Protocol for Handling Physical Evidence in Research Misconduct Cases
Appendix to Policy
When data and other evidence will be secured:
- Evidence will be secured after the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) has conducted the assessment and determined an inquiry is necessary.
- The RIO secures the data concurrently with notifying the respondent about the allegation.
How physical evidence will be secured:
- The RIO confidentially arranges with the respondent’s supervisor for contact with the respondent and for access to the data and related evidence. The focus will be on the best circumstances to protect the integrity of the evidence while providing for discreet, confidential, timely, and efficient data sequestration.
- The team that is involved with this process may include:
- official who is authorized to sequester the materials (usually the RIO)
- respondent’s supervisor
- expert who understands the nature of the research and the types of sources of evidence
- representative of the dean’s office (such as the Associate Dean for Research)
- attorney from the Office of the General Council
- IT expert
- security as needed
Definition of Physical Evidence
Any pertinent scientific or scholarly data the RIO deems necessary. For example:
- Research proposals
- Lab records and notebooks
- Collateral information such as centrifuge logs, order forms, telephone notes, examples of comparison information, relevant correspondence with others
- Computer files – hard drive; email files
- Copies of grants and progress reports
- Abstracts; theses
- Internal reports
- Journal articles; draft manuscripts
- Correspondence with editors
- Research data such as micrographs
Note: the RIO may need to secure physical evidence off-campus as well.
Handling physical evidence
The RIO inventories the sequestered materials, labels them clearly, and provides receipts to the respondents.
Once the physical materials are in a secure location, the office of the Vice President for Research will provide copies for the respondents and other affected parties if requested so that research can continue. Copies will also be made for use by the panels.
Supervised access will be allowed to original sequestered materials.
Rights and responsibilities regarding physical evidence
- Privacy: From the time the allegation is received, all activity related to the case will be carefully documented. All individuals who are contacted will be assured that, as much as possible, the privacy of their comments will be maintained. In turn, all individuals involved with the case are expected to sustain the privacy of the case.
- Compliance: The University must comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, which governs access to and release of all data collected, created, received, maintained or disseminated by public entities. If the allegations involve sponsored research, the University must also comply with the sponsor’s regulations and the terms and conditions of the award.
- Removal of Data: The RIO has the authority to remove data and other evidence related to the inquiry in order to fulfill its obligations under federal regulations and University policy to thoroughly review and resolve allegations of research misconduct.
- Identifiable chain of custody: The University will maintain an identifiable chain of custody: inventory physical evidence, provide receipts, log supervised access to the evidence, and document when physical evidence is released and to whom.