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.
- "Misconduct1" in science and engineering means:
- 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.
- the misappropriation of the ideas of others or the unauthorized use of confidential information.
- 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.
- failure to meet other material professional standards or legal requirements governing research.
- 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.
- 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.)
- "Inquiry" is defined as information gathering and initial fact finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants a formal investigation.
- "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.
- "Complainant" means the person alleging the misconduct.
- "Respondent" means the person accused of the alleged misconduct.
1Misconduct does not include honest errors or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.
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.
In 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 Senior Vice President for Research (SVPR) determines that an investigation will take longer than 120 days to complete, the SVPR 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 SVPR:
- there is an immediate health hazard;
- there is an immediate need to protect funds or equipment;
- 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;
- it is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly; or
- there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation (must be reported within 24 hours to ORI/PHS if PHS funds are involved.)
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 SVPR is grounds for a charge of misconduct.
The Preliminary Inquiry
- 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.
- 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
- In cases where the supervisor is personally involved, the preliminary inquiry will be conducted by the SVPR.
- 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.
- The committee (named in 5 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.
- 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 SVPR in order to accomplish this. In addition, the Inquiring Official shall recommend administrative actions to the SVPR to protect Federal funds and to ensure that the purposes for which the funds were provided are carried out.
- 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 SVPR 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 SVPR giving the reasons for not reporting the findings to the SVPR. A copy of this latter report will be sent by the SVPR to the Respondent and the Complainant. The case is then considered closed.
- 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 SVPR who will consult immediately with legal counsel to the university.
- In all cases, the report of the Inquiring Official shall contain, at a minimum, the following information:
- the evidence reviewed,
- summaries of all interviews, and
- The SVPR 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 SVPR 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 SVPR will promptly inform the Complainant(s) and the Respondent(s) of his/her recommendation. It is the responsibility of the SVPR 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.
- The Respondent must be given an opportunity to answer the charge(s) during the preliminary inquiry.
- 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 SVPR to the President.
- If the SVPR determines that an inquiry should be terminated prior to receiving the report of the Inquiring Official, the SVPR 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 SVPR that a formal investigation should be initiated, he/she will first appoint a Committee on Scientific Misconduct and then instruct the Associate Vice President for Resaearch (AVPR) to convene the Committee as soon as possible to review the preliminary evidence. The SVPR 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:
- the name of the Respondent;
- the general nature of the allegation; and
- the PHS application or grant number(s) involved.
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 Senior Vice President for Research (SVPR).
- The Committee shall consist of six (6) members appointed for the term of a particular investigation by the SVPR.
- The Associate Vice President for Research (AVPR) will chair the committee and two (2) members of the Committee shall be chosen from the full-time faculty.
- The Senior Vice President for Research (SVPR) shall appoint one (1) 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 SVPR 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.
- The SVPR 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 SVPR will review these procedures at least annually.
- The SVPR will be responsible for providing the clerical and material resources for the Committee.