Reporting Possible Misconduct

May 1994

INTRODUCTION
Although the instances of verifiable scientific/scholarly misconduct during the past ten years have remained small in number, they have been highly publicized. This has led to increased concern regarding this issue within the scientific community, academic institutions, federal agencies and the general public. As a result, federal agencies have begun to mandate that those institutions engaged in federally-funded research and related activities initiate formal policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct.

Sacred Heart University has, therefore, developed the following policy and procedures for inquiry and investigation of allegations of scientific/scholarly misconduct pertaining to all members of the Sacred Heart University community, and to advise the Sacred Heart University community of their responsibilities regarding scientific/ scholarly misconduct.

DEFINITIONS

Scientific/Scholarly Misconduct: the fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific/scholarly community for proposing, conducting or reporting research
NOTE: It does not include honest errors or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

Those faculty members who supervise research associates, staff employees or students in research or related activities for which they have been identified as the principle investigator are deemed responsible for overseeing those individuals' scientific/scholarly conduct. Gross negligence in exercising that supervisory responsibility may itself be chargeable as scientific/ scholarly misconduct.

Investigator: the principal investigator, the co-investigator(s), the program director or trainee(s) on a training grant, the recipient of a career award or fellowship or any other individual who conducts or is responsible for research or research training.

Inquiry: an information-gathering and initial fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of scientific/ scholarly misconduct warrants an investigation
NOTE: An inquiry is not intended to determine conclusively if wrongdoing has occurred, nor to determine guilt or innocence.

Investigation: A formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if an instance of scientific/scholarly misconduct has taken place, to evaluate its seriousness, and, if possible, to determine responsibility
NOTE: If scientific/scholarly misconduct has already been confirmed, an investigation may nonetheless be necessary to determine the extent of any adverse effects resulting from the misconduct and any necessary remedial or follow-up actions (e.g. publications requiring retraction).

Misconduct Policy Officer (MPO): The Academic Vice President and Provost shall serve as the MPO, and in this role s/he will be the primary recipient of all information concerning possible scientific/ scholarly misconduct
NOTE: When any other individual receives information concerning possible scientific/scholarly misconduct, s/he shall immediately relay the allegation in writing to the MPO.

The responsibilities of the MPO shall include:

  1. To make initial contact with all parties to an allegation of scientific/scholarly misconduct. 
  2. To maintain records of all complaints and institutional responses. 
  3. To serve ex officio (without vote) on the Inquiry Committee and Investigation Committee. 
  4. To disseminate information regarding the University's policy and procedures for scientific/scholarly misconduct to the University community and to inform the University community of the importance of compliance with those policies and procedures. 
  5. To advise, on a yearly basis, the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service, or any other federal agency which funds research at Sacred Heart University of the existence of the University's administrative process for inquiry and investigation of scientific/ scholarly misconduct.

PROCEDURES

Allegation Phase 

  1. Anyone having information that leads him/her to believe that a faculty or staff member has committed scientific/scholarly misconduct should report the matter to the MPO in writing. The MPO shall establish the precise nature of the allegation and rule out the possibility that the allegation is groundless. The accused shall immediately thereafter be informed of the nature of the accusation against him/her. Also, the provisions of the policy and procedures contained in this document shall be provided and explained to both parties.
  2. During this phase and throughout any subsequent phases, every effort shall be made by all parties to discover all relevant facts and to take whatever steps are necessary and appropriate to remedy improprieties. No part of these procedures shall, however, be interpreted to preempt either the right of an individual alleging scientific/scholarly misconduct to withdraw that allegation or the right of an individual accused of scientific/ scholarly misconduct to concede that misconduct and to propose appropriate remedies. Any such informal resolution must be approved by the MPO, representing the legitimate interests of the institution and those of any external funding agency or agencies involved, before the matter is considered closed.
  3. If the MPO determines that there are no grounds for proceeding further, s/he shall so inform both parties in writing.
  4. Where practicable, such preliminary discussions should be completed within ten (10) working days of the initial allegation having been lodged with the MPO.
  5. Throughout this phase, the privacy of all individuals involved shall be carefully protected. Information concerning any inquiry will be made available only to those individuals who need to know. Every effort will be made to keep the inquiry confidential until results are established with reasonable certainty.
  6. In the case of research supported by the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service, or any other federal agency, the Agency will be notified of the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct prior to the inquiry, or at any time during the investigatory stage, if facts are discovered which show that any of the following conditions exist:

    a. The seriousness of the apparent misconduct warrants disclosure;
    b. An immediate health hazard is involved;
    c. There is an immediate need to protect federal funds, equipment, resources, reputation, or other important interests;
    d. There is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegations or of the individual(s) who is the subject of the allegations as well as his/her co-investigators and associates, if any;
    e. It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly;
    f. There is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation. In this case, the University will notify the agency's appropriate office within 24 hours.

Inquiry Phase

  1. The inquiry phase shall be initiated in the following two instances:

    a. The MPO determines that the allegation merits further investigation; or,
    b. The person(s) alleging scientific/scholarly misconduct bypassed the MPO's decision not to pursue the matter further. The bypass of the MPO's decision can be made by informing the President in writing within five (5) working days of receiving notification of that decision, that the decision is disputed.
  2. In either case, the MPO shall obtain a written and signed statement of the allegation(s) by the individual(s) alleging scientific/ scholarly misconduct. The accused shall be notified in writing by the MPO that a formal allegation has been received and that an Inquiry Committee will be formed. 
  3. The MPO shall appoint an Inquiry Committee within ten (10) working days where practicable. The Inquiry Committee shall be composed of three (3) members of the University faculty, at least one of whom shall belong to the faculty of the academic discipline in which the scientific/scholarly misconduct is alleged to have occurred, and at least one of whom shall belong to the faculty of an academic discipline other than that in which the scientific/scholarly misconduct is alleged to have occurred. The MPO shall be an ex officio member (without vote) of the Inquiry Committee. 
  4. The MPO shall notify the following persons that an inquiry is being initiated: the person who made the initial allegation; the individual against whom the scientific/scholarly misconduct has been alleged; his/her immediate Sacred Heart University supervisor; the appropriate Faculty Chair; the President; and the University's General Counsel. The preceding individuals shall be notified because it has been determined that they are parties who "need to know" about the inquiry. 
  5. The Inquiry Committee shall separately meet with the accuser and the accused and shall review all necessary and reasonable documentation to determine if an investigation should be recommended. Refusal on the part of the accused to allow the Inquiry Committee to review necessary documents shall be grounds for a recommendation for an investigation. 
  6. The Inquiry Committee shall take no more than sixty (60) days to conduct its inquiry and determine whether an investigation is warranted. The Inquiry committee shall make a formal written report of inquiry consisting of the complaint, the evidence reviewed, a summary of relevant interviews, the Inquiry Committee's findings, and a recommendation on future actions. The individual(s) against whom the allegation(s) was made shall be given a copy of the report of inquiry. If they comment on the report, their comments may be made part of the record.

    The report shall recommend that either:

    a. The inquiry be terminated, if it is determined that the allegation was frivolous or malicious and/or that insufficient evidence was produced to warrant further proceedings. In the case of this finding, diligent efforts shall be undertaken to restore the reputation of the accused. Any and all parties that had been notified of the inquiry shall be notified of the lack of merit therein and instructed to disregard the inquiry.

    b. A formal investigation should be conducted, because evidence sufficient to support further proceedings has been discovered through the inquiry phase.

    The Inquiry Committee report shall be submitted to the MPO and forwarded by him/her to the President. The MPO shall maintain sufficiently detailed documentation of inquiries to permit a later assessment of the reasons for determining that an investigation was not warranted, if necessary. Such records shall be maintained in a secure manner for a period of at least three (3) years after the termination of the inquiry, and shall, upon request, be provided to authorized federal agency personnel.
  7. If the Inquiry Committee recommends that a formal investigation should be conducted, the MPO shall immediately so inform the person who made the initial allegation; the individual against whom the scientific/ scholarly misconduct has been alleged; his/her immediate Sacred Heart University supervisor; the appropriate Faculty Chair; the President; and the University's General Counsel. The preceding individuals shall be notified because it has been determined that they are parties who "need to know" about the investigation. 
  8. In the case of research supported by a federal agency, the awarding agency shall also be notified, on or before the date the investigation is to begin, that an inquiry has been completed with the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct having been judged worthy of further investigation, and that such an investigation is being undertaken. 
  9. During the inquiry and throughout any further proceedings, the University shall protect the rights, reputation, and the professional and institutional standing of all individuals against whom scientific/ scholarly misconduct has been alleged by affording them confidential treatment (as described elsewhere in this document and except as provided by law), a prompt and thorough inquiry, and the opportunity to comment on the allegations against them and all related findings. 
  10. From the initial reporting of the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct, the University will also protect the rights, reputation, and professional and institutional standing of those who have reported the scientific/scholarly misconduct insofar as this is consonant with the conduct of a fair and thorough inquiry, as defined elsewhere in this document. 
  11. When an allegation may involve immediate danger to humans or animals, the MPO shall take appropriate actions to protect those at risk. This shall include the notification of the Chairperson of the University's Institutional Review Board and/or the Animal Welfare and Use Committee.

Investigation Phase

  1. If the Inquiry Committee recommends a formal investigation, the MPO, in consultation with the members of that Committee, shall appoint such additional members they deem necessary to ensure the availability of expertise appropriate to the nature of the allegation. The expanded Investigation Committee shall in any case include not less than four (4) members of the full-time Sacred Heart University faculty. At least one additional member shall be appointed to this committee who is not affiliated with Sacred Heart University. The MPO shall remain as an ex-officio (non voting) member of the Investigation Committee. The undertaking of the investigation shall begin within thirty (30) days of the completion of the inquiry.
  2. The Investigation Committee shall be charg ed with undertaking a thorough and appropriately detailed review of the evidence. The investigation normally will include examination of all documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls. Whenever possible, interviews shall be conducted of all individuals involved either in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made, as well as other individuals who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations. Complete summaries of these interviews shall be prepared and provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision. These summaries will then be included as part of the investigation file.

    The University's General Counsel shall be consulted regarding additional procedures that meet judicial standards and review for a private university. These procedures shall be provided in writing to all parties involved at the earliest opportunity.
  3. The Investigation Committee shall submit a written report to the MPO at the conclusion of the investigation. This report shall contain: the statement of the allegation; the committee's findings as to the facts of the case; the accused's written comments on the allegations; and (if appropriate) the committee's recommendations as to remedies for any improprieties they determine to have occurred. The investigation phase, which includes the investigation and preparation of the written report, should normally be completed within 120 days.

    NOTE: In the case of research sponsored by certain federal agencies, additional deadlines and reporting requirements may be stipulated. The MPO shall be responsible for informing the committee of all relevant regulatory restrictions on their work. In almost all cases, the agency will expect to receive a copy of the committee's final report.
  4. The Investigation Committee's final report and all other records of the investigation shall be retained by the MPO.

Post-Investigation Actions

  1. If an allegation of scientific/scholarly misconduct is not substantiated by a preponderance of proof, all proceedings shall be discontinued. The investigation file shall be closed and no reference to it shall appear in the individual's personnel file. Additionally, this finding shall be made known to all those who had previously been informed of the allegation. Diligent efforts shall be made to restore the reputation of the accused.
  2. If scientific/scholarly misconduct is determined to have occurred, appropriate action up to and including suspension, restitution, and discharge will be initiated by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Additionally, all pending abstracts and papers emanating from any fraudulent research will be withdrawn, and editors of journals in which previous abstracts and papers appeared will be notified. Institutions and sponsoring agencies with which the individual has been affiliated will also be notified.
  3. In the case of federally-funded research, the awarding agency or agencies will be notified. It should be noted that a funding agency may invoke the right to impose sanctions of its own on the individual researcher, on a unit of the University, or on the University as a whole