of research misconduct identified during the investigation; and
- recommends institutional actions, as appropriate.
- Each statement of findings should
- identify whether the research misconduct was falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism, and whether it was committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly;
- summarize the facts and the analysis that support the conclusion and consider the merits of any reasonable explanation by the respondent, including any effort by respondent to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she did not engage in research misconduct because of honest error or a difference of opinion;
- identify the specific funding support;
- identify whether any publications need correction or retraction;
- identify the person(s) responsible for the misconduct; and
- list any current support or known applications or proposals for support that the respondent has pending with any federal agencies.
- The record of the investigation should include the recording or transcript of all witness interviews.
- Prior to the submission of its report, the investigation committee, through the RIO, will provide the respondent with a copy of the draft investigation report and a copy of or supervised access to the evidence on which the report is based, including copies of any documents and materials. Respondent must also receive any witness statements, recordings or transcripts produced during the investigation if not previously provided to the respondent pursuant to VIII.A(f). The respondent will be asked to provide any comments on the report to the RIO and committee chair within thirty (30) calendar days. The RIO will determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the report or relevant portions thereof should also be provided to the complainant for comment within thirty (30) days. The committee will decide whether, in view of any comments received, any revisions to the report are warranted and will then provide the final report to the RIO.
- The RIO will provide the final report as well as any comments submitted by the respondent to the Provost.
IX. The Decision of Provost and Required Notifications
A. The Provost will decide: (1) whether to accept the investigation report, its findings, and the recommended institutional actions; and (2) if applicable, the appropriate institutional actions in response to the accepted findings of research misconduct. If this determination varies from the findings of the investigation committee, the Provost will, as part of his/her written determination, explain in detail the basis for rendering a decision different from the findings of the investigation committee. Alternatively, the Provost may return the report to the investigation committee with a request for further fact-finding or analysis. The Provost will provide written notification of his or her final decision to the respondent.
B. If the Provost determines that research misconduct is substantiated by the findings, he or she will be responsible for determining the nature and severity of any sanction, which may include:
- withdrawal or correction of all pending or published abstracts and papers emanating from the research where research misconduct was found;
- removal of the responsible person from the particular project, letter of reprimand, special monitoring of future work, probation, suspension, salary reduction, or initiation of steps leading to possible termination of employment;
- restitution of funds to the grantor agency as appropriate; or
- any other action appropriate to the research misconduct. Sanctions that affect the respondent’s employment status will be carried out in accordance with those University policies applicable to the particular respondent (i.e., Employee Handbook, Faculty Handbook).
C. If required, the RIO will submit to the appropriate federal agency: (1) a copy of the final investigation report with all attachments; (2) a statement of whether the institution accepts the findings of the investigation report; (3) a statement of whether the institution found misconduct and, if so, who committed the misconduct; and (4) a description of any pending or completed administrative actions against the respondent.
D. The RIO will determine whether any other entities such as professional societies, professional licensing boards, editors of journals in which falsified reports may have been published, collaborators of the respondent in the work, or other relevant parties should be notified of the outcome of the case.
E. A complete record of the investigation will be kept in the Office of the RIO for a period of at least seven (7) years after the conclusion of the investigation.
X. Premature Closure of Cases; Reporting to Federal Agency
A. Generally, all inquiries and investigations will be carried through to completion and all significant issues will be pursued diligently.
B. The RIO will notify the federal agency and seek approval in advance if there are plans to close a case at the inquiry or investigation stage on the basis that the respondent has admitted guilt, that a settlement with the respondent has been reached, or for any other reason, except for closing of a case at the inquiry stage on the basis that an investigation is not warranted.
C. The termination of the respondent’s institutional employment, by resignation or otherwise, before or after an allegation of possible research misconduct has been reported, will not preclude or terminate the research misconduct proceeding or otherwise limit any of the institution’s responsibilities to the relevant federal agency.
D. If the respondent, without admitting to the misconduct, elects to resign his or her position after the institution receives an allegation of research misconduct, the assessment of the allegation will proceed, as well as the inquiry and investigation, as appropriate based on the outcome of the preceding steps. If the respondent refuses to participate in the process after resignation, the RIO and any inquiry or investigation committee will use its best efforts to reach a conclusion concerning the allegations, noting in the report the respondent’s failure to cooperate and its effect on the evidence.
XI. Other Considerations
A. Protection of the Complainant, Witnesses and Committee Members
During the research misconduct proceeding and upon its completion, regardless of whether the institution or federal agency determines that research misconduct occurred, the RIO or the Provost, as appropriate, must undertake all reasonable and practical efforts to protect the position and reputation of, or to counter potential or actual retaliation against, any complainant who made allegations of research misconduct in good faith and of any witnesses and committee members who cooperate in good faith with the research misconduct proceeding. The Provost and RIO will determine what steps, if any, are needed to restore their respective positions or reputations or to counter potential or actual retaliation against them and implement such steps.
B. Restoration of the Respondent’s Reputation
If misconduct has not been found, any necessary efforts will be made by the RIO or the Provost, as appropriate, to restore the reputations of individual(s) alleged to have engaged in misconduct. Such efforts may include notifying those individuals aware of or involved in the investigation of the final outcome, publicizing the final outcome in any forum in which the allegation of research misconduct was previously publicized, and expunging all reference to the research misconduct allegation from the respondent’s personnel file.
C. Allegations Not Made in Good Faith
If relevant, the Provost will determine whether the complainant’s allegations of research misconduct were made in good faith, or whether a witness or committee member acted in good faith. If the Provost determines that there was an absence of good faith, he/she will determine whether any administrative action should be taken against the person who failed to act in good faith.