Reporting Allegations of Research Misconduct

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Principles

Scientific research at Florida Institute of Technology is grounded upon the principles of academic freedom and mutual trust. The fostering of inquiry and creativity requires an environment that fosters ethical behavior in scholarship and serves to prevent misconduct in research. The university's primary responsibility is to create and maintain such an environment. The members of the university community are presumed to adhere to high ethical standards in the conduct of research and other academic pursuits. Research fraud is a fundamental violation of this trust and represents an assault upon the integrity of the entire university community.

Research misconduct and fraud are, fortunately, rare events. However, because of the seriousness of misconduct and the special responsibilities of the university in such circumstances, both to individual scientists and to society, it is recognized that explicit procedures must be provided for dealing with instances of alleged misconduct. This document outlines the policies and procedures that will be followed in the investigation and reporting of allegations of research misconduct at Florida Institute of Technology.

In establishing procedures, however, it must be emphasized that the best method for dealing with misconduct is to prevent it. This it is imperative that those who participate in scientific inquiry reaffirm their responsibility for the ethical conduct of all research activities with which they are associated. This implies that principal investigators and laboratory supervisors recognize and accept that it is their ultimate responsibility to ensure the authenticity of research conducted and published under their auspices and realize that they must produce adequate supervision for trainees and all members of their research teams. It is also their responsibility to see that anyone who has contributed to the research is given credit for their work. On the other hand, it is incumbent upon research collaborators and other contributors to understand that the inclusion o f their names as co-authors of publications reflects both a genuine contribution to the work and their approval of the publication and acceptance of responsibility for the work reported.

In the event that the integrity of any published report should be questioned, it is expected that adequate records of the original experimental protocols, engineering notebooks, and original data will have been preserved for a reasonable period of time (but not for less than five years.)

The university shall pursue an allegation of misconduct to the extent it is reasonably capable of doing so, even if the individual(s) against whom the allegation is made has (have) left the university before the case is resolved.

Authority and Applicability

  1. This policy and associated procedures have been adopted pursuant to the requirements of 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart A, Responsibilities of Public Health Service Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science, and with 45 CFR Part 689, as amended, Misconduct in Science and Engineering, issued by the National Science Foundation in May, 1991.
  2. This policy and its procedures are applicable to all members of the Florida Institute of Technology academic community, that is, employees (full and part-time) and students of Florida Institute of Technology.

Definitions

  1. "Misconduct" in science and engineering means:
    1. fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific and engineering communities for proposing, conducting, or reporting research.
    2. the misappropriation of the ideas of others or the unauthorized use of confidential information.
    3. failure on the part of a member of the university to comply with requirements for protection of researchers, human subjects or the public, or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals.
    4. failure to meet other material professional standards or legal requirements governing research.
    5. retaliation of any kind against a person or persons who reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct and who has not acted in bad faith.
    6. the condoning of the above practices, including failure to notify university authorities when there is clear evidence of misconduct, failure to cooperate in an investigation or inquiry under these procedures, and failure to comply with misconduct policies and procedures (e.g., unauthorized release of information about misconduct inquiries or investigations.)Misconduct does not include honest errors or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.
  2. "Inquiry" is defined as information gathering and initial fact finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants a formal investigation.
  3. "Investigation" means the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if misconduct has occurred and, if so, what actions should be taken.
  4. "Complainant" means the person alleging the misconduct. "Respondent" means the person accused of the alleged misconduct.

Procedures for the Investigation of Alleged Misconduct and Fraud

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the procedures established in this document is to enable investigation and resolution of allegations of misconduct and fraud in an expeditious, responsible, and fair manner. The protection of the rights and reputations of all who are involved in any investigation of research misconduct is extremely important. To ensure this, proceedings will be confidential. Only those who must participate in any inquiry or formal investigation should have knowledge of it. A determination as to whether other interested parties, such as collaborators, supervisors, and officials of sponsoring or funding agencies or institutions, shall be notified will be made by the Committee on Scientific Misconduct coincident with the decision to initiate a formal investigation, unless otherwise specified in this document.

Timeliness

n order to comply with Federal requirements, the time between reporting of misconduct and initiation of an inquiry should not exceed 30 calendar days. The time to complete an inquiry to determine if a formal investigation is required should not exceed 60 calendar days. The time between the completion of the inquiry and the initiation of a formal investigation should not exceed 30 calendar days. The time from initiation to completion and disposition of an investigation excluding appeals should not exceed 120 calendar days. Appeals must be requested and undertaken within 30 calendar days of the conclusion of the formal investigation. If the Vice President for Research (VPR) determines that an investigation will take longer than 120 days to complete, the VPR on behalf of the university must request an extension of time from the Office of Research Integrity of the Public Health Service (ORI/PHS). The request should include an explanation for the delay, an interim report of the progress to date, and an estimate for the date of completion of the report on the investigation.

Notification of Sponsoring Agencies

If the Committee on Scientific Misconduct (see below) determines that interim administrative actions should be taken to ensure that the purposes of a Federal or State grant supporting the research in question are carried out (e.g., designation of an acting principal investigator, securing of laboratory equipment), or the facts have been disclosed that the sponsoring agency needs to know to ensure appropriate use of funds or otherwise protect the public interest, the Chairman of the Committee will arrange for such actions or notifications.

If, at any stage of the inquiry, there is evidence that the alleged misconduct involves any of the following conditions, a report to QRI/PHS must be made immediately by the VPR: a) there is an immediate health hazard; b) there is an immediate need to protect funds or equipment; c) there is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegation or of the individual(s) who is subject of the allegation as well as any of his/her co-investigators and associates, if any; d) it is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly; or e) there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation (must be reported within 24 hours to ORI/PHS if PHS funds are involved.)

Record Keeping

Copies of all verbatim transcripts or summaries of hearings, interviews, reports, whether interim or final, determinations made at any stage of the inquiry or the formal investigation, request for extensions of time and any other documents with material relevance to an inquiry or formal investigation are confidential to the maximum extent permitted by law, These records must be securely maintained by the university for a period of three (3) years after completion of an inquiry or investigation, at which time they should be destroyed. Making such records public without authorization from the VPR is grounds for a charge of misconduct.

The Preliminary Inquiry

  1. Members of the university community who conclude that there is a good and substantial reason for believing that misconduct has occurred have an obligation to report in writing their conclusions and the basis for them immediately to the department head, division director, or (in cases where there are neither of these) the Dean of the Respondent, who shall be known as the "Inquiring Official". The Complainant should also report in writing to the immediate supervisor of the Respondent, if this is not the same person as the Inquiring Official.
  2. The Inquiring Official, unless personally involved, is responsible for first determining whether it is appropriate for him or her to conduct the preliminary inquiry and then, if appropriate, evaluating such allegations to determine if a formal investigation is warranted.
    In cases where the Inquiring Official is personally involved (i.e., as Respondent, Co-Respondent, or collaborator), the preliminary inquiry will be conducted by his/her immediate supervisor
  3. In cases where the supervisor is personally involved, the preliminary inquiry will be conducted by the VPR.
  4. The Inquiring Official shall conduct the inquiry with the help of a departmental, divisional, or school committee. This committee will be named and chaired by the Inquiring Official and will be composed of faculty and/or staff who have no connection to the research program of the Respondent or Complainant and who have no other real or apparent conflicts of interest with the Respondent or the Respondent's activities.
  5. The committee (named in 4 above) shall also be comprised so that the members possess the necessary and appropriate expertise to evaluate the evidence of the alleged misconduct. The nature of the inquiry at this level should be thorough enough to determine that the accusations are not frivolous nor motivated by vindictiveness and are supported by some evidence, and that the alleged misconduct was not the result of carelessness or incompetence. In all cases, the Inquiring Official must provide confidentiality to all involved in the preliminary inquiry.
  6. The Inquiring Official should take steps to secure all relevant laboratory protocols, engineering notebooks, original data, research grant applications, correspondence, memoranda, phone logs, computer account records, tapes or diskettes, and publications, as well as any documents or material of any kind. The Inquiring Official may seek the assistance of the VPR in order to accomplish this. In addition, the Inquiring Official shall recommend administrative actions to the VPR to protect Federal funds and to ensure that the purposes for which the funds were provided are carried out.
  7. If the Inquiring Official, based on the committee's deliberations, determines that there are no grounds for a formal investigation of a charge of misconduct, he or she will submit a confidential written report to that effect to the VPR who will sequester the report. A copy of this report will be sent to both the Respondent and Complainant. However, if the Inquiring Official has concerns about protection of innocent parties, he or she must establish a confidential, sequestered file giving the findings of the preliminary inquiry and submit a confidential report to the VPR giving the reasons for not reporting the findings to the VPR. A copy of this latter report will be sent by the VPR to the Respondent and the Complainant. The case is then considered closed.
  8. If the Inquiring Official determines that there are grounds for a formal investigation of a charge of misconduct, this must be reported in writing to the VPR who will consult immediately with legal counsel to the university.
  9. In all cases, the report of the Inquiring Official shall contain, at a minimum, the following information: a) the evidence reviewed, b) summaries of all interviews, and c) conclusions.
  10. The VPR will review the determination of the Inquiring Official, and, if he/she concurs that there are grounds for a formal investigation of a charge of misconduct, will recommend in writing to the President that such an investigation be initiated. If the VPR does not concur with the findings of the Inquiring Official and determines that there are no grounds for an investigation, he/she will submit a confidential written report detailing the reasons for his/her determination to the President. The VPR will promptly inform the Complainant(s) and the Respondent(s) of his/her recommendation. It is the responsibility of the VPR to undertake diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputations of Respondents where allegations are not upheld in the Preliminary Inquiry, and to protect the positions and reputations of Complainants who, in good faith, made allegations.
  11. The Respondent must be given an opportunity to answer the charge(s) during the preliminary inquiry.
  12. This preliminary inquiry must be completed within 60 calendar days of its initiation. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, documented reasons for exceeding the 60-day period must be included in the Inquiring Official's report, and in the report of the VPR to the President.
  13. If the VPR determines that an inquiry should be terminated prior to receiving the report of the Inquiring Official, the VPR shall provide, in writing, a memorandum setting forth the reasons for such termination, and shall submit this memorandum to the President, the Inquiring Official and the ORI/PHS within 5 working days.

Formal Investigation of Fraud

If it has been determined by the VPR that a formal investigation should be initiated, he/she will first appoint a Committee on Scientific Misconduct and then instruct the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs to convene the Committee as soon as possible to review the preliminary evidence. The VPR will also inform the ORI/PHS of the university's decision to initiate a formal investigation. The report to ORI/PHS will, at a minimum, contain the following information: a) the name of the Respondent; b) the general nature of the allegation; and c) the PHS application or grant number(s) involved.

Committee on Scientific Misconduct

Charge

The Committee on Scientific Misconduct (the "Committee") is charged with the responsibility of conducting formal investigations of allegations of scientific fraud or misconduct by members of the academic community of Florida Institute of Technology. It is the Committee's responsibility to determine if allegations of research fraud or misconduct are substantiated by the evidence; to determine when the relevant sponsoring agencies are informed of the existence and progress of any formal investigations; to make a report on the findings of investigations and to recommend appropriate action(s) to the Vice President for Research.

Membership

  1. The Committee shall consist of six members appointed for the term of a particular investigation by the VPR. The Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs will chair the committee and two members of the Committee shall be chosen from the full-time faculty. The Vice President for Research shall appoint one additional full-time faculty member on a case-by-case basis from the college where the allegations originate and will appoint the balance of the committee from other university faculty or staff. The VPR may also appoint others from within the university or from the outside as ad hoc members if special expertise is necessary for a particular investigation. None of the members of the Committee may have served on the departmental/divisional/school committee constituted for the preliminary inquiry. The members of the Committee must also not have any connection with the research program of the Respondent and must be selected to avoid any real or apparent conflict of interest with the Respondent or the Respondent's activities.
  2. The VPR will be responsible for informing the academic community of the Florida Institute of Technology about the existence of the Committee, its purpose, and the procedures to be followed in the reporting and investigation of alleged research misconduct. The VPR will review these procedures at least annually.
  3. The VPR will be responsible for providing the clerical and material resources for the Committee.

Procedures for Conducting the Formal Investigation

  1. Within 30 days of the completion of the inquiry, the Committee shall first review the report of the Inquiring Official. The Respondent and any collaborators will then be informed in writing of the allegations and of the pending investigation. A determination of the need to inform sponsoring agencies will also be made at this time.
  2. If the Committee should not concur with the determination of the Inquiring Official that a formal investigation be initiated, it will report that in writing to the Vice President or Research. The Vice President for Research shall make the final determination as to whether the formal investigation shall proceed.
  3. The Respondent(s) must be provided with a written description of the allegations and must be fully informed in writing at the time of the initiation of the formal investigation of the procedures that will be followed. The Respondent(s) has (have) the right to file with the Committee a formal written response to the allegations, which will be included as part of the record.
    During the formal investigative phase, the Committee is empowered to call and examine all relevant laboratory protocols, engineering notesbooks, original data, research grant applications, correspondence, memoranda, phone logs, computer account records, tapes or diskettes, and publications, as well as any documents or material of any kind which the Committee deems relevant. These materials may relate to all research activities with which the Respondent(s) is (are) involved.
  4. A first round of hearings will be conducted in which the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s), and any others who might have knowledge relevant to the alleged fraud or misconduct will be interviewed, in turn, in closed session. All participants will be allowed to make their own notes. The rules of evidence applicable in courts of law shall not apply. Any participant may engage legal counsel at their own expense who may be present at the hearing and offer advice to that participant, but such counsel shall not have the right to make a statement, examine witnesses or present evidence. Written transcripts or summaries of these interviews shall be prepared and provided to the interviewed parties for response and shall be included as part of the record.
  5. At the conclusion of these hearings, the Committee will review the evidence and, within 5 business days, apprise all those who may bear some responsibility for the alleged misconduct of the result of the investigation to that point. Those individuals will then be granted the right of rebuttal and the opportunity to present additional evidence to the Committee. Following this, the Committee may recall earlier witnesses for re-examination, call new witnesses, or close the investigative phase. Before the Committee moves toward final deliberations, those bearing potential responsibility must be given a final opportunity to review and comment upon any new evidence uncovered subsequent to their last appearance before the Committee.
  6. If the Committee plans to terminate an investigation for any reason without completing all relevant requirements of such investigation required under applicable regulations, a report of such planned termination, including a description of the reasons for such termination, shall be made to the VPR who will transmit the report to ORI/PHS.

Reports and Recommendations

  1. The Committee will evaluate all evidence and testimony in order to determine if the allegations of misconduct are substantiated and, if so, who must bear responsibility. Because of the severe negative impact of charges of misconduct whether substantiated ultimately or not, on the research career of any individual, it is important that the Committee's final decision be rendered in unequivocal terms. For a charge of fraud of misconduct to be upheld, the Committee must unanimously agree that they are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the allegations have been substantiated. If the Committee cannot reach this consensus, then it must report that the individual(s) under investigation has (have) been exonerated.
  2. At the close of its investigation, the Committee will prepare a two-part written report for the Vice President for Research. The first part will consist of a summary of the allegations, the evidence pertaining to them, and the conclusions of the Committee as to the substantiation of the charges and the assignment of responsibility, and the bases for such conclusions and assignments. Regardless of the outcome, a draft of this document must be made available to the Complainant(s) and the Respondent(s), who will each have any opportunity to review it and to present any additional information. Such statements provided by the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will be included in the final report.
  3. It is the Committee's responsibility in the second part of its report to recommend to the Vice President for Research actions that should be taken if the charge of misconduct has been found to be substantiated. In principle, anyone found to have committee scientific misconduct or fraud should, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, be recommended for dismissal from the university. If it is found that misconduct or fraud was committed by a collaborator or other members of a research team, and the principal investigator is found to have been negligent in making reasonable and periodic inquiry as to the authenticity of their data, and if this inquiry would have been likely to prevent or uncover the fraudulent research, the principal investigator shall be reported by the Committee to the Academic Vice President who will determine the sanction to be applied. The Committee should defer this part of its report until it known if the Respondent desires to appeal the findings of the Committee. If this is the case, this part of the report shall be held by the Committee until the appeal has been decided.
  4. If the allegations are upheld both initially and on appeal, the Committee will provide the sponsoring agency with a copy of its final report. The Committee will also notify the editors of journals or the officers of societies where research papers of abstracts related to the fraudulent research have appeared or are pending, the officials of institutions and sponsoring agencies with which the Respondent has been affiliated, the officers of professional societies to which the Respondent belongs, and, if appropriate, professional licensing boards. The Committee may also recommend actions concerning the release of information regarding the incident to the public media and corrective actions to prevent further instances of misconduct or fraud in light of the experience gained from the current investigation.
  5. If the charges of misconduct or fraud are not substantiated, the Respondent(s) and the Complainant(s) shall be so notified in writing, and the Committee shall recommend steps to ensure that the reputations of all involved are restored as fully as possible, and should make every effort to protect the positions and reputations of those who in good faith made the allegations. This may require notification of collaborators, sponsoring agencies, and others who are known to have become aware of the investigation. It may also require relocation within the university of the Complainant(s).
  6. If the allegations of misconduct are found to have been malicious or intentionally dishonest, the Committee, in consultation with the Vice President for Research and the relevant dean, will recommend appropriate action to the President.
  7. The report and recommendations of the Committee shall be considered as advisory to the Vice President for Research, who shall bear responsibility for further action consistent with university policy.
  8. Within 30 calendar days of the receipt of the report of the Committee and the resolution of all appeals (see Section VIII), the VPR shall prepare a final report for ORI/PHS. This report shall describe the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information relevant to the investigation was obtained, the conclusions and the basis for the conclusions of the investigation, and the sanctions levied by the institution. In addition, the report must include the actual text or a duly notarized summary of the views of the Respondent. This report must be submitted to ORI. As part of the final report to ORI/PHS, the documentation that substantiates the Committee's conclusions and recommendations, as well as the documentation of any sanctions taken against the Respondent (or the Complainant if the allegation is found to be malicious or intentionally dishonest), must be made available to the Director, ORI/PHS.

Appeals

  1. The Respondent has the right to appeal a finding by the Committee that the Respondent has committed scientific misconduct to the Vice President of Research within 30 days after receiving the final report of the Committee. The grounds for the appeal must be: 1) inadequacy of the investigative procedure; and/or 2) new evidence not considered by the Committee.
  2. In the event of an appeal, the university will request an extension of time from ORI/PHS to consider the appeal.
  3. The Vice President for Research, in consultation with the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the President of the Faculty Senate, may appoint an ad hoc Appeals Committee, which cannot include any members of the Committee. and where there is substantive new evidence in favor of the Respondent. The Appeals Committee shall report in writing to the Vice President for Research no later than 30 days after the appeal has been received.
  1. If the Appeals Committee finds that the original investigation was procedurally acceptable and that there is no substantive new evidence, it can recommend that the appeal be denied.
  2. If the Appeals Committee finds that there were significant procedural irregularities in the original investigation or agrees that substantive new evidence has been presented, it must recommend re-investigation by the new Committee on Scientific Misconduct. In this case, the university will request an extension of time from the appropriate Federal agency for the re-investigation.

Approved by PHS: January 18, 1996