Handling Reports of Research Misconduct
Where to go with questions about research misconduct or the investigation process:
A potential complainant may meet privately with the Research Integrity Officer (RIO), an academic administrator (dean or other academic officer) from the unit in which the incident occurred, or the chair of the Faculty Senate Research Committee (SRC). All issues related to the complaint or report are kept private and confidential at this stage. The purpose of this meeting is to provide advice to the complainant.
Allegations of misconduct that occurred seven or more years prior to the submission of the allegation will not be investigated unless the circumstances indicate that the alleged conduct was not reasonably discoverable earlier.
How to Submit a Complaint or Report of Research Misconduct:
There are several ways allegations may be submitted.
- The complainant can file a written allegation with the Vice President for Research. If the complainant has previously consulted with the RIO, dean or SRC chair, the allegation should be filed within 10 working days of having sought the advice.
- If the complainant does not file a complaint in a timely manner, the RIO, dean, or academic administrator who meets with a complainant has the responsibility of submitting the allegation if he or she believes there is sufficient cause and evidence to warrant an inquiry and the complainant chooses not to make a formal allegation. In such a case, there is no complainant for the purposes of these procedures. Instead, the academic administrator (the party the complainant consulted) drafts a written allegation to be submitted to the Vice President for Research.
An allegation may be submitted through the University's confidential reporting service, EthicsPoint. These reports are directed to the Office of the Vice President for Research for resolution and investigation.
Who reviews the allegation?
The RIO is responsible for reviewing all allegations. The Vice President for Research will verify that the RIO does not have unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with the complainant, respondent, or other key individuals in the process. If the RIO has a conflict of interest with a case, the Vice President for Research refers the case to a dean from outside the unit in which the case originated or another individual. A conflict of interest could mean:
- coauthoring a book, paper, or grant proposal with any of the individuals directly involved with the misconduct case (complainant or respondent) within the past seven years;
- professional or personal relationship with any of these individuals, e.g., current or former students or mentor, direct supervisory or subordinate relationship, direct collaborator within the past seven years;
- professional differences of opinion with any of the involved individuals that might reasonably be expected to affect objectivity in considering the case;
- financial ties to the involved individuals; or
- other reasons that might affect the ability of the individuals to make fair and impartial judgments.
What happens during an allegation review?
Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the RIO will assess it to determine whether:
- it is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of misconduct may be identified,
- whether federal regulations are applicable, and
- whether the misconduct falls within the definition of research misconduct or should be resolved by other deliberative or mediation procedures, or by other specialized committees, such as the Student Behavior Committee, the Human Subjects Committee, the Animal Care and Use Committee, or by labor agreements between the Regents and the employee group. In those instances in which it is not clear whether this policy should apply to an individual, the RIO, in consultation with the SRC will adjudicate the question.
This review should be brief and will be handled with confidentiality.
What happens if the respondent is no longer affiliated with the University (i.e., no longer a student or employee):
Even if the respondent has left the University, the RIO, when possible, will continue the allegation review. The University will also cooperate with the process of another institution to resolve questions to the extent permissible under confidentiality laws.
If the allegations of research misconduct are found to be maliciously motivated, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against those responsible. If the allegations, however incorrect, are found to have been made in good faith, no disciplinary measures will be taken.
If an allegation is sufficiently credible and specific, and the alleged conduct falls within the definition of research misconduct, the RIO initiates an inquiry.