Conducting an Investigation
The purpose of the investigation is to thoroughly review the allegations, examine all relevant evidence, and conclude whether research misconduct was committed.
Interim Administrative Actions.
The University reserves the right to take interim administrative actions to protect:
- the health and safety of research subjects and patients; and
- the interests of students and colleagues;
Such actions may range from slight restrictions to reassignment of the activities of the respondent. In extreme circumstances, the respondent may be suspended temporarily. Any actions will be in accordance with the procedures specified in Board of Regents Policy: Faculty Tenure, the contract between the Regents and unionized groups, any other labor agreements, or other applicable employee policies. Interim administrative actions will be taken in full awareness of how they might affect the respondent and the ongoing research projects of the University.
- Convene an Investigation Panel.
The investigation may be carried out by the inquiry panel as a continuance of its work. If additional expertise for the panel is deemed desirable, the RIO may request additional nominations from the Faculty Senate Research Committee before appointing new members. If the panel is augmented, it will still have an odd number of members. The RIO identifies one member as chair. The RIO informs the respondent of the proposed new members for the panel and allows the respondent 5 working days to object to any of the panel members on grounds of conflict of interest as outlined in University Procedure: Conducting an Inquiry.
If the inquiry was completed without a panel or if the RIO determines that a new panel is appropriate, then the RIO appoints one as described in the procedure for appointing an inquiry panel.
- Provide a Charge to the Panel.
The RIO will provide the panel with an explicit charge for the investigation. Overall, the panel's charge is to generate a report that compiles all the information it considers and makes findings regarding whether research misconduct has occurred. The panel also may be asked to recommend actions to correct the scientific record or sub-standard research practices involved in the case, regardless of whether misconduct is found.
The University's Office of General Counsel advises the chair of the panel on the appropriate protocol and practices that should be followed. The RIO notifies the complainant and respondent when the investigation phase of this procedure commences. The respondent may seek the assistance of an advisor (legal counsel or another individual) at this point, if assistance has not already been sought. All parties involved will cooperate with the proceedings in providing information relating to the case.
Scope of Investigation. During an investigation, additional information may emerge that justifies broadening the scope of the investigation beyond the initial allegations. The RIO will inform the respondent if new and different allegations are discovered during the course of the investigation.
- Examine the evidence.
The panel examines the appropriate material to determine whether research misconduct has occurred.
If an individual is interviewed, transcripts are prepared and submitted to the interviewed person for comment or revision.
Respondent's Response. The panel provides all necessary information to the respondent in a timely manner to facilitate the preparation of a response. The respondent has the opportunity to address the charges and evidence in detail at the inception and close of the panel's activities.
Respondent's Defense. If the respondent wishes to have an advisor present during the interview with the panel, notice of the advisor's participation should be submitted to the panel at least 48 hours prior to the interview. The respondent will have the opportunity to provide evidence, request expert witnesses, identify witnesses directly involved in the case, and be directly interviewed.
Timely Investigation. The panel conducts the investigation as expeditiously as possible and generally completes it within 120 days. However, the nature of some cases may render that schedule difficult to meet. If the panel determines that the deadline cannot be met, it requests an extension, which the RIO grants or denies. If necessary, the Deciding Officer (DO) submits an extension request to the sponsoring agency regarding this action.
- Prepare the report.
Preliminary Report. When the panel reaches a conclusion regarding the case, it transmits a preliminary report to the respondent. This report reviews all the information considered and explains the panel's conclusion. It details the explicit evidence that supports or refutes each allegation included in the panel's charge. The report then specifies the panel's conclusion as to whether any of the proven allegations represent research misconduct. The respondent is allowed 30 days to prepare written comments, which the panel will consider before it finalizes the report.
Final Report. The panel then submits the completed report along with the respondent's comments on the preliminary report to the RIO. When there is more than one respondent, each will receive all parts of the report that are pertinent to their role. This report is the basis of any subsequent hearing.
- Review the report, reach a finding and determine disciplinary action (if appropriate).
Review the report. The final Investigation Report is sent to the RIO who has 5 working days to review it and make recommendations. The RIO then sends the report and recommendations to the DO who has 15 working days to review it and decide whether to accept all or part of the panel's recommendations.
Findings. There are two possible findings:
- that no research misconduct was found; or
- that research misconduct was committed.
A finding of research misconduct requires that:
- there be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant academic community; and
- the misconduct be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly; and
- the allegation be proven by a preponderance of the evidence
Disciplinary Action. For those cases that result in a misconduct finding, the investigation panel may recommend disciplinary action. DO will determine the disciplinary action within the 15 day review period. The DO makes this decision with the concurrence of the appropriate dean or supervisor of respondent's unit. The DO also may consult with the Faculty Senate Research Committee in arriving at this decision. Subject to the Board of Regents policy, Faculty Tenure; other applicable employment rules for non-faculty employees, or appropriate labor agreements, examples may include:
- oral reprimand with no permanent record;
- letter of reprimand that becomes part of the respondent's permanent record;
- special monitoring of future work;
- removal from a particular project;
- salary reduction;
- rank reduction; or
- termination of employment.
- Notify the respondent (within 15 working days of receiving the report).
Finding of No Misconduct.
If the DO determines that there was no research misconduct, the process is considered completed. The DO will notify the respondent and take the appropriate steps to clear the respondent's record. The RIO will ensure that all materials related to the case are removed from the respondent's personnel files and address any concerns relating to clearing the respondent's record. No disciplinary action will be taken although new evidence may be an appropriate basis to initiate a new inquiry/investigation. The DO may take actions to correct the scientific record or sub-standard research practices involved in the case, regardless of whether misconduct is found.
Finding of Misconduct.
Disciplinary action. The DO notifies the respondent in writing of the determinations on the case, including disciplinary action, and the reasons for them. At the request of the respondent, the RIO and the DO will meet with the respondent to discuss the disciplinary action. The respondent may be accompanied by an advisor. The DO’s decision on whether research misconduct occurred is final, however, the disciplinary actions imposed may be contested.
Response to Disciplinary Action. The respondent may accept the disciplinary action or request a hearing as specified for the respondent's employment classification. When the respondent files a grievance to challenge the discipline, the University bears the burden of proof to defend the disciplinary actions imposed. The respondent bears the burden of proof for any claims against the process followed.
- Notify the complainant.
The RIO notifies the complainant and other concerned parties about the disposition of the investigation to the extent permitted under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. The RIO also discusses with the respondent the appropriateness and desirability of notifying other individuals or agencies about the outcome of the investigation.
- Notify the Sponsoring Agency.
The DO promptly notifies or initiates notification to the sponsoring agency initially informed of the investigation of the outcome of the investigative and any subsequent hearing.
- Secure records.
All records related to this case are maintained privately and securely under the supervision of the RIO for at least seven years. The records include all documentation reviewed by the inquiry/investigation panel, summaries of witness interviews, and the findings of the panel. Even when no culpable misconduct was found but serious erroneous information was published, the RIO considers the means to correct the published record affected by the alleged misconduct.