Office of the Provost

Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook Chapter 4 -- Faculty: Benefits, Responsibilities, and Specific Requirements

 

Misconduct in Research Policy

Background Considerations

The policy is meant to deal with misconduct in research performed with the intent of publication and should not apply to research by students which is done to meet class expectations (e.g., term papers, seminar presentations, and the like). Assurance of student ethics and management of misconduct in the class setting should remain under the control of the class instructor. The present policy will apply, however, to students engaged in research projects as it will apply to classified and unclassified staff performing research.

Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook References:

1. Code of Ethics—Chapter 4
2. Academic Dishonesty and Disruptive Behavior—Chapter 2
3. Cheating—Chapter 7
4. External Grievance Procedure—Chapter 1
5. Faculty Hearings and Appeals Procedures—Chapter 1
6. Non-Tenured Appointment Hearings and Appeals Procedures—Chapter 1

University Catalog References:

1. Academic Honesty—Academic Information, Policies, and Procedures
2. Academic Honesty—Graduate School

Some apparent deficiencies and potential inconsistencies in current policies are found in the Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook. These items are enumerated here for future consideration:

1. A "whistleblower" will often be strongly inhibited from seeking resolution in consultation with the immediate supervisor, yet our current policies assume this will be the starting point of every grievance procedure for university personnel. Complaints from off-campus, on the other hand, are directed to the highest administrative levels and must be reported to the Board of Regents; this magnifies the difficulties of preventing unjustified harm to the accused in the (frequent) cases where allegations of misconduct prove to be incorrect.

2. Authority on this campus for disciplinary action is not clearly fixed. Examination of the Regents Policies and Procedures Manual and the Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook yielded no specific statement empowering any office or person, beyond a global charge to the president. If any disciplinary authority has been delegated, as is likely, there appears to be no public statement to that effect.

3. Procedures for assessing merit in promotion, tenure, or salary determinations do not provide explicit means of bring disciplinary actions into the discussions. Criteria do not include such considerations and the only means of making the information available in the application packets seems to be within the letters of recommendation from the chair to the dean (who seem not to be empowered to take disciplinary action).

Policy

Introduction

Misconduct in university research undermines the research enterprise and is harmful to the university community, the research community, and the public. Fort Hays State University has the responsibility to promote an environment that opposes misconduct in research and to establish policies and procedures that deal effectively with allegations or evidence of misconduct. This document deals primarily with the second imperative. It outlines university procedures for handling allegations of misconduct.

The several stages of Fort Hays State University's procedure for reviewing allegations of misconduct in research are discussed here. Principles that guide the institutional review procedure follow.

1. The university will provide vigorous leadership in the pursuit and resolution of all charges of misconduct in research.

2. The university will take care that the procedure pursued to resolve allegations of misconduct does not itself damage research.

3. The university will treat all parties with justice and fairness and be sensitive to the reputations and vulnerability of all parties.

4. The procedure will preserve the highest attainable degree of confidentiality compatible with an effective and efficient response.

5. The integrity of the procedure will be maintained by painstaking avoidance of real or apparent conflict of interest.

6. The procedure will be as expeditious as possible.

7. The university will document the pertinent facts at each stage of the response.

8. The university will recognize and discharge its responsibilities after resolving allegations of misconduct: internally to all involved individuals as well as externally to the public, the sponsors of research, editors of relevant publications, and the research community.

Definition of Research Misconduct

As used herein, "research misconduct" includes four categories of unacceptable actions:

1. An act of deception by the researcher in proposing, conducting, or reporting results of research intended for dissemination to the scholarly community. Deception is different from the honest error and ambiguity of interpretation that are inherent in the research process and that are normally corrected by further research. Examples of deception follow.

a. Falsification of data: ranging from fabrication to deceptive and selective reporting, including the purposeful omission of conflicting data with the intent to falsify results.

b. Plagiarism: representation of another's work as one's own.

c. Misappropriation of others' ideas: the unauthorized use of privileged information (such as violation of confidentiality in peer review), however obtained.

2. A major and deliberate failure to comply with Fort Hays State University or sponsoring agency requirements affecting specific aspects of a research project; e.g., the protection of human subjects, the welfare of laboratory animals, or the use of biotechnology.

3. Retaliation of any kind against a person who, in good faith, reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct.

4. A major and deliberate failure to comply with other legal requirements governing research.

Procedure for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

The university procedure for handling allegations of research misconduct involves three stages: inquiry, investigation, and resolution. Although this procedure is established specifically to handle allegations of research misconduct, it should be noted that the procedure is within the spirit of statements of the faculty "Code of Ethics," faculty "Academic Dishonesty and Disruptive Behavior," and student "Cheating" to be found in the FHSU Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook, as well as statements of "Academic Honesty" to be found in the FHSU University Catalog. Also in accord with these sources, an individual disciplined for acts of research misconduct shall be entitled to seek redress through specific grievance procedures.

Initiation of an Inquiry

Fort Hays State University has a responsibility to pursue fully an allegation of research misconduct and to resolve questions regarding the integrity of research. In the inquiry and any investigation which may follow, the university will attempt to focus on the substance of the issues and be vigilant not to permit personal conflicts among colleagues to obscure the facts.

In order to address all allegations of research misconduct expeditiously, Fort Hays State University designates the Dean of the Graduate School as the administrator to whom allegations are to be reported. If the Dean has a conflict of interest with a case, the allegation will be pursued by another administrator designated by the Dean of the Graduate School.

The Dean of the Graduate School will pursue all allegations to resolution. The dean will consult in confidence with any individual who comes forward with an allegation of research misconduct. If the Dean of the Graduate School determines that the concern is addressed appropriately through the procedure herein, the subsequent inquiry and investigation processes will be discussed with the individual who has made the allegations.

Whether a case can be reviewed effectively without the involvement of the complainant depends upon the nature of the allegation and the evidence available. Cases that depend specifically upon the observations or statements of a complainant cannot proceed unless that individual waives the confidential status of the complaint. Other cases that can rely on documentary evidence may permit the complainant to remain anonymous. If cause appears sufficient, the Dean of the Graduate School may initiate an inquiry even if the individual who originally came forward declines to make a formal allegation. In such a case, there is not "complainant" for the purposes of this document.

Inquiry

1. Purpose

Whenever an allegation of misconduct is filed, the Dean of the Graduate School will initiate an inquiry as the first step of the review procedure. In the inquiry stage, factual information is gathered and expeditiously reviewed to determine if an investigation of the charge is warranted. An inquiry is not a formal hearing; it is designed to separate allegations deserving of further investigation from frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken changes.

2. Structure

The inquiry process may be handled with or without a formal committee, at the discretion of the Dean of the Graduate Sschool. Regardless of the approach chosen, it is the responsibility of the Dean of the Graduate School to ensure that the inquiry is conducted in a fair and just manner. If individuals are chosen to assist in the inquiry, they should have no real or apparent conflicts of interest with the case in question, be unbiased, and have an appropriate background for judging the issues being raised.

3. Process

Upon initiation of an inquiry, the Dean of the Graduate School will notify the respondent (accused of misconduct) in writing within ten working days of the charges and of the process that will follow. If the committee method is to be used, the committee members will be designated and convened.

The respondent will be given copies of written documents, if any, that support the allegations. To ensure the safety and security of any written documents associated with the allegation, committee members will be asked to review a copy of such documents only within the office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

When the inquiry is initiated, the respondent will be reminded of the obligation to cooperate in providing the material necessary to conduct the inquiry. Uncooperative behavior may result in immediate implementation of a formal investigation. The respondent will be invited to present a written response to the allegations, and this response will become part of the case file maintained by the office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

Because of the sensitive nature of an alleged case of research misconduct, the university will strive to resolve each case promptly. The inquiry phase will normally be completed and a written report of the findings filed for the institution's own record within thirty days of written notification to the respondent. A thirty-day period meets the federal regulatory requirements. If the committee anticipates that the established deadline cannot be met, a report citing the reasons for the delay and progress to date will be filed with the Dean of the Graduate School and the respondent and other involved individuals will be informed.

4. Findings of the Inquiry

The results of an inquiry enable the Dean of the Graduate School to determine whether or not an investigation is warranted. There will be written documentation to summarize the process and findings of the inquiry. The complainant and respondent will be informed by the Dean of the Graduate School of the outcome of the inquiry. Allegations found to require investigation will be forwarded to the investigative body discussed below. At this point, any agency sponsoring the research will be notified of a pending investigation.

If an allegation is found to be unjustified but submitted in good faith, no further formal action will be taken other than informing all involved parties. The proceedings of the inquiry, including the identity of the respondent, will be held in strict confidence to protect the parties involved. If confidentiality is breached, the university will take reasonable steps to minimize the damage to reputations that may result from inaccurate reports.

If an allegation is found to be unjustified and to have been maliciously motivated, disciplinary actions will be taken against those responsible.

Investigation

1. Purpose

An investigation will be initiated only after the results of an inquiry demonstrate that one is warranted. The investigation's purpose is to explore further the allegations and determine whether there has been research misconduct. In the course of an investigation, additional information may emerge that justifies broadening the scope of the investigation beyond the initial allegations. The respondent will be informed in writing when significant new directions of investigation are undertaken. The investigation will focus on accusations of misconduct as defined previously and examine the factual materials of each case. The investigation will look carefully at the substance of the charges and examine all relevant evidence.

2. Structure

The investigating body will be a five-person ad hoc committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Members of the investigative committee may be chosen from within or outside the university. Those investigating the allegations will be selected in full awareness of the closeness of their professional or personal affiliation with the complainant or the respondent. Any prospective member who has a conflict of interest in the case will not be permitted to be involved. It is important, however, that the committee have appropriate research expertise to assure the conduct of an effective investigation.

3. Process

Upon receipt of the inquiry finding that an investigation is warranted, the Dean of the Graduate School will initiate the investigation promptly. The complainant and respondent will be notified in writing of the investigation; the written summary of the inquiry stage will be included with this notification. All involved parties are obligated to cooperate with the proceedings in securing additional data related to the case. All necessary information will be provided to the respondent in a timely manner to facilitate the preparation of a response. The respondent will have the opportunity to address the charges and evidence in detail.

In the interim, the university will, if necessary, act to protect the health and safety of research subjects. Administrative action could range from complete suspension to restrictions on the activities of the respondent. Interim administrative action will be taken in full awareness of how it might affect other individuals and ongoing research within the institution.

The written record for the investigative stage will be handled in the same manner as for the inquiry stage; i.e., one copy of the record will be given to the respondent and a second will be maintained in the office of the Dean of the Graduate School and solely available for inspection by the committee.

All significant developments during the investigation as well as the final findings of the committee will be reported to any sponsor of the research. When the investigation is concluded, all individuals and agencies initially notified of the investigation will be informed of its final outcome.

The university will attempt to complete an investigation within 120 days. If the deadline cannot be met, an interim report will be submitted by the committee to the Dean of the Graduate School with a request for an extension.

4. Findings of the Investigation

The findings of the investigative committee will be submitted in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School. The respondent and the complainant each will receive the full report of the investigation. A written summary will be forwarded to the provost.

5. Appeal/Final Review

In the event of a finding of research misconduct, Fort Hays State University will provide the respondent with an appeal opportunity. This appeal will proceed in accord with the established university grievance procedures.

Resolution

1. No Finding of Misconduct

When the investigation finds no support for allegations of research misconduct, all federal agencies, sponsors, and others initially informed of the investigation will be notified promptly by the Dean of the Graduate School. The findings of the investigation will be retained in a confidential and secure file within the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

If the allegations of misconduct were found to have been maliciously motivated, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against those responsible. If the allegations, however, incorrect, were found to have been made in good faith, no disciplinary measures will be taken and efforts will be made to prevent retaliatory actions.

2. Finding of Misconduct

a. Notification

All federal agencies, sponsors, or others initially informed of the investigation will be notified promptly of the finding of misconduct.

Consideration will also be given to formal notification of other involved parties. The following list of such parties is illustrative but not exhaustive.

    1. Co-authors, co-investigators, collaborators

    2. Editors of journals in which fraudulent research was published

    3. Sponsoring agencies and funding sources with which the individual has been affiliated

    4. Professional societies

 b. Disciplinary Action

University disciplinary action will be in proportion to the misconduct. The following list of possible university employment restrictions provides examples.

    1. Special monitoring of future work

    2. Removal from a particular research project

    3. Letter of reprimand to be placed in the permanent file of the offender

    4. Recommendation of salary reduction

    5. Recommendation of rank reduction

    6. Termination of employment

 

*This policy statement on research misconduct is derived from a document drafted at Miami University. Like the Miami University paper, it arises from and affirms a statement on the subject prepared by the Association of American Universities, August 22, 1988.

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