Policy 780 | Misconduct in Research
The Public Health Service (PHS) requires that Tennessee Technological University (Tech)
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
C. Serious deviation from accepted practices: includes but is not
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Administrative Council: 11/15/17
Academic Council: 11/15/17
University Assembly: 11/29/17