9.13 / Misconduct in Research

  1. Preamble

    It is mandatory that the University have a viable and current policy to address allegations of misconduct in research by University employees, students, and anyone else participating in a research or research training project supported by a federal, state or local government agency, private foundation, or business, or for which an application has been submitted.

    For the purposes of this policy, the definition of "misconduct in research" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Standards of scholarly and creative conduct in nonscientific areas will be based on commonly accepted standards of those areas. The WSU policy on misconduct in research applies to all faculty, university support staff, unclassified professional employees, students and anyone else who may be involved with a research or research training project supported by a federal, state, or local government agency, private foundation, or business, or for which an application has been submitted.

  2. Policy

    1. Misconduct in Research Procedures

      All allegations and evidence of misconduct in research are to be presented to the Provost. The General Counsel, or designee, will serve as legal advisor, as needed to the Provost throughout the following process. When a specific allegation is made in good faith and set forth in writing with a complete description of the event or observation that prompted the allegation, or when evidence of possible misconduct in research is discovered, the Provost or designee shall immediately initiate an inquiry. Written notification of the allegation will be provided to the individual suspected and to the chief administrative officer in charge of research (henceforth referred to as the Research Officer). The Provost, with the assistance of the Research Officer, will take appropriate interim administrative action to protect federal funds provided by any sponsor, and endeavor to ensure that the purposes of the financial assistance are being carried out. Information will be gathered to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants an investigation and persons with the appropriate expertise will be consulted to assure a thorough evaluation of the relevant evidence. To the maximum extent possible, the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent misconduct will be protected. The inquiry will be conducted in such a way as to provide the affected individual(s) confidential treatment, a prompt and thorough inquiry, and an opportunity to comment on all allegations and findings of the inquiry and/or allegations. All possible precautions will be taken to prevent real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of those involved in the inquiry.

      An inquiry must be completed within 60 days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. A written report shall be prepared by the Provost or designee that summarizes the evidence reviewed and relevant interviews, and states the conclusions of the inquiry. The individual(s) against whom the allegation was made shall be given a copy of the report of the inquiry. If suspected individual(s) comment(s) on the report, those comments will be made part of the record. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, the suspected individual and the Research Officer will be notified in writing and the record of the inquiry shall include documentation of the reasons for exceeding the 60 day period. If an inquiry of Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)-funded research is terminated for any reason without completion of the requirements above, notification of the termination and the reasons for it must be reported to the DHHS Office of Research Integrity.

      If the initial inquiry does not substantiate the allegation, the written report and supporting files will be kept for three years in a secure location designated by the Research Officer and then destroyed. For projects funded by DHHS, copies of the report will be given to authorized DHHS personnel upon their request.

      If the initial inquiry does uphold the allegation, the Provost or designee will submit a written report on the inquiry to the Research Officer for initiation of an investigation. The investigation will commence within 30 days of the completion of the inquiry and will be completed in totality within 120 days of commencement of the investigation. If federally funded research is involved, a written report, including intent to begin an investigation, will be made to the appropriate federal agency and the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) on or before the date the investigation begins. During the investigation, the Research Officer will advise ORI of any developments that may affect current or potential DHHS funding for the individual(s) under investigation. Should it not be possible to complete the investigation in 120 days, a request for extension will be submitted to ORI. The request will include an explanation for the delay, an interim report on progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of completion. All investigations of DHHS funded research or other federally funded research must comply with pertinent regulations issued by the respective federal agency.

      The Research Officer, in consultation with the President of the Faculty Senate and the Provost, will appoint an ad hoc committee of not fewer than three members chosen for their objectivity and competence to conduct an investigation. The General Counsel, or designee, will be a legal advisor to the committee. The investigation shall provide for due process for the suspected individual. The ad hoc committee will be responsible for:

      1. examining all documentation relevant to the allegation and conducting interviews with individuals involved in the allegation;
      2. securing necessary expertise to carry out the evaluation of the relevant evidence;
      3. taking precautions against real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of those involved;
      4. preparing and maintaining the documentation necessary to substantiate the investigation's findings;
      5. insuring confidentiality of all proceedings, documentation and records of the investigation unless this confidentiality is waived in writing by the accused; and
      6. making a final recommendation to the Research Officer as to validity of the allegation.
    2. Misconduct in Research Resolution

      If an investigation of DHHS-funded research is terminated for any reason without completion of the ORI requirements, notification of the termination and the reason for it must be reported to ORI.

      If the investigation does not substantiate the allegation, no further action will take place and the suspected individual will be notified in writing of the findings. The suspected individual will also be given an opportunity to comment on the allegations and findings of the investigation. Records from the investigation will be retained in a secure location designated by the Research Officer for three years and then destroyed.

      If the investigation supports the allegations, the Research Officer will notify the Provost who will make a determination as to whether the case should be the basis for dismissal for cause, or if other appropriate sanctions will be imposed. The final report will also be made available for comment to the subjects of the investigation, and appropriate parts of the report will be provided to those who raised the allegation. Documentation associated with a substantiated investigation will be retained by the University and a summary of the actions of the Provost will be placed in the individual's personnel record. The University will undertake to protect, to the extent possible, and at all times, including both inquiry and investigation stages, the professional reputation of individuals accused of scientific misconduct and the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations.

      When DHHS-funded research is involved, a final report of the investigation will be sent to ORI, along with a description of policies and procedures governing the investigation, and the documentation relevant to the case. If, at either the inquiry stage or the investigation stage involving DHHS-funded research, any of the following conditions exist:

      1. an immediate health hazard;
      2. an immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment;
      3. 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;
      4. it is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly; or
      5. a reasonable indication of possible criminal activity,

      then this condition(s) will be reported to the University's President or the President's designee who will, as appropriate, report it to the ORI, and do so within 24 hours of receipt in the case of criminal activity. Other misconduct investigations concerning federally funded research will be reported as required by the granting agency.

  3. Implementation

    This policy shall be included in the WSU Policies and Procedures Manual and shared with appropriate constituencies of the University.

    The Provost shall have primary responsibility for publication, dissemination and implementation of this University policy.