Policy 780 | Misconduct in Research

The Public Health Service (PHS) requires that Tennessee Technological University (TTU) have in place a policy and procedures to respond to allegations of misconduct in scientific research by an employee. The policy and procedures are mandated as a part of the process to apply for federal assistance to conduct research projects. The University has developed a broader policy and procedures that encompasses responding to allegations of misconduct in all areas of research. All aspects of the requirements of the PHS are incorporated into the policy and procedures for Tennessee Tech.

I.     Purpose
Tennessee Tech realizes the importance of research not only to Tennessee Tech but to society as a whole as undiscovered knowledge is pursued through sound scientific principles. Therefore, research misconduct, in any form, which severely impedes the integrity of science, the researcher, and Tennessee Tech, poses a serious threat to the entire research endeavor. 

Toward the pursuit of integrity in research and as a requirement of the Public Health Service (PHS), Tennessee Tech has developed a policy and procedures to respond to allegations of misconduct in scientific research by an employee. The policy and procedures are mandated as a part of the process to apply for federal assistance to conduct research projects. Tennessee Tech has developed a broader policy and procedures that encompass responding to allegations of misconduct in all areas of research. All aspects of the requirements of the PHS are incorporated into the policy and procedures for Tennessee Tech. 

II.     Review
This policy will be reviewed every three years or whenever circumstances require review, whichever is earlier, by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development or his/her designee, with recommendations for revision presented to the Administrative Council and University Assembly.

III.     Scope

A.    These policies and procedures shall apply to all instances of
       alleged or apparent misconduct involving research, research
       training, and other activities related to research that are conducted
       under the auspices of Tennessee Tech. These policies and
       procedures apply to all individuals involved in research in
       association with Tennessee Tech, including faculty, administrators,
       guest researchers, volunteers, technicians, collaborators, other staff,
       and students.

B.    Tennessee Tech will investigate and respond appropriately to
       allegations of misconduct in research.

C.    For purposes of this policy, misconduct or misconduct in research
       occurs when there is fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other
       practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly
       accepted for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does
       not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or
       judgments of data.

D.    The burden of proof of an allegation of misconduct in research lies
       with Tennessee Tech. 

IV.     Definitions1

A.    Research misconduct: fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other
       serious deviation from commonly accepted practices in the
       scientific community for proposing, performing, or reviewing
       research, or in reporting research results. Research misconduct
       does not include honest error or differences in opinion.

B.    For purposes of this policy statement, a modified version of the
       definition of misconduct included in PHS regulation codified at 42
       CFR Part 50, Subpart A will be used. The PHS definition is
       expressed in terms of misconduct in scientific research. The
       definition utilized in these policies and procedures eliminates
       reference to “scientific” so that it is clear that the definition
       includes all research carried out under the auspices of Tennessee
       Tech.

C.    Serious deviation from accepted practices: includes but is not
      limited to:

1.     Abusing confidentiality, including the use of ideas and
       preliminary data gained from:

a.     Access to privileged information through the
       opportunity for editorial review of manuscripts
       submitted to journals; and
b.     Peer review of proposals being considered for funding
        by agency panels or by internal committees.

2.     Stealing, destroying, or damaging the research property of
       others with the intent to alter the research record; and

3.     Directing, encouraging, or knowingly allowing others to engage
       in fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism.

D.   Allegation: any written or oral statement or other indication of
      possible misconduct in research made to an official at Tennessee
      Tech.

E.   Complainant: a person who makes an allegation of misconduct in
      research or of inadequate Tennessee Tech response thereto.

F.   Conflict of Interest and Commitment: the real or apparent
     interference of one person’s interest with another, where potential
     bias may occur due to prior or existing personal or professional
     relationships.


  •  1Most of the definitions used throughout this document are modified versions of those appearing in the current version of the “Instructions for Conducting Scientific Misconduct Inquiries and Investigations,” by the Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Public Health Service.

 

G.  Deciding Individual: The Vice President for Research and Economic
     Development will make the final determination on allegations of
     research misconduct and any responsive Tennessee Tech actions.

H.  Fabrication: making up data or results and recording or reporting
     them.

I.   Falsification: manipulating research materials, equipment, or
    processes, or changing or omitting data or results, such that the
    research is not accurately represented in the research record.

J.  Good Faith Allegation: an allegation of misconduct in research made
    by a Complainant who honestly believes that misconduct may have
    occurred. A good faith allegation need not be objectively made nor
    be subsequently verified to be made in good faith. However, a
    Complainant who disregards evidence that disproves an allegation
    has not made the allegation in good faith.

K.  Inquiry: information gathering and initial fact-finding to determine
     whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct in
     research warrants an investigation.

L.  Investigation: the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant
     facts to determine, based on a preponderance of evidence, if
     misconduct in research has occurred, and, if so, the responsible
     person and the seriousness of the misconduct.

M.  Investigator: any individual, including but not limited to any person
      holding an academic or professional staff appointment at Tennessee
      Tech, who is engaged in the design, conduct, or reporting of
      research.

N.  Plagiarism: appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes,
     results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

O.  Research: any systematic investigation, including research
     development, testing, and reporting, designed to develop or
     contribute to generalizable knowledge. The term includes basic
     research, applied research, and research training activities.

P.   Research Integrity Officer (RIO): the Vice President for Research and
     Economic Development or the individual designated to carry out the
     RIO’s duties.

Q.  Research Misconduct or Misconduct in Research: Fabrication,
     falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing
     research, or in reporting research results. It also includes failure to
     comply with federal requirements for protecting researchers, human
     and animal subjects, and the public. It does not, however, include
     honest error or honest differences in interpreting or judging data.

R.  Research Record: refers to any data, document, computer file,
     computer diskette, or any other written or non-written account or
     object that reasonably may be expected to provide evidence or
     information regarding the proposed, conducted, or reported
     research.

S.  Respondent: the person against whom an allegation of misconduct
     in research is directed, or the person who is the subject of the
     inquiry or investigation.  There can be more than one Respondent in
     any inquiry or investigation.

T.   Retaliation: any response by Tennessee Tech or an employee that
     adversely affects the employment or other status of either a
     Complainant who has in good faith made an allegation of
     misconduct in research or inadequate Tennessee Tech response
     thereto, or a witness who has cooperated in good faith with an
     investigation of such allegation.

U.  Witness: anyone who provides information about the allegation
     during a hearing. 

V.     Policy

A.  In carrying out its mission, Tennessee Tech recognizes that it has a
     responsibility to support all of the research activities of its faculty,
     students, and staff. Tennessee Tech must make every effort to ensure
     that high ethical standards are maintained in the research that is
     performed under its auspices. The policies and procedures described
     in this document are designed to maintain the integrity of all
     research and related activities at Tennessee Tech.

B.  All employees or individuals associated with Tennessee Tech are
     required to report observed, suspected, or apparent misconduct in
     research to the RIO.

C.  If the RIO is suspected of involvement in the misconduct of research,
     the allegation shall be reported to Tennessee Tech’s President and
     Provost.

D.  If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident of
     misconduct falls within the definition, he/she should contact the RIO
     to discuss the suspected misconduct informally.

E.   If the circumstances described by the individual do not meet the
     definition of misconduct in research, but are perceived as a problem
     needing resolution, the RIO will refer the individual or allegation to
     other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the
     problem.

VI.     Rights and Responsibilities

A.    Research Integrity Officer

1.   The Vice President for Research and Economic Development
      will serve as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) and shall
      have primary responsibility for adherence to the procedures
      set forth in this policy.

2.   If the Vice President for Research and Economic
      Development is a Respondent, has a conflict of interest to an
      allegation of misconduct in research, or is otherwise
      disqualified from acting as the RIO, the President shall
     designate another individual to carry out the responsibilities
     of the RIO, relative to the allegation.

3.   The RIO shall assist inquiry and investigation committees
      and all institutional personnel in order to assure compliance
      with these procedures and with applicable standards
      imposed by government or external funding sources.

4.   The RIO shall maintain files of all documents and evidence
      and is responsible for the confidentiality (consistent with
      federal and state laws) and the security of files.

5.   The RIO shall report, as required by any applicable federal,
      state, or other regulations (e.g., the Office of Scientific
      Integrity of the PHS), the status of any investigation.

B.    Complainant

1.   At any time, an employee of Tennessee Tech may have
     discussions and consultation about possible concerns of
     misconduct with the RIO or academic dean, and will be
     counseled about appropriate procedures to report
     allegations. Such conversations shall be confidential to the
     extent allowed by federal or state law.

2.   The Complainant is responsible for making allegations in
     good faith, maintaining confidentiality (consistent with
     federal and state laws), and cooperating with an inquiry or
     investigation.

3.   The RIO will monitor the treatment of individuals who bring
     allegations of misconduct or inadequate Tennessee Tech
     response thereto, or who cooperate with inquiries or
     investigations.

4.   If the Complainant requests anonymity, Tennessee Tech will
      make an effort to honor the request within applicable
      statutes, policies, and regulations of federal and state law.
      Tennessee Tech will make every effort to protect the
      positions and reputations of those persons who, in good
      faith, make allegations or serve as witnesses.

5.   The inquiry committee may speak with the Complainant
      during the inquiry process and the Complainant shall have
      an opportunity to testify before the investigation committee
      and to review portions of the investigation reports related
      to that testimony, and to be informed of the results of the
      inquiry and investigation.

6.    The RIO will ensure that those making an allegation in
       good faith or cooperating with an inquiry or investigation
       into an allegation of misconduct will not be retaliated
       against in the terms and conditions of their employment or
       other status at Tennessee Tech. Instances of apparent
       retaliation will be reviewed by the Affirmative Action Officer
       (AAO) for appropriate action or referral to another
       Tennessee Tech official. If the AAO has been involved or has
       a conflict of interest, the President and Provost will assign
       an appropriate person to review the situation. If retaliations
       are confirmed, Complainants will be consulted regarding
       appropriate corrective actions to be taken on their behalf to
       restore or protect their positions or reputations. 

VII.     Respondent

1.      The Respondent shall be informed of the allegations, and notified
        in writing of the final determinations and resulting actions.

2.      Inquiries and investigations will be conducted in a manner that
        will ensure fair treatment to the subject(s) of the inquiry or
        investigation and confidentiality to the extent possible consistent
        with protecting public health and safety. The inquiry or
        investigation will be carried out in keeping with the Policies of
        Tennessee Tech as well as state and federal laws. Individuals who
        are accused of misconduct in research shall also have the
        opportunity to be interviewed by and present evidence to the
        inquiry and investigation committees, and to review the inquiry
        and investigation reports, and to have the advice of counsel. The
        hearing is administrative in nature; consequently the Respondent’s
        counsel may not question individuals or speak for the Respondent.

3.     The Respondent is responsible for maintaining confidentiality
       consistent with federal and state law and cooperating with the
       conduct of an inquiry or investigation.

4.    The inquiry committee may speak with the Respondent during the
       inquiry process and the Respondent shall have an opportunity to
       testify before the investigation committee and to review portions
       of the investigation reports related to that testimony, and to be
      informed of the results of the inquiry and investigation. 

VIII.     Procedures

A.    The process for handling the allegations of alleged research
       misconduct is in the flowchart found under the Policies and Award
       Management Regulations and Procedures page of the Office of
       Research and Economic Development website.

B.    Preliminary Assessment

1.      Upon receiving an allegation of misconduct in research, the
        RIO shall immediately assess the allegation to determine
        whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an inquiry. The
        RIO will advise the President if he/she has a conflict with the
        matter.

2.      In assessing the allegation, the RIO also shall determine
        whether external support or applications for external support
        for research are involved, and whether the allegation falls
        under the definition of misconduct in research as defined in
        Section II of this document.

3.      The RIO will inform the Provost and President of the
         assessment and recommend, if necessary, that the matter be
         referred to an inquiry committee immediately. 

IX.     Procedures Related to an Inquiry and the Inquiry Committee

A.    The purpose of the inquiry is to evaluate the situation to determine
       whether there is sufficient evidence of possible misconduct in
       research to warrant an investigation. The purpose of the inquiry is
       NOT to reach a final conclusion as to whether misconduct occurred
       or who was responsible.

B.    The charge to the Inquiry Committee will specifically limit its scope
       to evaluate the facts only to determine whether there is sufficient
       evidence of misconduct in research to warrant an investigation.

C.    The RIO in consultation with the President of the Faculty Senate
       will appoint an Inquiry Committee consisting of three individuals
       who do not have conflicts of interest in the case, are unbiased, and
       have appropriate qualifications to evaluate the issues raised. If the
       President of the Faculty Senate is a Respondent or has a conflict of
       interest relative to an allegation of misconduct in research, the RIO
       will appoint the Inquiry Committee in consultation with the
       Secretary of the Faculty Senate. The RIO and the President of the
       Faculty Senate should seek input from the Dean of the College in
       which the Respondent holds academic rank, relative to appropriate
       individuals to nominate for consideration for appointment to the
       Inquiry Committee. The committee will elect its own Chair and the
       RIO will provide assistance as needed. The RIO will notify the
       Respondent of the proposed committee membership. If the
       Respondent submits a written objection, within five working days,
       absent good cause, to any of the persons appointed to the Inquiry
       Committee, the President may replace the challenged person with a
       qualified substitute after the Complainant has received a notice
       and an opportunity to object to the requested replacement.

D.    The inquiry will normally involve interviewing the Complainant, the
       Respondent, and key witnesses, and examining relevant research
       records and materials.

E.    The Inquiry Committee normally will complete the inquiry and
       submit a report no more than 60 calendar days after initial
       appointment, absent good cause and subject to approval by the
       RIO. If the RIO approves an extension of this time limit, the reason
       for the extension will be entered into the records of the case and
       the report. The Complainant and Respondent will also be notified
       of the extension.

F.    The Inquiry Committee shall prepare a written report that states
      what evidence was reviewed, summarizes relevant interviews, and
      includes the conclusion of the inquiry as to whether an
      investigation is warranted.

G.   The Respondent(s) and the Complainant(s) will each be given a copy
      of the report and will have 10 business days, absent good cause, to
      submit written comments to the RIO.

H.   Absent good cause, within 30 days of receiving both the report and
      the written comments of the Respondent and Complainant, the
      President, after consultation with the RIO, Provost, and others as
      necessary, shall determine whether to refer the matter to an
      investigation committee, dismiss the matter, or to take some other
      appropriate action.

X.    Procedures Related to an Investigation and Investigation Committee

A.    The purpose of the investigation is to examine and evaluate all
       relevant facts to determine whether misconduct in research has
       been committed, and if so, the responsible person and the 
       seriousness of the misconduct.

B.    The President, after reviewing the inquiry report and consulting
       with appropriate parties, if any, will define the subject matter in a
       written charge to the committee.

C.    Appointment of an Investigation Committee

1.      After the RIO notifies the Respondent that an investigation
        will be conducted, the RIO, after consulting with the Provost,
        will appoint an Investigation Committee.

2.      This Committee shall consist of no fewer than three people
         and be drawn from a list of at least six individuals provided by
         the Faculty Senate President.

3.      If the President of the Faculty Senate is a Respondent or has a
         conflict of interest relative to an allegation of misconduct in
         research, the RIO will appoint the investigation committee in
         consultation with the Secretary of the Faculty Senate.

4.      The President of the Faculty Senate should seek input from
         the Dean of the College in which the Respondent holds
         academic rank, relative to appropriate individuals to nominate
         for consideration by the President of the Faculty Senate for
         appointment to the Investigation Committee.

5.      These individuals must not have any real or apparent conflicts
         of interest with the Respondent or the case in question, and
         must have the necessary expertise to examine the evidence,
         interview the witnesses, and conduct the investigation.

6.      If the Committee cannot be constituted from the individuals
         suggested, the RIO shall request additional names from the
         President of the Faculty Senate.

7.      The Committee will elect its own Chair and the RIO will
        provide assistance as needed.

8.      The RIO will notify the Complainant and Respondent of the
         proposed committee membership.

9.      If the Respondent submits a written objection within five
         working days, absent good cause, to any of the persons
         appointed to the Investigation Committee, the RIO may decide
         to replace the challenged person with a qualified substitute
         after the Complainant has received a notice and an
         opportunity to object to the requested replacement.

10.   Absent good cause, the Investigation Committee will be
        appointed and the process initiated within 30 calendar days of
        the completion of the inquiry, if findings from that inquiry
        provide sufficient basis for conducting an investigation. 

D.    Investigation Process

1.     The investigation will normally include examination of all
        documentation including, but not necessarily limited to,
        relevant research data materials, proposals, publications,
        correspondence, memoranda, and notes of telephone calls.

2.     Whenever possible, interviews will be conducted with 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.

3.      The Investigation Committee will record all interviews.

4.      The complete summaries of these interviews will be prepared,
        provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and
        included as part of the file of the investigation.

E.    Time Limit for Completing Investigation Report

1.    An investigation should be completed within 120 calendar
       days of the initial appointment of the Investigation Committee,
       absent good cause.

2.    For the purpose of this policy, the term “completed” includes
       conducting the investigation, preparing the report of findings,
       making the report available for comment by the subjects of the
       investigation, submitting the report to the President, and
       submission to other agencies as may be required (e.g., the
       Office of Research Integrity of the Public Health Service).

3.    When the Investigation Committee reaches a final decision on
       the case, the RIO will notify both the Respondent and
       Complainant in writing within five working days.

F.     The final report must state the policies and procedures under
       which the investigation was conducted, describe how and from
       whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation, state
       the findings, and explain the basis for the findings, include the
       actual text or an accurate summary of the views of any individual(s)
       found to have engaged in misconduct, the possible sanctions that
       can be imposed against the Respondent, and include other
       information as may be required by a funding or sponsoring agency
       of a project under the purview of the Respondent.

G.    The Respondent(s) and the Complainant(s) will each be given a
       copy of the report and will have 10 business days, absent good
       cause, to submit written comments to the RIO.

H.   Absent good cause, within 30 days of receiving both the report and
      the written comments of the Respondent and Complainant, the
      President shall, after consultation with the RIO and Provost, decide
      whether misconduct has occurred, and what sanctions or
      administrative actions are to be undertaken in the manner
      described in Section XIV. 

XI.     Cooperation with Inquiries and Investigations

A.    Tennessee Tech employees have an obligation to cooperate with
       the RIO and other officials in the review of allegations and the
       conduct of inquiries and investigations.

B.    Employees have an obligation to provide relevant evidence to the
       RIO or other institutional officials on misconduct allegations.

XII.     Notification and Reporting Requirements

A.   Reporting to Appropriate Agencies

1.     The RIO shall report the President’s decision to initiate an
        investigation in writing to appropriate individuals at funding
        or sponsoring agencies (e.g., Director of the Office of Research
        Integrity of the Public Health Service) before the date an
        investigation begins.

2.      The RIO shall ensure compliance with all notification
         requirements of funding or sponsoring agencies.

3.      If Tennessee Tech terminates an investigation, the RIO shall
        notify the appropriate funding or sponsoring agency(ies)
        contact person(s) and provide an explanation of the reason.

4.      If Tennessee Tech is unable to complete an investigation in
        120 calendar days, the RIO will notify the appropriate
        agency(ies) and provide interim progress reports on the
        investigation.

5.      If an agency has a time limit for completion of an
        investigation and Tennessee Tech will exceed this limit, the
        RIO will provide an explanation for the delay and request
        additional time.

B.    The RIO shall notify the appropriate agency at any stage of the
       inquiry or investigation when:

1.      There is an immediate health hazard;

2.     There is an immediate need to protect sponsoring agency
        funds or equipment;

3.      There is an immediate need to protect the interest 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;

4.      It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported
         publicly; or

5.      There is reasonable indication of possible criminal violation.

C.   The RIO will determine whether law enforcement agencies,
      professional societies, professional licensing boards, editors of
      journals in which falsified reports may have been published,
      collaborators of the respondent in the work, or other concerned
      parties, shall be notified of the outcome of the case.

XIII.      Other Considerations

A.    Termination of Institutional Employment or Resignation Prior to
      Completing Inquiry or Investigation

1.      If the Respondent, without admitting to the misconduct, is
        terminated or elects to resign his/her position prior to the
        initiation of an inquiry, but after an allegation of possible
        misconduct in research has been reported, or during an inquiry
        or investigation, the inquiry or investigation will proceed.

2.      If the Respondent refuses to participate in the process after
         resignation, the Committee will use its best efforts to reach a
         conclusion concerning the allegations, noting in its report the
         Respondent’s failure to cooperate, and the effect on its review           of all the evidence.

B.    Restoration of Reputations

1.      Diligent efforts will be undertaken to restore the reputation of
         the Respondent if misconduct in research is not substantiated
         after the inquiry and investigation have been completed.

2.      The RIO will ensure that all reference to the matter is
         expunged from the Respondent’s personnel file.

3.      All persons who have been interviewed or otherwise informed
         of the charge will be notified in writing that the charges have
         been dismissed.

4.      Respondents will be consulted regarding other actions that
        might be taken on their behalf to restore their reputations.

C.    If relevant, the RIO will determine whether the Complainant’s
      allegations of research misconduct were made in good faith. If an
      allegation was not made in good faith, the RIO will determine
      whether any administrative action should be taken against the
      Complainant.

XIV.      Retention of Records

A.    The RIO shall maintain sufficient detailed documentation of
       inquiries that do not proceed to an investigation for at least five 
       years after the termination of the inquiry to permit late assessment
       of the case.

B.    After completion of a case and all ensuing related actions, the RIO
       will prepare a complete file, including the original records of any
      inquiry or investigation, and copies of all documents and other
      materials furnished to the RIO or Committees.

C.   The RIO will retain the file for five years from the date Tennessee
      Tech closes the case, or if the inquiry or investigation is reported to
      a funding or sponsoring agency (e.g., Office of Research Integrity of
      the Public Health Service) from the date that the agency completes
      its review of the case and all related actions.

D.   Tennessee Tech will maintain the confidentiality of materials
      consistent with federal and state law requirements and consistent
      with authorized personnel’s need to review the file.

XV.       Sanctions and Administrative Actions

A.    Tennessee Tech shall impose appropriate sanctions on individuals
       when an allegation of misconduct has been sustained.

B.    If the RIO determines that the alleged misconduct is substantiated
       by the findings, he/she will notify other appropriate Tennessee Tech
       officials and staff of the actions that will be taken.

C.    The actions may include, but are not limited to:

1.      Restitution of funds to any sponsoring agency as appropriate;

2.      Withdrawal or correction of all pending or published abstracts
         and papers emanating from the research in question; or

3.      Removal from the particular project, letter of reprimand,
         special monitoring of future work, suspension, or discipline up
         to and including termination. 

XVI.       Interpretation
The Vice President for Research and Economic Development or his/her designee has the final authority to interpret the terms of this policy.

XVII.     Citation of Authority for Policy
T.C.A. § 49-8-203 (a)(1)(E); 45 CFR 46; 45 CFR 94.3; 21 CFR 50, 56, 58, & 689; 7 U.S.C §§ 2131-2156; 42 CFR 50 & 93

Approved by:

Administrative Council:     11/15/17  

Academic Council:             11/15/17

University Assembly:         11/29/17

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