Oregon State University

Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct

Oregon State University Procedures for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

 

11/3/89, addendum 8/29/95, revision 12/20/01, revision 03/10/06

I. PREFACE

It is the purpose of these procedures to set forth guidelines for efficient disclosure and resolution of accusations of research misconduct in a manner that (1) protects the public from the results of misconduct, (2) protects innocent scientists and scholars from harassment or interference with their academic freedom, and (3) protects from retribution the individual who unmaliciously presents evidence of misconduct. These procedures apply to all research endeavors whether or not federally funded.

The Oregon State University Procedures for Handling Allegations of Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct were originally developed during 1989 to comply with federal requirements. They have been amended periodically since that date. These Procedures for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct supersede the 1989 procedures and apply to OSU faculty and other investigators.

II. FEDERAL REGULATIONS AND POLICY FOR FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH

If an allegation of research misconduct involves federally funded research, the University will review the allegation in accordance with this policy and the policy and regulations of the funding agency or agencies. In the case of conflict between this policy and federal policy and regulations, the federal policy and regulations will control. The Vice President for Research shall have the authority to adjust any provisions in this policy so that they are consistent with the applicable federal policy and regulations.

III. DEFINITIONS

Research misconduct is defined 1 as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reviewing research; in reporting research results; or in creative scholarly work. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. 2
Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Authorship disputes are not covered by this Policy unless they involve plagiarism. Allegations of plagiarism in the context of authorship disputes between co-investigators or among members of a research team will be reviewed in accordance with the Collaborative Research Projects Policy, a policy that is currently under development within the university.

The complainant is the individual who reports possible misconduct. The complainant may be a faculty member, student, employee, or a person unaffiliated with the institution.

The respondent is the individual accused of the misconduct. The respondent may be an OSU employee or other investigator affiliated with OSU.

The unit head is the person one level above the respondent in the unit in which the respondent holds an appointment and in which the alleged misconduct occurred (department chair, director, dean, or head of the unit) and to whom the complainant reports possible misconduct.

The inquiry is an assessment of whether the allegation has substance and whether an investigation is warranted.

The investigation is the formal development of a factual record, and the examination of that record leading to dismissal of the case or to a recommendation for a finding of research misconduct or other appropriate remedies.

The Misconduct Investigation Committee (MIC) is appointed by the Vice President for Research. The MIC shall consist of five individuals, one of whom the Vice President for Research shall designate as chairperson. The chairperson and at least two other members must be tenured faculty at OSU, and at least two members shall have professional expertise in the area of the alleged misconduct. The Vice President for Research must not be a member of the MIC but should be available for advice if any member of the MIC requests it.

The investigatory file is the MIC’s statement of the allegations it investigates, the inquiry report, any documents and media reviewed by the MIC, summaries of interviews the MIC conducts, MIC correspondence, and the investigatory report.

IV. CONFIDENTIALITY

All parties involved in the inquiry and investigation shall strive to maintain confidentiality of information to the extent consistent with a fair and thorough process and to the extent allowed by applicable law. Disclosure of the identity of respondents and complainants will be limited, to the extent possible, to those with a need to know.

V. REPRESENTATION

The respondent may be represented by an attorney or other person of the respondent’s choice at his or her expense in any part of this process.

VI. REPORTING OF ALLEGED RESEARCH MISCONDUCT

A. An allegation of research misconduct should be communicated immediately to the unit head, or, if the allegation involves the department head, dean, or unit head, the complainant may report the allegation to the Vice President for Research. In addition the complainant may present an allegation directly to the Vice President for Research, stating reasons for by-passing the unit head. If the complainant chooses to take concerns directly to the Vice President for Research, the complainant will not have the right to appeal (described in section VIII).

B. If the Vice President for Research is acting in place of the unit head, he or she shall have the authority and responsibility of both the unit head and Vice President for Research as outlined in the balance of this policy.

C. A complainant’s allegation of research misconduct must be made in writing and include the reasons the complainant believes research misconduct has occurred.

D. The unit head must notify the Vice President for Research and General Counsel upon receipt of an allegation.

VII. INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF THE ALLEGATION

A. Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the unit head will assess the allegation to determine if the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and if it is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified.

B. Within one week of receiving a written allegation the unit head must file a report with the Vice President for Research indicating whether or not an inquiry is warranted. The report must include a summary of the allegation, the unit head's decision, and an explanation of the decision, but it should avoid whenever possible including names or remarks that reveal the identity of the complainant or respondent.

C. If the unit head determines inquiry is not warranted under the standard in VII A., the unit head must explain this fact in writing to the complainant at the same time the report is filed with the Vice President for Research.

Even though no further action appears warranted, the unit head ordinarily should inform the respondent of the allegation at this point, without disclosing the name of the complainant. If the unit head determines an inquiry is warranted, he or she shall proceed in accordance with Section IX.

VIII. APPEAL OF INITIAL ASSESSMENT

If the complainant reported the allegation to the unit head and the unit head determined the allegation did not warrant an inquiry, the complainant may appeal that determination to the Vice President for Research. The appeal shall be made in writing to the Vice President for Research within one week of the complainant’s receipt of the unit head’s decision. The Vice President for Research shall proceed to make an independent determination of whether the allegation warrants an inquiry. The Vice President for Research shall reach a decision within one week of receiving the appeal. If the Vice President for Research determines an inquiry is warranted, he or she shall assume the role of the unit head, as well as the Vice President for Research responsibilities, in conducting the inquiry.

IX. INQUIRY

A. Notifying the Subject of the Inquiry

If the unit head determines an inquiry is appropriate, the unit head shall inform the respondent(s) about whom allegations have been made and any involved collaborators that an inquiry is to be conducted. The notification shall be in writing and shall include a statement of the allegations and a copy of this policy. The statement of the allegation shall include information on the nature of the allegations and the focus of the inquiry and shall describe how the subject of the inquiry may provide comments and other relevant information to the inquiry b ody.

B. Sequestering Records

The unit head, at his or her discretion may sequester the research records and evidence needed to conduct the process outlined in this policy from the respondent a nd other individuals such as co-authors, collaborators or complainants..  

C. Use of Advisors

The unit head, at his or her discretion, may seek the advice of one or more individuals who are professionally familiar with the nature of the area of alleged misconduct.

D. The Inquiry Process

The unit head will gather information and review it to determine if an investigation is warranted. In conducting the inquiry, the unit head shall consult with the respondent and provide the respondent with the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The unit head shall complete the initial inquiry within 60 days of the date the allegation was initially received. Any extension of the inquiry beyond the 60 days requires a request for an extension, which includes an explanation for the delay, to be submitted to and approved by the Vice President for Research.

E. Inquiry Report

The unit head must report the results of the inquiry in writing to the Vice President for Research within the 60 day period. (If the respondent is someone who reports directly to the Vice President for Research, the report shall be made to the Provost who will have the same role and authority as the Vice President for Research in the investigation process described in this policy). The report should include a discussion of the evidence, a summary of interviews and a statement of whether or not an investigation should be conducted. It shall not include the name of the complainant. The unit head shall give the respondent a copy of the report at least seven days prior to submitting it to the Vice President for Research. The respondent may submit written comments to the unit head within the seven days which will become part of the final record. The unit head’s report shall include a recommendation to the Vice President for Research whether findings from the inquiry justify conducting an investigation.

If it is determined that an investigation is warranted, the unit head may notify the respondent's immediate supervisor and academic dean.

F. Records

The unit head shall forward all documentation of the inquiry to the Vice President for Research who shall maintain it for seven years after completion of the inquiry.

G. Restoration of Reputation

If based on the inquiry, there is not sufficient basis for proceeding to an investigation, the Vice President for Research will undertake efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputation of the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct. The Vice President for Research will also undertake efforts, as appropriate, to protect the positions and reputations of the person who, in good faith, made the allegation of research misconduct.

X. INVESTIGATION

A. Investigation Initiation

The Vice President for Research shall determine, based on the inquiry report and the respondent’s response, whether to initiate an investigation. If the Vice President for Research determines to initiate an investigation, it shall begin as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days after the completion of the inquiry.

B. Notifying the Subject of the Investigation

The Vice President for Research shall inform, in writing, the individual(s) about whom allegations have been made and any involved collaborators that an investigation is to be conducted and shall present to them a state ment of the allegations. This statement shall include information on the nature of the allegations and the focus of the investigation and shall inform those being investigated of the opportunity to provide comments and other relevant information to the Misconduct Investigation Committee (MIC).

C. Notifying Federal Agencies

If the allegation involves federally funded research, the Vice President for Research shall notify the funding agency or agencies that an investigation will be conducted.

D. The Investigative Process

The investigation shall be conducted by the MIC. The Vice President for Research shall notify both the respondent and the complainant of the composition of MIC and both shall have the right to comment on the membership. After receiving comments, the Vice President for Research may adjust membership at his or her discretion.  

The purpose of an investigation is to examine all relevant facts formally to determine whether research misconduct has occurred.

The investigation will be conducted in such a manner that the respondent is aware of all the accusations and evidence, including the identity of the complainant, and is given the opportunity to respond. The MIC shall examine relevant information, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls. The MIC may sequester research data or relevant documents at its discretion if it has not been done previously. Whenever practicable, interviews should be conducted of all individuals involved either in making the allegations or against whom the allegation is made, as well as other individuals who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations; summaries of these interviews should be prepared, provided to the interviewed party for review and comment and included as part of the investigatory file.

The MIC shall complete its investigation and submit a final report to the Vice President for Research within 120 calendar days. If the MIC is unable to complete the investigation in 120 days, a request for extension which includes an explanation for the delay must be submitted to and approved by the Vice President for Research. At least 30 days prior to submitting its final report to the Vice President for Research, the MIC shall provide a copy of its report to the respondent. The respondent may submit comments to the MIC within 30 days which shall be included in the final report.

E. Investigation Report

The MIC shall submit its report, including the respondent’s comments, in writing to the Vice President for Research. The report shall include the MIC’s recommendation on whether a finding of research misconduct is warranted. A finding of research misconduct requires that:

  • There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant scholarly or research community; and
  • The misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and
  • The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence.

F. Report to Federal Funding Agency

When the investigation is complete, if research was funded by a federal agency, the Vice President for Research will forward to the federal agency a copy of the evidentiary record, the investigative report, including the recommendations of the MIC, and the respondent’s comments to the report and recommendations.

G. Determination by Vice President for Research

Within 30 days of receiving the report, the Vice President for Research shall accept or reject the MIC’s recommendation. The Vice President for Research shall maintain all written documents and other evidence used in the investigation together with the MIC report for a period of seven years.

XI. ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS

If the Vice President for Research, based on review of the MIC’s recommendations, makes a finding of research misconduct, the Vice President for Research will decide what administrative actions are appropriate. Appropriate administrative action that may be taken against those faculty and investigators directly involved in misconduct include, but are not limited to special monitoring of future work; mandated actions to redress the consequences of the misconduct; or adjustment of authorship or retractions.

The outcome of the investigation may be communicated to parties external to the University including, but not limited to: sponsoring agencies, journals, professional organizations, or law enforcement agencies.

The Vice President for Research is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate administrative actions are enforced.

XII. DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS

The Vice President for Research may recommend disciplinary sanctions. Discipline, shall be imposed in accordance with the OUS Administrative Rules, including the provisions on sanctions for cause for employees.

XIII. FINAL REPORT TO FEDERAL FUNDING AGENCY

The Vice President for Research shall notify any federal funding agency of corrective action taken, if any.

XIV. RESTORING REPUTATION

The Vice President for Research will undertake efforts, as appropriate, to protect the reputations of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct if the allegation is dismissed. The Vice President for Research will undertake efforts, as appropriate, to protect th e positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, made the allegations of research misconduct.

XV. SUBSTITUTION OF THE PROVOST

If the Vice President for Research conducted the inquiry, the MIC shall submit its report to the Provost, who shall assume the responsibilities of the Vice President for Research under sections X. E., F., and G. and under sections XI, XII, XIII and XIV.

XVI. ABSENCE OF THE SUBJECT OF THE ALLEGATION

Should the respondent leave the University at any time before a case is resolved, the University at its discretion may continue the examination of the allegation in accordance with these procedures.

XVII. INTERIM ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION

At any stage in the process described in this policy, the University may take interim administrative action to protect welfare of human or animal subjects of research or to prevent the inappropriate use of funds. In the case of federally funded research the University will immediately notify the funding agency if public health or safety is at risk; if federal agency resources or interests are threatened; if research activities should be suspended; if there is reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law; if Federal action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the investigation; if the University believes the inquiry or investigation may be made public prematurely so that appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved; or if the research community or public should be informed.

1 Office of Science and Technology Policy; Federal Policy on Research Misconduct. December 6, 2000.

2 The research record is the record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from scientific inquiry, and includes, but is not limited to, research proposals, laboratory records, both physical and electronic, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, and journal articles.

Contact Info

Office of Research Integrity
Research Office
Oregon State University
A312 Kerr Administration
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone 541-737-3467
Fax 541-737-9041
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