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Misconduct in Research
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Misconduct in Research

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MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY

Policies and Procedures to Deal With Misconduct in Research


I. Introduction

The principles that govern scientific research are well established and have long been applied toward the discovery of new knowledge. High ethical standards based on these principles are a critical responsibility of faculties and administrators of academic institutions, and accuracy in the collection and reporting of data is essential to the research process. Dishonesty in these endeavors runs counter to the very nature of research, which is the pursuit of the truth.

The academic community is ultimately responsible to the public, and public trust in the academic community is absolutely vital. It is in the best interest of both the public and academic institutions to prevent misconduct in research and to deal responsibly with instances where misconduct is alleged.

II. General Premises

  1. This institution should accept as faculty members only those individuals whose career activities demonstrate the highest ethical standards. To this end, the credentials of all potential faculty must be thoroughly examined in order to verify all claimed accomplishments of a candidate.
  2. Since research results should always be supported by verifiable evidence, faculty and staff should maintain sufficient written records or other documentation of their studies.
  3. Faculty are responsible for the quality of all research reports based on their own efforts or on the collaborative work of students, technicians, or colleagues, especially those which bear their names. No faculty member should allow his or her name to be used on any research results for which that faculty member cannot assume full professional and ethical responsibility.
  4. This policy and the associated procedures set forth herein apply to all individuals at Murray State University engaged in research, whether paid by, under the control of, or affiliated with Murray State University, such as scientists, trainees, technicians, and other staff members, students, fellows, guest researchers, or collaborators at Murray State University.

III- General Provisions

  1. If either the inquiry or the investigation determines the allegations to be unsubstantiated, the University will make a diligent effort to restore the reputation of those accused. Also, the University will make every possible effort to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, made the original allegation.
  2. In connection with research funded pursuant to the Public Health Service Act, if Murray State University plans to terminate an inquiry or investigation for any reason without completing all relevant requirements of the Public Health Service regulation, a report of the planned termination shall be provided to the Office of Scientific/Research Integrity [hereinafter referred to as the OSI], including a description of the reasons for the proposed termination.
  3. In regards to research funded pursuant to the Public Health Service Act, the University President shall notify OSI at any stage of the inquiry or investigation if:
    1. There is an immediate health hazard involved;
    2. There is an immediate need to protect Federal funds or equipment;
    3. There is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegations or the individual(s) who are the subject of the allegations as well as his/her co-investigators and associates, if any;
    4. It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly;
    5. There is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation. In this instance, the University shall inform OSI within twenty-four (24) hours of obtaining that information.
  4. The University shall take interim administrative actions during any inquiry or investigation, as appropriate, to protect Federal funds and to insure that the purposes of the Federal financial assistance are carried out.

IV. Definitions


  1. "Misconduct" or "Misconduct in Research" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.
  2. "Inquiry" means information gathering and initial fact finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants an investigation.
  3. "Investigation" means the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if misconduct has occurred or, if misconduct has already been confirmed, to assess its extent and consequences or determine appropriate action.


V. Administrative Procedures

There are two separate phases involved in any misconduct charge: an inquiry and an investigation. An inquiry is the initial step after an allegation of misconduct is made. It is intended to determine if there are grounds for the allegations; it generally involves fewer people; and it is more informal than an investigation. An investigation, on the other hand, is conducted after an inquiry has clearly established that there are sufficient grounds for a full, thorough, and formal investigation.

A. Inquiry

Any employee of this University or other person as noted in section II(4) who has reason to suspect any other employee or other person as noted in section II(4) of misconduct with regard to either the conduct or reporting of research has the responsibility of following up those suspicions via the appropriate channels.


  1. Allegations of misconduct in research are to be made only on the basis of substantial evidence as opposed to insignificant deviations from acceptable practices, technical violations of rules, simple carelessness, and minor infractions. It is the responsibility of any employee or other person affiliated with the University as noted in section II(4) who becomes aware of genuine evidence of scientific misconduct to present this, orally or in writing, to the immediate supervisor of the individual(s) believed to be engaged in misconduct. This letter/document should include a date and the supervisor should record the date. The supervisor should keep in mind that a decision made by the President to form an investigation committee will have to occur within sixty (60) calendar days of this date.  
    Misconduct in research allegations are a very serious matter and all parties involved should take every possible measure to assure that the rights and reputations of all individuals named in such allegations as well as individuals who in good faith report the apparent misconduct are carefully protected.
  2. Upon receipt of an allegation of misconduct, an immediate inquiry shall be undertaken and must be completed by way of a final written report of the inquiry by the President within sixty (60) calendar days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. The written report shall state what evidence was reviewed, summarize relevant interviews, and include the conclusions of the inquiry. If the inquiry takes longer than sixty (60) calendar days to complete, the record of the inquiry shall include documentation of the reason(s) for exceeding the sixty (60) day period.
  3. An inquiry is initiated by the immediate supervisor of the individual(s) believed to be engaged in misconduct through a careful examination of the facts involved in the allegations, including interviews with all persons involved. Upon receipt of an allegation of misconduct, the immediate supervisor, as specified above, shall ensure that all original records and materials relevant to the allegation(s) are immediately secured. Said supervisor shall make an inventory of the records/materials and document the chain of custody of same. All others who may become involved in the inquiry/investigation (as the case may be) shall likewise document the chain of custody of said records/materials. If misconduct is not suspected, all parties are notified in writing of the decision. Said report along with a copy of the relevant records/materials shall be kept in a secure manner in the Office of the Provost for a period of three (3) years following termination of the inquiry. If misconduct in research is suspected, the immediate supervisor of the individual(s) in question must notify his or her immediate supervisor, who must inquire further. If all supervisors agree that misconduct is not suspected, all parties are to be notified in writing of the decision and said report along with a copy of the relevant records/materials shall be kept in a secure manner as specified above. If all supervisors suspect misconduct, a written report shall be prepared by said supervisors specifying the evidence reviewed, summarizing the interviews, and stating their conclusions. All supervisors conducting the inquiry should be individuals who do not have real or apparent conflicts of interest in the case, are unbiased, and should have the necessary expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the allegation, interview the principals and key witnesses, and conduct the inquiry. This report shall be submitted to the Provost and to the accused individual(s) within forty-five (45) calendar days from the initiation of the inquiry. The accused individual(s) may file a written response to the report with all of the involved supervisors and with the Provost. Same must be filed within seven (7) calendar days of the date of the report. If the Provost is the accused individual, the report shall be sent to the President and the President shall assume all of the responsibilities of the Provost as pertaining to the misconduct inquiry and investigation.
  4. If, after reviewing the inquiry report, the Provost concludes that misconduct is not suspected, he or she will provide written notification to all parties of the decision. If the Provost concludes that the possibility of misconduct in research exists, he or she must immediately inform the President in writing, who has final responsibility for determining whether an investigation is warranted. The Provost's written determination shall be made within ten (10) calendar days of the supervisors' report; however, the Provost is prohibited from entering his report until subsequent to the seven (7) day waiting period for the accused to file a written response.
  5. If the President determines that it is not necessary to undertake an investigation, he or she will within sixty (60) calendar days from the date the inquiry commenced write a report which includes the reasons for this decision. A copy of the President's report will be sent to the individual(s) accused of misconduct and all other parties. This report, the inquiry report, a copy of the relevant documents/materials, and the report of the Provost shall be filed in a secure manner in the Office of the Provost for a period of three (3) years following termination of the inquiry. Same shall, upon request, be provided to the Director, OSI (if the research in question involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service Act).
  6. If the President determines that the possibility of misconduct in research exists, he or she shall notify, in writing, within sixty (60) calendar days from the date the inquiry commenced, the individual(s) accused of misconduct, all other parties, and immediately appoint an investigating committee (membership described below). Said committee shall be appointed and the investigation shall begin within thirty (30) calendar days of the President's determination to proceed with an investigation. The President shall also (if such research is being conducted pursuant to or under a grant issued by the Public Health Service) report the decision to initiate an investigation to the Director. OSI, on or before the date the investigation begins. The notification shall include the name of the person(s) against whom the allegation(s) have been made, the general nature of the allegation(s), and the Public Health Service application or grant number(s) involved. This report along with the inquiry report and report of the Provost shall be filed in a secure manner in the Office of the Provost for a period of three (3) years and shall, upon request, be provided to the Director, OSI.
  7. Notification for any research inquiry (other than research instituted pursuant to Public Health Service Act) shall be provided to other external agencies to the extent required by the regulations of the granting authority or as may be deemed appropriate by the President.


B. Investigation


  1. Once the decision is made to conduct an investigation, the appointed committee members shall consist of a department chair, a dean, and three (3) tenured faculty members who have the expertise to deal with technical aspects of the activities in question. The department chair and the dean shall be from outside the accused individual's department and college, respectively. One (1) of the faculty members will be from the accused individual's department while the other two (2) will be from outside the accused individual's department. The University's General Counsel shall act as an ex-officio and non-voting member of the committee. The accuser and all others having real or apparent conflicts of interest will not be appointed to the committee. The committee will elect its own chair, and the chair shall conduct meetings of this committee as frequently as may be necessary in order to determine whether or not the activities in question represent misconduct in research. All such meetings and the deliberations thereof shall be held in the strictest of confidence to protect the affected individual(s). Those accused of misconduct shall be afforded an opportunity to appear before the committee to comment on allegations and/or findings of the committee. The committee shall complete its investigation and submit a final report to the President within ninety (90) calendar days of initiation of the investigation. A copy of said report shall be forwarded to the accused for comments. Any response by the accused shall be filed with the President within ten (10) calendar days of the committee's report.
  2. If the investigation involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service and if the committee determines that it will not be able to complete the investigation and forward same to the President for a final decision to be reached within one hundred twenty (120) calendar days, the committee shall submit to OSI a written request for an extension that explains the delay, reports on the progress to date, estimates the date of completion of the report, and describes other necessary steps to be taken. If the request is granted, the committee shall file periodic progress reports as requested by the OSI.
  3. The University shall (if the research in question involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service Act) promptly advise OSI of any developments during the course of the investigation which disclose facts that may affect current or potential Department of Health and Human Services funding for individual(s) under investigation or that the Public Health Service needs to know to ensure appropriate use of Federal funding and otherwise protect the public interest.
  4. The final report of the committee shall be submitted to the President and shall set forth the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, specify how and from whom the information was obtained in regard to the investigation, the findings and basis for said findings, and the actual text or an accurate summary of the views of any individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct. The final report shall also include any sanctions that the committee recommends be taken by the University. If no appeal is taken by the accused within fifteen (15) calendar days of the committee's report, the committee's report shall be deemed final, and if the research involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service Act, a copy of same shall be forwarded to the OSI. Should the committee recommend that the accused be sanctioned by termination, such recommendation shall automatically be reviewed by the President as per section VI.
  5. All documentation relative to an investigation and the findings of an investigation shall be maintained in the Office of the Provost by the University for a period of three (3) years. If the research in question involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service Act, same, upon request, shall be made available to the Director of the OSI.


VI. Appeal Process

In the event of an official finding of "misconduct in research" by the investigating committee, the accused individual(s) shall have an opportunity to appeal. A written appeal of the committee's decision may be made to the President of the University within fifteen (15) calendar days of the committee's determination and shall be restricted to the body of evidence already presented, along with the accused's response, if any. Upon receipt of an appeal, the President shall review the committee's report and all other documentation and shall notify the appellant/accused, in writing, within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of the appeal of his/her decision. If the President determines that the alleged misconduct is substantiated by the findings, appropriate action shall be taken which may include:

    1. Withdrawal or correction of all pending or published abstracts and papers emanating from the research where scientific misconduct was found;
    2. Removal of the responsible person from the particular project, letter of reprimand, special monitoring of future work, probation, suspension, salary reduction, or termination;
    3. Restitution of funds as appropriate.

The decision of the President in hearing the appeal shall be final as to all issues with the exception of termination of an employee. If the research in question involves funding pursuant to the Public Health Service Act, a copy of said decision shall be forwarded to the OSI. Notification for any research investigation (other than research instituted pursuant to the Public Health Service Act) shall be provided to other external agencies to the extent required by the regulations of the granting authority or as may be deemed appropriate by the President. If the committee recommends termination, the President shall have the authority to reduce the recommended sanction and, if not, must refer the matter to the Board of Regents for further consideration. The decision of the Board of Regents shall be final.

Approved February 15. 1999 • Page 8

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