Responding to Allegations of Misconduct in Research and Scholarship

University Policy: 
Executive Summary: 

UNC Charlotte supports and encourages full freedom, within the law, of inquiry, of research and publication, and of teaching. The policy of the University is that research and educational activities carried out by its faculty and staff will be characterized by the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior. It is also University policy to make full disclosure to all affected parties where research data or other items of information related to University projects or programs have been falsified or otherwise misrepresented. Procedures described in this will be followed where it is alleged that there has been a failure to meet those standards.

I. Policy

It is the policy of UNC Charlotte that the research and creative activities carried out by its faculty, postdoctoral fellows, staff and students be done with the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior. UNC Charlotte considers Research Misconduct, as defined below, to be a betrayal of the fundamental principles of scholarship, and the University will deal promptly with all such allegations.

This Policy and its supplemental procedures will normally be followed when an allegation of possible Research Misconduct is received by an institutional official. At times, a particular case may require variation from the normal procedure to serve the best interests of UNC Charlotte. Any change in procedure must ensure fair treatment to the subject of the inquiry or investigation and be approved in advance by the Vice Chancellor for Research.

II. Background

UNC Charlotte supports and encourages full freedom within the law of inquiry, research and scholarship. Members of the University community recognize that accuracy, forthrightness and dignity befit their association with the University and their position as men and women with a shared commitment to the highest principles of learning.

Integrity in research is the basis for the academic search for knowledge, and public trust in the integrity and ethical behavior of scholars must be maintained if research and other scholarly activities are to continue to play their proper role in our University and society. UNC Charlotte expects that research and scholarship will be characterized by the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior. However, misconduct in research and scholarship cannot be completely prevented by regulation or law, and this Policy provides a mechanism for dealing with misconduct in research and scholarship.

Each member of the University community has a personal responsibility for implementing this Policy in relation to any scholarly work with which they are associated and for helping their associates in continuing efforts to avoid any activity which might be considered in violation of this Policy. Failure to comply with this Policy is considered to be a violation of the trust placed in the faculty, staff, and students.

III. Definitions

Allegation: The disclosure of possible research misconduct through any means of communication. The disclosure may be by written or oral statement or other communication to an institutional or federal official. (See 42 CFR 93.201)

Complainant: A person who makes an allegation of Research Misconduct.

Deciding Official (DO): The institutional official who makes final determinations on reports of inquiries and investigations into allegations of misconduct and any responsive institutional actions.

Fabrication: Making up data or results and recording or reporting those data or results.

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.

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

Research: All basic, applied, and demonstration inquiry in all fields of science, engineering, mathematics, and the humanities, and all forms of creative activity or scholarship in the arts.

Research Integrity Officer (RIO): The institutional official responsible for:

  1. assessing allegations of Research Misconduct to determine if they fall within the definition above and warrant an inquiry on the basis that the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of Research Misconduct may be identified;
  2. overseeing inquiries and investigations; and
  3. reporting to the Sponsor as required.

In any inquiry or investigation that involves research sponsored by a federal agency where that federal agency uses a definition of Research Misconduct that is different from the one in this Policy, the University will be obligated to use that agency’s definition for the purposes of the University’s responsibilities to that agency. In carrying out an inquiry or investigation for the University’s own purposes, the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) will determine whether the agency’s definition or the definition above will be used.

Research Misconduct: Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting the results of research or scholarship. Research Misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

Respondent: A person who has been accused of Research Misconduct.

Sponsor: The agency or organization, if any, which sponsored the research or scholarship that is the subject of an allegation or investigation. The sponsor can be governmental, private, or non-profit in nature.

IV. Scope

This Policy is intended to carry out the University’s responsibilities for research integrity under all pertinent federal regulations, including but not limited to: the Public Health Service (PHS) regulations at 42 CFR 93, Subpart A; the National Science Foundation (NSF) regulations at 45 CFR 689; and the various implementations of the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Federal Register (December 6, 2000, Volume 65, Number 235, pages 76260-76264); and applies to any research-related grant, contract, or cooperative agreement with the relevant federal agency.

The PHS Policies on Research Misconduct cover allegations of Research Misconduct that occurred within six years of the date the institution or HHS received the allegation, unless one of the exceptions in 42 CFR 93.105 applies. This Policy applies to allegations covered by the PHS Policies, as well as allegations of Research Misconduct involving any individual paid by or affiliated with UNC Charlotte by contract or agreement who is engaged in research, regardless of sponsorship or lack thereof, including trainees, postdoctoral fellows, students, and guest and visiting researchers.

This Policy does not apply to authorship or collaboration disputes, which are covered under University Policy 318, Authorship Policy and Resolution Procedures. Violation of academic integrity by students not engaged in research or funded by external Sponsors is covered by University Policy 407, Code of Student Academic Integrity.

V. Responsibilities

  1. Deciding Official:

The Vice Chancellor for Research is the Deciding Official (DO), provided that the Vice Chancellor has no direct prior involvement in the institution’s inquiry, investigation, or allegation assessment or any other conflict of interest. In case of direct prior involvement, another conflict of interest, or unavailability of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the Vice Chancellor for Research or the Chancellor will appoint a DO. The DO’s appointment of an individual to assess allegations of research misconduct, or to serve on an inquiry or investigation committee, is not considered to be direct prior involvement.

The DO shall appoint the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) and will receive inquiry and/or investigation reports and any written comments made by the Respondent or Complainant on draft reports. The DO will consult with the RIO or other individuals familiar with the practices and standards in the field of the research under question and will determine whether to conduct an investigation, whether Research Misconduct occurred, whether to impose sanctions, and/or whether to take other appropriate administrative actions.

  1. Research Integrity Officer (RIO):

The RIO will have primary responsibility for implementing this Policy and its supplemental Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct, must be well-qualified to handle the procedural requirements involved, and must be sensitive to the varied demands made on those who conduct research, those who are accused of Research Misconduct, and those who report in good faith apparent misconduct.

The RIO, in consultation with the DO, will:

  1. appoint inquiry and/or investigation committees,
  2. ensure that there is appropriate expertise to carry out a thorough and authoritative evaluation of the relevant evidence,
  3. charge the committees, and
  4. maintain and ensure security of all documents and evidence.

The RIO will monitor the treatment of Complainants and others who cooperate in inquiries or investigations, and ensure that these persons will not be retaliated against.

UNC Charlotte will protect the privacy of Complainants to the maximum extent possible under law, and the RIO will review instances of alleged retaliation for appropriate action. The RIO will also report to the Sponsor in accordance with applicable regulations, and keep the Sponsor apprised of any developments during the course of an inquiry or investigation as appropriate.

The RIO shall (1) limit disclosure of the identity of respondents and complainants to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective, and fair research misconduct proceeding; and (2) except as otherwise prescribed by law, limit the disclosure of any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified to those who need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding.

  1. Office of Legal Affairs:

The Office of Legal Affairs will provide advice and counsel to the RIO and to any inquiry or investigation committee formed under this Policy. Such advice and counsel is generally limited to:

  1. ensuring that University policies and procedures are observed and that due process is provided pursuant to this Policy,
  2. ensuring compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations, and
  3. helping ensure that inquiries and investigations are thorough and complete.

When requested, the Office of Legal Affairs will assign an attorney to attend meetings of inquiry and investigation committees to provide advice to those committees in accordance with (a) – (c) above. The Office of Legal Affairs will also secure the services of a court reporter when such services are required under this Policy.

  1. Complainant:

The Complainant is responsible for making allegations in good faith, for maintaining confidentiality, and for cooperating with an inquiry or investigation. The Complainant will have an opportunity to testify before the inquiry and investigation committees and to review portions of the inquiry and investigation reports pertinent to their allegations or testimony. The Complainant will be notified of the results of the inquiry and investigation and will be protected from retaliation in accordance with University Policy 803, Reporting and Investigation of Suspected Improper Activities and Whistleblower Protection.

  1. Respondent:

The Respondent will be informed of the allegations when an inquiry is initiated and notified in writing of the final determinations and resulting actions. The Respondent will also have the opportunity to be interviewed by and present evidence to the inquiry and investigation committees, to review the draft inquiry and investigation reports, and to have the advice of counsel. The Respondent is responsible for maintaining confidentiality and for cooperating with the conduct of an inquiry or investigation. If the Respondent is found not guilty of Research Misconduct, they have the right to receive University assistance in restoring their reputation as set forth in Section 7.2 of the Procedures supplemental to this Policy.

  1. Faculty, staff, and students:

Anyone having reason to believe that a member of the University community has engaged in Research Misconduct should consult informally and in confidence with their own department chair or supervisor regarding the situation. If the results of such discussions confirm the seriousness of the reports, or if the individual who observed or suspects the alleged violations remains convinced of the serious nature of the events, the matter should be reported to the RIO or to the chair of the department or the head of the unit in which the accused employee is primarily employed, who in turn will report it to the RIO. The same process shall be followed in the event that an investigatory committee appointed in response to an allegation of Research Misconduct obtains information that any individual, other than the one(s) under investigation, has allegedly engaged in Research Misconduct.

At any time, an employee or individual associated with UNC Charlotte may have confidential discussions and consultations with the RIO and will be counseled on the definition of Research Misconduct and about appropriate Procedures for reporting allegations. University employees will cooperate with the RIO and other University officials in the conduct of inquiries and investigations. Faculty, staff, and students have an obligation to provide relevant evidence to the RIO and inquiry or investigation committees.

VI. Implementation

The Vice Chancellor for Research is responsible for this Policy and will establish and maintain Procedures, which may be revised from time to time, for the preliminary assessment of allegations, conduct of inquiries and investigations, and University review and decision making that are continuously consistent with all appropriate federal regulations. 

Revision History: 

Authority: Chancellor

Responsible Office: Division of Research

Related Resources: