Allegations of Academic Misconduct in Scholarly Activity or Research

4.8  ALLEGATIONS OF ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT IN SCHOLARLY ACTIVITY OR RESEARCH

4.8.1  Research Responsibilities    It is the responsibility of faculty and administrators at the University to create and sustain an atmosphere where honesty and integrity are paramount in the conduct and dissemination of research and scholarly and creative activity.  This responsibility extends to documentation prepared for the purpose of securing assistance in the pursuit of scholarly activity or research.  It is the particular responsibility of individual scholars and researchers to ensure that the quality of published works is maintained: products must be carefully reviewed prior to publication; the accomplishments of others must be recognized and cited; contributors must be given full acknowledgement; co-authorship must be conferred to those, and only those, who have made a significant contribution; and all (co-)authors must be willing and able to defend publicly their contribution to the published results.  It is also the responsibility of the University administration and faculty to make undergraduate and graduate students aware (1) of the University’s policies governing the conduct of scholarly activities and research, and (2) that students as well as faculty members are held to these policies while conducting research.

4.8.2  Definitions of Academic Misconduct    Although it may be more specifically defined by the discipline and/or in the college or department, academic misconduct is broadly defined to include, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, fraudulent behavior such as “fabrication, falsification, plagiarism,[misappropriation,] or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within [the particular scholarly community] for proposing, conducting, or reporting research [or other scholarly endeavors]. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments” of results of scholarly activity.

4.8.2.1  Falsification ranges from fabrication to deceptively selective reporting and includes the purposeful omission of conflicting data with the intent to condition or falsify results.

4.8.2.2  Plagiarism and misappropriation involve willfully appropriating the ideas, methods, or written words of another, without acknowledgement and with the intention that they be taken as one’s own work, as well as the unauthorized use of privileged information (such as information gained confidentially in peer review). Academic misconduct also includes material failure to comply with legal requirements governing research, including requirements for the protection of researchers, human subjects, or the public, or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals.

4.8.3  Inquiry in cases of Academic Misconduct    Any member of the University community who suspects academic misconduct in scholarly activity or research is strongly encouraged to report it.  Normally, the first step should be to attempt to resolve the issue as confidentially as is possible with the party or parties involved.  Should direct consultation be inappropriate or unsuccessful, allegations of misconduct should be made to the appropriate administrative officer: to the program director, chair or dean of the accused; or, if the accused is a program director, chair, or dean, to the immediate supervisor of the accused or to the Provost (or his or her designee).

4.8.3.1  The administrative officer shall discuss the allegation or offending conduct with the accused, following §4.3.3.  If an individual alleging academic misconduct (hereafter, the complainant) does not want the accused to know the complainant’s identity, and believes that notifying the accused would reveal the complainant’s identity, the administrative officer, if permitted by U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) regulations, will end the inquiry with no further action taken against the faculty member.  No notes, reports, files, or other written documents shall be kept about the conversation.  Should ORI regulations require the administrative officer to pursue an investigation, the complainant’s identity will be kept confidential to the extent possible, but the faculty member shall be apprised of the allegation and shall have access to any written documents produced by any University office, administrator, or committee.

4.8.3.2  If the administrative officer determines that the allegation results from honest error or a difference of interpretation, he or she may seek a mutually satisfactory solution. However, once the administrator finds evidence that the allegation of academic misconduct is credible and/or that any of the conditions enumerated in §4.8.4 (below )obtain, the administrator shall report the matter immediately to the Provost (or his or her designee).

4.8.4  Reporting Requirements in Cases of Academic Misconduct    Following U.S. Office of Research Integrity regulations, the Provost (or his or her designee) will notify any appropriate funding or other relevant external agencies if, during the inquiry or investigations, any administrator or committee member discovers:

  • an immediate health hazard involved;
  • an immediate need to protect sponsored funds or equipment;
  • an immediate need to protect the interests of the individual(s)making the allegations or of the accused or any co-investigators and associates;
  • the probability that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly; or
  • a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation.

If there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation, the Provost (or his or her designee) must notify any appropriate funding and other external agencies within 24 hours of obtaining that information.

4.8.5  Interim Actions During Inquiry and/or Investigation of Academic Misconduct    The University will take appropriate interim administrative actions during the inquiry and any investigations to protect from misuse any public or private funds supporting the research and scholarly activity, and to ensure that the purposes of the financial assistance are being carried out. The University will undertake diligent efforts, as appropriate during the inquiry and any investigations, to protect the positions and reputations of those who, in good faith, make allegations of academic misconduct.  Even if the accused leaves the University before the case is resolved, the University has the responsibility to bring the investigation of the allegation to resolution, and the University should continue to cooperate with any other institutions involved. If the University should consider terminating an investigation for any reason before its resolution, the Provost (or his or her designee) shall first report the reasons that the University wishes to terminate the investigation to the appropriate funding or external agency.

4.8.6 Informal Investigation and Mediation in Cases of Academic Misconduct    When a program director, chair, or college dean reports an allegation of academic misconduct to the Provost, he or she shall discuss the allegation with the accuser and the accused, and will review any evidence collected by the administrative officer.  Should no external agency require further investigation, the Provost may attempt further mediation.  If no settlement can be reached, or should the requirements of an external agency so mandate, the Provost shall deliver written notice to the accused and to the accuser that a formal investigation should be initiated; the notice should spell out the nature of the alleged offense.  The accused shall have ten calendar days to respond to the Provost.

4.8.7  Formal Investigation    Should the Provost determine that there is sufficient evidence in support of the allegation to warrant a formal investigation, he or she shall inform the accused, the accuser, and the University Faculty Affairs Committee (UFAC) in writing within fifteen calendar days of the receipt of the informal investigation report.  The Provost shall submit to the Committee a written statement of the charges to be investigated, accompanied by any records compiled during the informal investigation and mediation efforts, including any responses from the accused.  The Provost (or his or her designee) will inform the Committee of any requirements of external agencies relevant to the allegation or to the way in which the informal investigation is to be conducted.  The Provost (or his or her designee) shall inform the appropriate funding agencies (if any) that a formal investigation has been initiated on or before the date the investigation begins.

4.8.7.1  Formal Investigation Procedures in Cases of Academic Misconduct    The UFAC will conduct a formal investigation in accordance with the procedures outlined in §4.4. The Provost (or his or her designee) will inform the committee of any requirements of external agencies relevant to the allegation or to the way in which the formal investigation is to be conducted.   Should the investigation disclose facts that may affect current or potential funding for the accused, or information that funding agencies need to know to ensure appropriate use of funds and otherwise protect the public interest, the committee shall promptly notify the Provost (or his or her designee), who in turn shall promptly advise the appropriate funding agencies.

4.8.7.2  Formal Investigation Deadlines    The formal investigation shall be completed no later than 45 calendar days from the date the UFAC receives its charge from the Provost.  If, during the investigation, it becomes evident that completion of the formal investigation cannot be accomplished within 45 days, the Provost will promptly be given the reasons in writing, an interim report of the work accomplished thus far, and a request for a reasonable extension.  If the Provost approves the extension, he or she (or his or her designee) shall notify the appropriate funding agencies of the reasons for the delay.  On completion of its formal investigation, the UFAC shall issue a written report containing its formal finding and any recommendation of action to be taken by the University.

4.8.7.3  Formal Investigation Findings and Report    The formal finding shall reflect the majority opinion of the UFAC, shall include a summary of the proceedings and deliberations, and shall conclude one of the following:

  • That the accused is guilty of academic misconduct as defined in §4.8.2;
  • That the accused committed no academic misconduct, but did commit serious errors; or
  • That the accused committed no academic misconduct or serious error and should be exonerated.

The report shall also include a description of the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation, the basis for the formal finding, and if appropriate, a recommendation about disciplinary action.  It will also include any response of the accused to the charges.  The Provost and the accused shall receive a copy of the report and, should either one request it, a copy of the record of the hearing.  Upon receipt of a report finding the accused guilty of misconduct or serious error, the faculty member shall have ten calendar days to submit a response to the Provost. If the UFAC finds that sufficient evidence has not been established to prove academic misconduct or that serious errors were committed, it will so report in writing to the Provost.

4.8.7.4  Actions by the Provost in Response to Formal Investigation Findings    If the UFAC finds that sufficient evidence has been established to prove academic misconduct or that serious errors were committed, it shall so report in writing to the Provost.  Should the Provost agree with the Committee’s formal findings and recommendation about disciplinary action, he or she shall so inform the faculty member, the Committee, and the President in writing, formalizing what action, if any, is to be taken.  Should the Provost disagree with the Committee’s findings and/or recommendation about disciplinary action, the Provost will determine the appropriate action to be taken by the University only after consulting with the UFAC. The Provost shall then inform the faculty member, the Committee, and the President in writing, of the action to be taken.   If the Provost rejects the Committee’s formal findings, he or she will state the reasons for doing so, in writing and within ten calendar days, to the Committee and to the faculty member, and provide the Committee and the faculty member ten calendar days in which to respond before submitting his or her final decision (including any action to be taken), along with any response from the faculty member and/or the UFAC, to the President.

4.8.7.5  Appeal of the Formal Investigation Sanctions    The faculty member may appeal a major sanction on procedural grounds to the Faculty Appeals and Grievance Committee or on any other grounds first to the President and then to the Board of Visitors (see §4.5).  In any case, any decision to remove a privilege pursuant to a grant or contract from an agency or sponsor shall be made only after consultation with that agency or sponsor.

4.8.7.6 Formal Notifications in cases of Academic Misconduct    Within fifteen calendar days of delivering his or her decision to the accused and the Committee, the Provost shall also submit a copy of that decision, along with the report of the UFAC, to any agency or sponsor previously notified of the investigation. If the accused has been sanctioned and chooses to appeal to the Board of Visitors, the Provost shall so inform the agencies or sponsors. To the extent appropriate, the Provost shall also inform accusers, witnesses, and appropriate administrative officers of any outcome of the case that would manifest itself publicly.  A full report, including the outcome of any appeal, shall be submitted to the appropriate agencies and/or sponsors with 120 calendar days of the initiation of the formal investigation. If the University cannot complete the investigation within 120 days, the Provost (or his or her designee) shall submit a written request for an extension to the appropriate funding agencies, with an explanation for the delay, a report on progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of resolution.

4.8.7.7  Clarification of the Public Record    Where academic misconduct is established, the Provost may take steps necessary to clarify the public record (e.g., public announcements, published retractions, withdrawal or correction of published papers or abstracts, etc.).   As appropriate, the Provost may also notify other concerned parties not previously aware of the case, including:

  • Co-authors, co-investigators, collaborators;
  • State professional licensing boards;
  • Editors of journals in which fraudulent research was published;
  • Professional societies;
  • Law enforcement authorities.

4.8.8  Maintenance of Records of Investigations in cases of Academic Misconduct    Regardless of the outcome of the inquiry or investigation, all records and other written material associated with the inquiry, informal investigation, and formal investigation shall be retained in the Provost’s Office for five years; at the end of the five years, the records shall be destroyed.  If the accused is exonerated, nothing shall be placed in his or her University Personnel File.  The University, in consultation with the exonerated individual(s), shall determine whether a public announcement would be harmful or beneficial in restoring any reputations that may have been damaged; an exonerated individual has the right to prevent any public announcement of the results of the investigation as they relate to that individual.  If there is a finding of academic misconduct, a copy of the letter from the Provost providing a summary of the allegation(s), the findings and recommendations of the committee, and the provost’s decision as to the actions that will be taken, shall be placed in the faculty member’s University personnel file.