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Adopted: April 1990. Revised: December, 1996
See also: UNCW ethics policy
Questions on the interpretation of this policy should be directed to the Dean of Graduate School and Research.
Presents procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of scientific misconduct, and for the required notifications to federal agencies of such allegations and investigations
Each member of the University community has a responsibility to foster an environment which promotes intellectual honesty and integrity, and which does not tolerate misconduct in any aspect of research or scholarly endeavor. Scientific misconduct is extremely troubling — in spite of its infrequency — because when it occurs, it is very destructive of the standards we attempt to instill in our students, of the esteem in which academic science in general is held by the public, and of the financial support of the government and other sponsors for academic scientific enterprise. The importance of integrity in research cannot be overemphasized.
Some federal agencies currently have their own policies regarding scientific misconduct, and require notification to the agency in the event of such an allegation or investigation. At this time, those agencies are the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Where required, this notification will be made by the Dean of Graduate School and Research. See Sections IV: Internal coordination/Reports to the Dean of Graduate School and Research, and Section V: Notification to external agencies.
While both PHS and NSF recognize that the primary responsibility for the prevention and detection of misconduct, and for the conduct of inquiries and investigations, rests with the awarded institution, they both retain the right to initiate their own investigations at any time.
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The University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s definition of scientific misconduct, and procedures for investigating and reporting allegations of misconduct, conform to the definitions and regulations of those federal funding agencies which have policies on this subject.
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Any individuals who believe an act of scientific misconduct has occurred or is occurring should notify the dean of the appropriate school, who should immediately begin an inquiry and so inform the Dean of Graduate School and Research, who acts on behalf of the Provost. Reporting such concerns in good faith is a service to the University and to the larger academic community, and will not jeopardize anyone’s employment.
Applicability: This policy applies to all persons involved in the research endeavor under UNCW auspices, regardless of employment status.
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The dean’s inquiry and, if called for, the investigation may be carried out personally or through such standing or ad hoc arrangements as each dean deems best. (See Section VII: Cautions and assistance.)
Upon receipt of an allegation of scientific misconduct, the college/college/school dean shall immediately begin an inquiry and shall so inform the Dean of Graduate School and Research, identifying any outside funding source(s) for the research which is the subject of the inquiry. This inquiry is to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted, and shall be guided by the following:
Unless the Dean of the Graduate School and Research has further concerns, a dean’s recommendation that an internal investigation is not warranted will be final.
If the inquiry leads to the conclusion that an investigation is necessary, it will be guided by the following considerations:
If either the college/school dean or the Dean of the Graduate School and Research considers that sanctions may be warranted, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research shall refer the final report to the University official who makes that determination (see Section VI). The report should be sufficient for the Chancellor, or other appropriate University officers, to determine whether disciplinary action is called for. If any sanctions result, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research shall be informed, and shall append that information to the final report.
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In order to assure compliance with external notification requirements, college/school deans must report the following circumstances to the Dean of the Graduate School and Research in a timely manner:
If termination of an inquiry or investigation before its completion is contemplated for any reason, this should be reported and discussed with the Dean of the Graduate School and Research.
In addition, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research is to be advised at once if any of the following circumstances are discovered:
Note: In emergency situations, the Director of the Office of Research Administration is authorized to notify external agencies directly, if conference with the Dean of Graduate School and Research is not possible in a timely manner. (See Section V: Notification to external agencies.)
The director shall also take interim action as necessary to protect federal funds and the purposes of the federal grant or contract that may be involved. Such action is administrative and not disciplinary. The director shall inform the Dean of the Graduate School and Research of such actions.
If, during an investigation, facts come to light that could affect current or potential funding of the people under investigation, or that may, in the dean’s judgment, need to be disclosed in order to ensure proper use of research funds or protection of the public interest, these facts should be reported to the Dean of the Graduate School and Research as they are learned.
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Note: University of North Carolina at Wilmington will comply with the requirements and regulations of its funding agencies. The following section reflects those requirements as of May 1994. In any particular situation, college/school deans are advised to review current regulations and requirements.
Under circumstances not involving Public Health Service or other regulated funding agencies, the Chancellor will make the decision whether information about the charges and their disposition will be disclosed publicly or to specific parties, including the research sponsor. This decision will normally be made upon the conclusion of the final report. However, if required by urgent circumstances, such a disclosure may be made at any time. The Chancellor will consult with the Administrative Cabinet to the extent feasible and appropriate in such cases. Absent such urgent need, University of North Carolina at Wilmington will not make interim reports to outside agencies unless required by external regulation.
The Public Health Service requires annual assurances from University of North Carolina at Wilmington of compliance as well as aggregated information on allegations, inquiries, and investigations. Further, in accord with Public Health Service and National Science Foundation regulations, in cases involving research funded by either of those agencies, the funding agency will be informed in the following situations. Except as specifically described at the end of this section, the following notifications to external agencies will be made only by the Dean of the Graduate School and Research, acting on behalf of the Provost, and on the basis of the information provided by the college/school dean:
PHS and NSF will be notified of the outcome of an inquiry involving funds from their agency only if that outcome includes the recommendation to conduct a full investigation. (Documentation from inquiries, even those that do not recommend further investigation, will be made available by the Dean of the Graduate School and Research upon an agency’s request.)
Written notification will be provided to PHS or NSF upon determination that an investigation will be conducted. This notice is to be provided on or before the commencement of the investigation, and must include all information required by the agency. In the case of PHS-funded research, this notice must include at least the following: name(s) of the accused individual(s); general nature of the allegation(s); and the PHS proposal or award number involved. Regulations provide that this information will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law. Note, however, that although the information will not be disclosed to peer reviewers or PHS advisory committees, it may be used by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in making decisions about the award or continuation of funding.
Although PHS regulations permit 120 days for completion of the investigation and submission of the final report, University of North Carolina at Wilmington requires deans to consult with the Dean of the Graduate School and Research if it appears that the final report will take more than 90 days to complete. This allows 30 days for the disciplinary process, if it is decided to pursue one. The final report to PHS must include a statement about the sanction (if any) imposed by the institution.
If the investigation and determination of discipline are likely to take more than 120 days to complete, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research will so notify PHS, including reasons for the delay, interim progress reports, the estimated date of completion of the report, and any other necessary information. If an extension is granted, PHS may require the submission of periodic interim reports, or the agency may undertake its own investigation prior to the University’s completion of its investigation.
NSF requires completion of the inquiry within 90 days, and completion of the investigation, including submittal of the final report, within 180 days. If completion of either is expected to be delayed, NSF may require submission of periodic status reports.
PHS must be apprised during an investigation of facts that may affect current or potential PHS funding of the individual(s) under investigation, or that may need to be disclosed in order to ensure proper use of federal funds or protection of the public interest.
Similarly, NSF requires interim reports if the seriousness of the apparent misconduct so warrants; if immediate health hazards are involved; if NSF’s resources, reputation, or other interests need protecting; or if federal action may be needed to protect the interests of a subject of the investigation or others potentially affected.
PHS must be notified of any decision to terminate an inquiry or investigation prior to the completion of all relevant requirements. This notice must include the reasons for such action. PHS retains the right to investigate the matter further on its own.
PHS and NSF will be notified of the final outcome of an investigation involving their funded project(s), and provided with a complete copy of the final report. Documentation of an investigation must be retained in the Provost’s Office for three (3) years and will be made available to ORI at their request.
In addition, the Public Health Service must be informed at any stage of an inquiry or investigation if any of the following are discovered:
In the case of suspected criminal activity, PHS requires notification within 24 hours.In special emergency circumstances as defined above, Director of the Office of Research Administration should attempt to reach the Dean of Graduate School and Research (by phone if necessary; in writing, if possible). However, the director is authorized to make such reports directly to the agency, and to so inform the Dean of Graduate School and Research afterwards, if, in the judgment of the director, such action is necessary.
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The determination as to whether discipline is to be imposed is governed by existing policies. In cases involving faculty, sanctions may only be imposed by the Chancellor, through the faculty disciplinary process. The Dean of the Graduate School and Research will refer cases of significant student misconduct to the Dean of Students. Cases involving staff members will be referred to the Human Resources Office.
Both PHS and NSF have the right to impose additional sanctions, beyond those applied by the institution, upon investigators or institutions, if they deem such action appropriate in situations involving funding from their respective agency.
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The gathering and assessing of information in cases of alleged scientific misconduct can be extremely difficult. It is essential to protect the professional reputations of those involved, as well as the interests of the public and of any who might be harmed by the alleged misconduct. In the course of conducting inquiries or investigations, the following provisions are applicable: