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Policy on Research Misconduct and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • (Approved by the Board of Trustees, September 6, 2007)
  • (Approved by the Chancellor, October 26, 2015)

Purpose

The purpose of this Policy on Research Misconduct and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct is to set forth the University's policy with regard to the standards of research conduct expected of its faculty, staff, and students. It also describes the procedures to be used in those instances in which allegations of misconduct are made. The procedures are designed to provide for a fair hearing, to discourage frivolous or malicious charges, and to take those actions necessary when misconduct has been demonstrated.

Scope

This policy applies to all Covered Individuals as defined below engaged in research at or on behalf of UNCG.

Policy

It is the policy of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro that research carried out by Covered Individuals be characterized by the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior. Each member of the University community has a personal responsibility for implementing this policy in relation to any scholarly work with which he or she is associated and for helping his or her colleagues in continuing efforts to avoid any activity which might be considered in violation of this policy.

This policy applies to all Covered Individuals regardless of their role in the publication and/or work. Failure to comply with this policy shall be dealt with according to the procedures specified herein. Violations may lead to serious sanctions including dismissal. Violations of this policy include any use of this policy or its procedures to bring malicious charges or charges not otherwise in good faith against any individual and any act of retaliation or reprisal against an individual for reporting in good faith a charge of misconduct in research. Such violations will be addressed using regular administrative processes for violations of University policies and may include sanctions up to and including dismissal.

  1. Definitions

    1. "Research" means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. For the purposes of this Policy, research includes all basic applied and demonstration research in all academic and scholarly fields. Research fields include, but are not limited to, the arts, basic and applied sciences, liberal arts, and social science. It also includes research involving human or animal subjects.
    2. "Research Misconduct" refers to any serious deviation from practices that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or scholarship. This definition specifically includes plagiarism; fabrication or falsification of evidence or data; unauthorized use of privileged information; and deliberate and substantial violation of federal, state, or University regulations relating to the conduct of research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation of data.
    3. "Fabrication" is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
    4. "Falsification" is manipulating research materials, equipment, processes, changing or omitting data and/or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. The research record is the record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from the research inquiry. The record includes, but is not limited to research proposals, laboratory records—both physical and electronic—progress reports, abstracts, theses and dissertations, oral presentations, internal reports, books, and journal articles.
    5. "Plagiarism" is the use of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
    6. "Institutional Official" means a Covered Individual’s department head or dean; the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development (VCRED); the Provost; the Research Integrity Officer; the Chancellor; or the General Counsel.
    7. "Research Integrity Officer" (RIO) is an institutional official (usually the Director of the Office of Research Integrity), designated by the VCRED. The VCRED may, at their discretion, serve as the campus RIO.
    8. "Complainant" is a person who makes an allegation of research misconduct.
    9. "Allegation" is any written or oral statement or other indication of possible research misconduct made to an Institutional Official.
    10. "Inquiry" is a preliminary evaluation of the available evidence and testimony of the respondent, complainant, and key witnesses to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation of possible research misconduct.
    11. "Investigation" is an evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if research misconduct has occurred and, if so, to determine the responsible person(s) and the seriousness of the research misconduct.
    12. "Respondent" is the person against whom an allegation of research misconduct is directed or the person whose actions are the subject of the inquiry or investigation. There can be more than one respondent in any inquiry or investigation.
    13. "Agency" is an organization, company, or bureau that provides some service for another entity, or with which the university has a contractual relationship related to Research. Examples of agencies include but are not limited to: federal/state government, publishing companies, collaborators, foundations or other universities.
    14. "Policy" means this Policy on Research Misconduct and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct.
    15. "Preponderance of the Evidence" means proof by information that, compared with that opposing it, leads to the conclusion that the fact at issue is more probably true than not.
    16. "Covered Individuals" means all UNCG faculty, staff, students, guest researchers, collaborators and consultants.
  2. Authority and Responsibility for Oversight and Implementation of the Policy

    The Chancellor delegates to the Vice Chancellor for the Office of Research and Economic Development (VCRED) the responsibility for implementing the Policy on Research Misconduct and the Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct. The VCRED has administrative authority with respect to the oversight, implementation, maintenance and revision of this Policy, in accordance with the University’s obligations and responsibilities. Among other things, the VCRED will be responsible for the responsibilities listed below. These responsibilities may be delegated to the Research Integrity Officer at the discretion of the VCRED:

    1. Fostering a research environment that discourages misconduct in all research.
    2. Appointing committee members with the particular expertise in the area of Research related to an Allegation to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the Allegation, avoiding real or apparent conflicts of interest among those involved and assuring that a full, fair, and complete Inquiry, Investigation, and resolution process is conducted.
    3. Assuring that no real or apparent conflicts of interest arise in those appointed to implement an Inquiry or Investigation that they have the appropriate disciplinary expertise, and that due regard is given to the prevailing standards of the field.
    4. Notifying concerned parties such as sponsors, co-authors, collaborators, editors, licensing boards, professional societies, criminal authorities, and all relevant academic departments, including the Dean of Students, of the outcome of Investigations and making the best possible efforts to clear the name of anyone falsely charged, if appropriate or required.
    5. Coordinating the procedures related to Inquiries and Investigations.
    6. Disseminating this Policy and maintaining records related to misconduct in research.
    7. Determining, in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel and Office of Sponsored Programs, whether statutes, rules, regulations, or the terms and conditions of a research grant or award or other contract require notification of the sponsor, specify time limits, or require other actions to assure compliance with externally imposed requirements, and, if so, coordinate the inquiry and investigation with all involved individuals and offices to assure compliance.
    8. Assuring appropriate confidentiality or anonymity, fairness, and objectivity of Inquiries and Investigations.
    9. Assuring a full, fair, and complete Inquiry, Investigation, and resolution to an Allegation.
    10. Maintaining confidentiality of records, in accordance with established University policy, relating to an Inquiry or Investigation.
    11. Protecting, to the extent possible, the positions and reputations of Complainants who, in good faith, make Allegations, and those against Respondents prior to a finding of Research Misconduct.
    12. Assuring that if decision-making persons (VCRED, Provost, Dean, or Department head/Direct Supervisor) have a conflict of interest that they are replaced by capable individuals.
  3. Time Limitations

    1. Six-year limitation. This policy applies only to research misconduct occurring within six years of the date the US Department of Health and Human Services ("US DHHS") or an institution receives an allegation of research misconduct.
    2. Exceptions to the six-year limitation:
      1. Subsequent use exception. The Respondent continues or renews any incident of alleged research misconduct that occurred before the six-year limitation through the citation, republication or other use for the potential benefit of the respondent of the research record that is alleged to have been fabricated, falsified, or plagiarized.
      2. Health or safety of the public exception. If after consultation with national Office of Research Integrity by the Research Integrity Officer, the institution determines that the alleged misconduct, would possibly have a substantial adverse effect on the health or safety of the public.
      3. "Grandfather" exception. If US DHHS or an institution received the allegation of research misconduct before the effective date of this part of the policy.
  4. Procedures

    The research misconduct proceeding starts when an allegation is made to an Institutional Official

    1. Reporting Research Misconduct
      1. Any Covered Individual who has reason to believe that another Covered Individual has engaged in research misconduct must report their Allegation to an Institutional Official.
      2. The Allegation may be made anonymously but must include sufficient factual detail to permit a determination that further inquiry is warranted. A vague Allegation that research misconduct is occurring or has occurred is insufficient. For example, the initial Allegation should identify the person or persons who are believed to have engaged in misconduct, the time period during which such misconduct has occurred, the nature of the misconduct, and documentation (or where it can be found) or other evidence (including names of witnesses, if any) that can be consulted to verify the Allegation.
      3. The Institutional Official who receives the allegations must document in writing: the date and time of receipt, the name of the Complainant (if the complainant agrees to be identified), the substance of the allegations, and any supporting documentation or evidence that is provided by the Complainant.
      4. The Institutional Official must forward the documentation of allegations to the Research Integrity Officer as soon as possible, but no later than three (3) business days after receipt by the Institutional Official.
    2. The Preliminary Assessment of Allegations of Research Misconduct

      The Research Integrity Officer shall conduct a Preliminary Assessment of an allegation by reviewing the Allegation, supporting documentation and/or witness statements to determine if the Allegation has enough substance to move forward to an Inquiry. The Research Integrity Officer shall complete the preliminary assessment promptly. If the preliminary assessment requires more than 10 days to complete, the Research Integrity Officer shall document and record the reasons as to the delay, and complete the assessment as promptly thereafter as possible.
      1. The preliminary assessment shall be limited to determining:
        1. Whether the Complainant has alleged acts or omissions that fall within the definition of Research Misconduct;
        2. Whether the relevant research or research-related activity is of the type covered by these Policy and Procedures; and
        3. Whether the Allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of Research Misconduct may be identified.
      2. If the answers to the preliminary assessment are affirmative the Research Integrity Officer shall refer the matter to an Inquiry. Otherwise, all further proceedings shall terminate, and the Research Integrity Officer shall notify the Complainant, the Respondent, and such external agencies as may be required by applicable law or regulation, that there is insufficient evidence for a finding of Research Misconduct.
      3. Except as may otherwise be prescribed by applicable law, confidentiality must be maintained for any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified. Disclosure of misconduct is limited to those who have a need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding. The University may be required by applicable law or regulation to disclose the identity of respondents and complainants to external agencies.
    3. The Inquiry into Allegations of Research Misconduct

      The purpose of the Inquiry is to determine whether there is sufficient substance to the Allegation to warrant a formal investigation. The purpose of the Inquiry is not to reach a final conclusion about whether misconduct definitely occurred or who was responsible.

      1. Initiation of Inquiry Process
        1. Sequestration of records. The Research Integrity Officer shall, on or before the date on which the respondent is notified or the inquiry begins, whichever is earlier, promptly take all reasonable and practical steps to obtain custody of all the research records and evidence needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding. The records and evidence will be inventoried, and sequestered in a secure manner. Where the research records or evidence encompass scientific instruments shared by a number of users, custody may be limited to copies of the data or evidence on such instruments.
        2. The Inquiry Committee. The VCRED shall appoint a committee to conduct the Inquiry (“Inquiry Committee”) from a pool of institutional faculty/staff. The Inquiry Committee should consist of at least three (3) individuals who do not have real or apparent conflicts of interest in the case, are unbiased, and have the necessary expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the allegation. The Inquiry Committee shall interview the principals and key witnesses, with the option to record those individuals, and conduct the Inquiry. The Research Integrity Officer shall take precautions to ensure that individuals responsible for carrying out any part of the Inquiry do not have unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with the complainant, respondent, or witnesses. If necessary, the VCRED or RIO will seek additional expertise for the Inquiry Committee that may advise the Inquiry Committee but will not vote or participate in interviews. The experts can be from inside or outside of UNCG.
        3. Notice to the Respondent. At the time of or before beginning an Inquiry, the Research Integrity Officer shall make a good faith effort to notify in writing Respondent, if any, that an inquiry has begun or will begin; the procedures that will be followed; the membership of the Inquiry Committee; and the nature of the Allegation. If the inquiry subsequently identifies additional Respondents, the Research Integrity Officer must notify them.
        4. Notice to the Complainant. At the time of or before beginning an Inquiry, the Research Integrity Officer shall make a good faith effort to notify in writing the Complainant, if any, that an Inquiry has begun or will begin and the procedures that will be followed.
        5. Objections to the Inquiry Committee Members. The Respondent has five (5) days to challenge, in writing, the Inquiry Committee’s membership based on bias or conflict of interest. The Research Integrity Officer will determine whether to replace the challenged member and so inform the respondent within five (5) days of receipt of that challenge in writing.
        6. Confidentiality. To the maximum extent possible, and within requirements of the law and regulations, the Research Integrity Officer must take all reasonable steps to preserve confidentiality of all persons involved with the exception of sponsoring agencies notified of the misconduct proceedings where applicable. This may include documenting the person’s permission to be named or their information to be shared.
    4. Immediate Notification of Agencies

      If at any time the Research Integrity Officer or Inquiry Committee has reason to believe that extenuating circumstances exist that warrant contacting Agency, they shall immediately inform the VCRED, who shall notify the appropriate agency. Examples of such circumstances are listed below:
      1. The health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal participants.
      2. Agency resources or interests are threatened.
      3. Research activities should be suspended.
      4. There is a reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law.
      5. Federal action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding.
      6. There is reason to believe that the Inquiry may be made public prematurely, so that the Agency may take appropriate steps to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved.
      7. The research community or public should be informed.
    5. Determinations of the Inquiry Committee

      If the Inquiry Committee concludes that the allegation warrants an Investigation, it shall prepare a written report that summarizes all pertinent information including the determination.

      If the Inquiry Committee determines that an investigation is not warranted, it shall prepare a sufficiently detailed documentation of the Inquiry to inform a later assessment by third parties of the reasons for not conducting an Investigation. Such report shall identify any other actions the Inquiry Committee feels should be taken in connection with the Allegation.

      1. Notice to the Respondent. The Research Integrity Officer must notify the Respondent whether the inquiry found that an investigation is warranted. The notice must include a copy of the Inquiry Committee report and a copy of or reference to this Policy. The Research Integrity Officer will provide the Respondent with a copy of the Inquiry Committee draft report for review and comment. Within 14 calendar days of receipt of the draft report, the Respondent will provide his or her comments, if any, to the Inquiry Committee for its consideration.
      2. Notice to the Complainant. The Research Integrity Officer may notify the Complainant who made the allegation whether the Inquiry found that an Investigation is warranted. The Research Integrity Officer may provide relevant portions of the Inquiry Committee report.
      3. Notice to Appropriate Agencies. If an Inquiry is terminated before its completion, a report of the planned termination, including the reasons for such an action, should be made to those Agencies that require it.
      The Inquiry Committee will forward the Inquiry Committee report to the Research Integrity Officer, who shall notify any external agencies as may be required by applicable laws or regulations. All aspects of the inquiry must be completed within 60 days of its commencement. If the Inquiry Committee is unable to complete its work in 60 days, it shall request an extension in writing from the VCRED. If Agencies are involved the Research Integrity Officer may need to request an extension from the agency.
    6. The Investigation of Allegations of Research Misconduct.

      The purpose of the Investigation is to explore in detail the Allegation, to examine the evidence in depth, and to determine specifically whether Research Misconduct has been committed, by whom, to what extent, and make recommendations with respect to imposition of disciplinary sanctions.

      The investigation will also determine whether there are additional instances of possible misconduct that would justify broadening the scope beyond the initial Allegation. All aspects of the Investigation must be completed within 120 days of its commencement. If the Investigation Committee is unable to complete the Investigation in 120 days, it shall request an extension in writing from the VCRED. For Investigations that involve Agencies, the Research Integrity Officer may need to request an extension from the Agency.

      1. Appointing the Investigation Committee. The VCRED shall appoint the Investigation Committee. The Investigation Committee should consist of at least three (3) individuals who have the necessary expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the Allegation, interview the principals and key witnesses, and conduct the Investigation. The VCRED shall take precautions to ensure that individuals responsible for carrying out any part of the Investigation do not have unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with the Complainant, Respondent(s), or witnesses. The VCRED may seek additional expertise for the Investigation Committee, who will advise the Investigation Committee, but not vote or participate in interviews, if needed. The experts can be from inside or outside of UNCG.
      2. Notice of Commencement of the Investigation. The Research Integrity Officer will notify the Respondent(s) that an Investigation is being undertaken, the nature of the Allegation, as well as the composition of the Investigation Committee, and the procedures that will be followed. If the Investigation subsequently identifies additional Respondents, the Research Integrity Officer must notify them.
      3. Notice of Commencement of the Investigation. The Research Integrity Officer will notify the Respondent(s) that an Investigation is being undertaken, the nature of the Allegation, as well as the composition of the Investigation Committee, and the procedures that will be followed. If the Investigation subsequently identifies additional Respondents, the Research Integrity Officer must notify them.
    7. Conducting the Investigation.

      1. Confidentiality. To the maximum extent possible, and within requirements of the law and regulations, the Investigation Committee and the Research Integrity Officer must preserve confidentiality of all persons involved with the exception of Agencies notified of the misconduct proceedings.
      2. Interviewing Individuals. The Investigation Committee may interview any individual it identifies as having information or evidence relevant to the Investigation Committee’s determinations, including, but not limited to, the Complainant and the Respondent. These interviews may be recorded.
      3. Pursuing Leads. The Investigation Committee shall pursue diligently all significant issues and leads discovered that are determined relevant to the Investigation, including any evidence of additional instances of possible research misconduct, and continue the Investigation to completion.
      4. Immediate Notification of Agencies. If at any time the Investigation Committee has reason to believe that any of the following circumstances exist, it shall immediately inform the Research Integrity Officer, who shall notify the appropriate Agency:
        1. The health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects.
        2. Agency resources or interests are threatened.
        3. Research activities should be suspended.
        4. There is a reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law.
        5. Federal action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding.
        6. There is reason to believe that the research misconduct proceeding may be made public prematurely, so that Agency may take appropriate steps to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved.
        7. The research community or public should be informed.
  5. Burden of Proof

    The University bears the burden of proving based on the Preponderance of the Evidence that Research Misconduct occurred. The destruction, absence of, or Respondent’s failure to provide research records adequately documenting the questioned research shall be considered evidence of Research Misconduct, provided the University establishes by a Preponderance of the Evidence that:

    1. The respondent intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly had research records and destroyed them, or
    2. Had the opportunity to maintain the records but did not do so, or
    3. Maintained the records and failed to produce them in a timely manner, or
    4. The Respondent’s conduct constitutes a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community.
    5. The Respondent has the burden of going forward with and the burden of proving, by a Preponderance of the Evidence, any and all affirmative defenses raised. In determining whether the University has carried the burden of proof, the Investigation Committee shall give due consideration to admissible, credible evidence of honest error or difference of opinion presented by the respondent.
    The Respondent has the burden of proof going forward with and proving by a Preponderance of the Evidence any mitigating factors that are relevant to a decision to impose administrative sanctions following a finding of Research Misconduct.

    If the Investigation Committee is unable to complete the investigation in 120 days, it shall request an extension in writing from the VCRED. For Investigations that involve Agencies, the Research Integrity Officer may need to request an extension from the Agency.
  6. Concluding the Investigation.

    Upon the conclusion of the Investigation, the Investigation Committee shall prepare, in writing, a final report ("Investigation Report") for the VCRED that shall:

    1. Describe the nature of the Allegation;
    2. If applicable, describe and document the support, including, for example, any grant numbers, grant applications, contracts, and publications listing such support;
    3. Describe the specific Allegation for consideration in the Investigation;
    4. Identify and summarize the research records and evidence reviewed, and identify any evidence taken into custody but not reviewed;
    5. For each separate allegation of research misconduct identified during the Investigation, provide a finding as to whether research misconduct did or did not occur, and if so:
    6. Identify whether the Research Misconduct was Falsification, Fabrication, or Plagiarism, and if it was intentional, knowing, or reckless;
    7. Summarize the facts and the analysis which support the conclusion and consider the merits of any reasonable explanation by the Respondent;
    8. If applicable, identify the specific Agency support;
    9. Identify whether any publications need correction or retraction;
    10. Identify the person(s) responsible for the Research Misconduct; and
    11. List any current support or known applications or proposals for support that the Respondent has pending with Agencies.
    If a majority of the Investigation Committee finds that the individual has violated this Policy, it shall recommend, in writing, an appropriate course of action to the VCRED, which may include appropriate sanctions and which shall include adequate steps to ensure that the institution meets its obligations, if any, to Agencies affected by the violation, co-investigators and co-authors, funding agencies and other research sponsors, professional journals, and relevant clients. Any individual that does not agree with the majority can record their comments in a minority report that will be filed with the official proceeding records.

    The Respondent and Complainant shall have an opportunity to review the draft Investigation Report and to provide written comments, which the Investigation Committee shall consider and include, if warranted, in the final Investigation Report. The Respondent shall have 30 calendar days to submit written comments on the draft of the Investigation Report. The findings of the Investigation Report should take into account the respondent’s comments in addition to all the other evidence.
  7. Post-Investigation Proceedings

    Where the Investigation concludes no Research Misconduct occurred:

    1. The University shall make all reasonable and practical efforts, if requested and as appropriate, to protect or restore the Reputation of any Respondent determined by the Investigation Committee to have not been engaged in Research Misconduct.
    2. The University shall make all reasonable and practical efforts to protect or restore the position and reputation of any Complainant, witness, or Investigation Committee member and to counter potential or actual retaliation against them.
    If the Investigation concludes Research Misconduct has occurred, the violation may be addressed in various ways as stated below in Section VIII.
  8. Enforcement

    1. Administrative and Disciplinary Actions
      1. Seriousness of the Misconduct. In deciding what administrative or disciplinary actions are appropriate, the VCRED should consider the seriousness of the Research Misconduct, including, but not limited to, the degree to which the misconduct was knowing, intentional, or reckless; was an isolated event or part of a pattern; or had significant impact on the research record, research subjects, other researchers, institutions, or the public welfare.
      2. Possible Administrative and Disciplinary Actions. Administrative and disciplinary actions include but are not limited to: appropriate steps to correct the research record; letters of reprimand; the imposition of special certification or assurance requirements to ensure compliance with applicable regulations or terms of an award; suspension or termination of an active award; written warning; demotion; suspension; salary reduction; dismissal; or other serious discipline according to the appropriate policies applicable to students, faculty or staff. With respect to administrative actions or discipline imposed upon faculty and staff, the institution or entity must comply with all relevant personnel policies and laws. With respect to administrative actions or discipline imposed upon students, the institution or entity must comply with all relevant student policies and codes
      3. Respondent is a faculty member. In the case of a Respondent who is a faculty member, the VCRED together with the Provost and appropriate Dean(s) will determine what administrative and disciplinary sanctions to implement. The VCRED shall document the recommended sanction(s) and forward it to the Chair(s) of the Respondent’s department(s).
      4. Respondent is EPA non-faculty or SPA exempt. In the case of a Respondent who is EPA non-faculty or SPA exempt, the Research Integrity Officer, Office of Human Resources and the appropriate supervisor, in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel if needed, will determine what administrative and disciplinary sanctions to implement. The Research Integrity Officer shall document the recommended sanction(s) and forward it to the direct supervisor(s) of the respondent’s department(s)/unit(s).
      5. Respondent is an SPA employee. The VCRED shall refer the Investigation Report to the Unit Head of Respondent’s department, for appropriate administrative action, up to and including the imposition of discipline.
      6. Respondent is a student. If, in the case of a Respondent who is a student, the Investigation Committee makes a finding of Research Misconduct, the VCRED shall refer the Investigation Report to the Dean of Students, for appropriate administrative action, up to and including the imposition of discipline.
  9. If the institution or entity believes that criminal or civil fraud violations may have occurred, the VCRED shall promptly refer the matter to the appropriate investigative body.

Review

The Chancellor has approved this policy on October 26, 2015. This policy will be reviewed and updated periodically as appropriate.

Related Links

Contact

Director of Office of Research integrity http://integrity.uncg.edu