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Policy and Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Scientific/Scholarly Misconduct

I. PREAMBLE

Although the instances of verifiable scientific/scholarly misconduct during the past ten years have remained small in number, they have been highly publicized. This has, understandably, led to increased concern regarding this issue within the scientific community, academic institutions, federal agencies and the general public. As a result, federal agencies have mandated that those institutions engaged in federally funded research and related activities initiate formal policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct.

The University of Detroit Mercy has, therefore, developed the following policy and procedures for inquiry and investigation of allegations of scientific/scholarly misconduct pertaining to all members of the University community, and to advise the University of Detroit Mercy scientific community of their responsibilities regarding scientific/scholarly misconduct.


II. DEFINITIONS

  1. A. Scientific/Scholarly Misconduct

    The fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, deception or practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific/scholarly community for proposing, conducting or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation or judgments of data.

    Those faculty members who supervise research associates, staff employees or students in research or related activities for which they have been identified as the principle investigator are deemed responsible for overseeing those individuals' scientific/scholarly conduct. Gross negligence in exercising that supervisory responsibility may itself be chargeable as scientific/scholarly misconduct.

    B. Inquiry

    An information-gathering and initial fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of scientific/scholarly misconduct warrants an investigation.

    C. Investigation

    A formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if an instance of scientific/scholarly misconduct has occurred. If scientific/scholarly misconduct is confirmed, the institution's investigation should determine the seriousness of the offense and the extent of any adverse effects resulting from the scientific/scholarly misconduct.

    D. Misconduct Policy Officer (MPO)

    The Director for Sponsored Projects and Research Activities shall serve as the MPO, and in this role s/he will be the primary recipient of all information concerning possible scientific/scholarly misconduct. When any other individual receives information concerning possible scientific/scholarly misconduct, he or she shall immediately relay the allegation in writing to the MPO.

    The responsibilities of the MPO shall include:

    1. The initial contact with all parties to an allegation of scientific/scholarly misconduct.

    2. To maintain records of all complaints and institutional responses.

    3. To serve ex officio (without vote) on the Inquiry Committee and Investigative Committee.

    4. To disseminate information regarding the University's policy and procedures for scientific/scholarly misconduct to the University community and to inform the University community of the importance of compliance with those policies and procedures.

    5. To advise on a yearly basis the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service, or any other Federal agency which funds research at the University of Detroit Mercy of the existence of the University's administrative process for inquiry and investigation of scientific/scholarly misconduct.


III. PROCEDURES

A.     Allegation Phase
  1. Anyone having information that leads him/her to believe that a faculty or staff member has committed scientific/scholarly misconduct, should report the matters to the MPO in writing. The MPO shall establish the precise nature of the allegation and rule out the possibility that the allegation is either frivolous or malicious. The accused shall immediately thereafter be informed of the nature of the accusation against him/her. Also, the provisions of policy and procedures contained in this document shall be provided and explained to both parties.
  2. During this phase and throughout any subsequent phases, every effort shall be made by all parties to discover all relevant facts and to take whatever steps are necessary and appropriate to remedy improprieties. No part of these procedures shall, however, be interpreted to preempt either the right of an individual alleging scientific/scholarly misconduct to withdraw that allegation or the right of an individual accused of scientific/scholarly misconduct to concede that misconduct and to propose appropriate remedies. Any such informal resolution must be approved by the MPO, representing the legitimate interests of the institution and those of any external funding agency or agencies involved before the matter is considered closed.
  3. If the MPO determines that there are no grounds for proceeding further, he or she shall so inform both parties in writing.
  4. Where practicable, such preliminary discussions should be completed within ten (10) working days of the initial allegation having been lodged with the MPO.
  5. Throughout this phase, the privacy of all individuals involved shall be carefully protected. Information concerning any inquiry will be made available only to those individuals who need to know. Every effort will be made to keep the inquiry confidential until results are established with reasonable certainty.
  6. In case of research supported by the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service, or any other Federal agency, the Agency will be notified of the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct prior to the inquiry, or at any time during the investigatory stage if facts are discovered which show that any of the following conditions exist:
a. The seriousness of the apparent misconduct warrants disclosure;
b. An immediate health hazard is involved;
c. There is an immediate need to protect Federal funds, equipment, resources, reputation, or other important interests;
d. There is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegations or of the individual(s) who is the subject of the allegations as well as his/her co-investigators and associates, if any;
e. It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly;
f. If there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation, the University will notify the agency's appropriate office within 24 hours.
B.   Inquiry Phase
  1. The inquiry phase shall be initiated in the following two instances:
a. The MPO determines that the allegation merits further investigation; or,
b. The person alleging scientific/scholarly misconduct bypasses the MPO's decision not to pursue the matter further. The bypass of the MPO's decision can be made by informing the Vice President for Academic Affairs in writing within five(5) working days of receiving notification of that decision, that the decision is disputed.
  2. In either case, the MPO shall obtain a written and signed statement of the allegation(s), by the individual(s) alleging scientific/scholarly misconduct. The accused shall be notified in writing by the MPO that a formal allegation has been received and that an Inquiry Committee shall be formed.
  3. The Vice President of Academic Affairs shall appoint an Inquiry Committee within ten(10) working days where practicable. The Inquiry Committee shall be composed of three (3) members of the University faculty, at least one of whom shall belong to the faculty of a college or school other than that in which the scientific/scholarly misconduct is alleged to have occurred. The MPO shall be and ex officio member (without vote) of the Inquiry Committee.
  4. The MPO shall notify the following persons that an inquiry is being initiated: any University of Detroit Mercy faculty member directly responsible for supervising the individual against whom the allegation has been made; the appropriate Department Chairperson and Dean; the Vice President for Academic Affairs; and the Vice President of Academic Affairs designation of University General Counsel. The preceding individuals shall be notified because it has been determined that they are parties who " need to know " about the inquiry.
  5. The Inquiry Committee shall separately meet with the accuser and the accused and shall review all necessary and reasonable documentation to determine if an investigation should be recommended. Refusal on the part of the accused to allow the Inquiry Committee to review necessary documents shall be grounds for a recommendation for an investigation.
  6. The Inquiry Committee shall take no more than sixty (60) days to conduct its inquiry and determine whether an investigation is warranted. The Inquiry Committee shall make a formal written report of inquiry consisting of the complaint, the evidence reviewed, a summary of relevant interviews, the Inquiry Committee's findings, and a recommendation on future actions. The individual(s) against whom the allegation(s) was made shall be given a copy of the report of inquiry. If they comment on the report, their comments may be made part of the record. The report shall recommend that either:
  a. The inquiry be terminated if it is determined that the allegation was frivolous or malicious and/or that insufficient evidence was produced to warrant further proceedings. In the case of this finding, diligent efforts shall be undertaken to restore the reputation of the accused. Any and all parties that had been notified of the inquiry shall be notified of the lack of merit therein and instructed to disregard the inquiry.
b. A formal investigation should be conducted, because evidence sufficient to support further proceedings has been discovered through the inquiry phase.
   

The Inquiry Committee report shall be submitted to the MPO and forwarded by her or him to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. The Vice President for Academic Affairs shall maintain sufficiently detailed documentation of inquires to permit a latter assessment of the reasons for determining that an investigation was not warranted, if necessary. Such records shall be maintained in a secure manner for a period of at least three years after the termination of the inquiry, and shall, upon request, be provided to authorized Federal agency personnel.

  7. If the Inquiry Committee recommends that a formal investigation should be conducted, the MPO shall immediately so inform the person who made the initial allegation; the individual against whom scientific/scholarly misconduct has been alleged; his/her immediate University of Detroit Mercy supervisor; the appropriate Chairperson and Dean; the Vice President of Academic Affairs; and the Office of the University General Counsel. The proceeding individuals shall be notified because it has been determined that they are parties who " need to know " about the inquiry.
  8. In the case of research supported by a Federal agency, the awarding agency shall also be notified on or before the date the investigation is to begin that an inquiry has been completed with the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct having been judged worthy of further investigation, and that such an investigation is being undertaken.
  9. During the inquiry and throughout any further proceedings, the University will protect the rights, the reputation and the professional and the institutional standing of all individuals against whom scientific/scholarly misconduct has been alleged by affording them confidential treatment ( as described elsewhere in this document and except as provided by law ), a prompt and thorough inquiry and the opportunity to comment on the allegations against them and all related findings.
  10. From the initial reporting of the alleged scientific/scholarly misconduct, the University will also protect the rights, the reputation and the professional and institutional standing of those who have reported the scientific/scholarly misconduct insofar as this is consonant with the conduct of a fair and thorough inquiry as defined elsewhere in this document.
  11. When an allegation may involve immediate danger to humans or animals, the MPO shall alert the Vice President of Academic Affairs who will take appropriate actions to protect those at risk including notification of the chairperson(s) of the Institutional Review Board and /or the Animal Welfare and Use Committee as indicated.
C.   Investigation Phase
  1. If the Inquiry Committee recommends a formal investigation, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, in consultation with the members of that committee, shall appoint such additional members as (s)he and they deem necessary to ensure the availability of expertise appropriate to the nature of the allegation. The expanded Investigation Committee shall in any case include not less that four members of the full-time University of Detroit Mercy faculty. At least one additional member shall be appointed to this committee who is not affiliated with the University of Detroit Mercy. The MPO shall remain as an ex officio (non voting ) member of the Investigation Committee. The undertaking of the investigation shall begin within thirty (30) days of the completion of the inquiry.
  2.

The Investigation Committee shall be charged with undertaking a thorough and appropriately detailed review of the evidence. The investigation normally will include examination of all documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls. Whenever possible, interviews shall be conducted of all individuals involved either in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made, as well as other individuals who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations. Complete summaries of these interviews shall be prepared and provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision. These summaries will then be included as part of the investigatory file.

The Vice President of Academic Affairs designated University General Counsel shall be consulted regarding additional procedures that meet judicial standards and review for a private university. These procedures shall be provided in writing to all parties involved at the earliest opportunity.

  3. The Investigation Committee shall submit a written report to the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the conclusion of the investigation. This report shall contain: the statement of the allegation; the committee's findings as to the facts of the case; the accused's written comments on the allegations; and ( if appropriate) the committee's recommendations as to remedies for any improprieties they determine to have occurred. The investigation phase, which includes the investigation and preparation of the written report should normally be completed within 120 days.*

[*NOTE: In the case of research sponsored by certain agencies of the U.S. government, additional deadlines and reporting requirements may be stipulated. The MPO shall be responsible for informing the committee of all relevant regulatory restrictions on their work. I almost all cases, the agency will expect to receive a copy of the committee's final report.]

  4. The Investigation Committee's final report and all other records of the investigation shall be retained by the Vice President of Academic Affairs.
D.   Post Investigative Actions
  1. If an allegation of scientific/scholarly misconduct is not sustained by a preponderance of proof, all proceedings shall be discontinued. The investigative file shall be closed and no reference to it shall appear in the individual's personnel file. Additionally, this finding shall be made known to all those who had previously been informed of the allegation. Diligent efforts shall be undertaken to restore the reputation of the accused.
  2. If scientific/scholarly misconduct is determined to have occurred, appropriate action up to and including suspension, restitution and discharge will be undertaken by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Additionally, all pending abstracts and papers emanating from the fraudulent research will be withdrawn and editors of journals in which previous abstracts and papers appeared will be notified. Institutions and sponsoring agencies with which the individual has been affiliated will also be notified.

If the individual against whom allegations have been made disagrees with the operation of this policy, he/she may avail himself/herself of the appropriate grievance procedures. In the case of faculty belonging to the University of Detroit Mercy Professors' Union these procedures can be found in the University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Detroit Mercy Processors' Union Collective Bargaining Agreement.

  3. In the case of federally funded research, the awarding agency or agencies will be notified. It should be noted that a funding agency may invoke the right to impose sanctions of its own on the individual researcher, on some school or division of the University, or on the University as a whole.