Research Knowledge Base
Procedure for Dealing with Misconduct in Scholarly Research
This document gives an overview of UW–Madison’s procedures for addressing allegations of research misconduct. Complete procedures are contained within Faculty Policy II-314.
- An allegation of research misconduct is addressed through a process that aligns with federal requirements (e.g., 42 CFR § 93; 45 CFR§ 689) and UW–Madison policy II-314. The Respondent (person who is subject of the allegations) is provided protections and the opportunity to clarify facts throughout the process. In brief, the major steps include:
- An assessment to determine if the allegation meets the definition of research misconduct, falls within the scope of this policy, and contains sufficient detail to pursue. If not, the process is terminated. The assessment should be completed quickly, preferably within one week;
- An inquiry review by experts who understand standards in the field and are without conflict regarding the issue, to determine if the allegations merit further investigation. If not, the process is terminated. The inquiry should commence as quickly as practical and must be completed within 60 days thereafter; extensions may be requested;
- An investigation by an expert committee that determines if specific acts of research misconduct occurred. This investigation should commence within 30 days of the inquiry decision and must be completed within 120 days thereafter; extensions may be requested;
- A decision by Provost or designee to accept the findings of the investigation and determine appropriate institutional actions. This decision should be made within 20 days after receipt of the investigation report; and
- The Respondent has an option to appeal a decision that research misconduct occurred. Appeal proceedings should commence within 20 days of the appeal request and then be completed within 120 days; extensions may be requested.
- Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the Research Integrity Officer (RIO), in consultation with the relevant Designated Research Official (DRO), will promptly assess the allegation to determine if an inquiry is warranted.
- An inquiry must be conducted if the following criteria are met:
- the conduct falls within the scope of this policy;
- the allegation, meets the definition of research misconduct; and
- the allegation is sufficiently specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct could be identified.
The assessment period should be brief, preferably concluded within one week.
Conclusion of the assessment
- If the allegation is credible, but does not meet the definition of research misconduct, the RIO and DRO will work with others as appropriate to resolve the issue by other methods.
- If the assessment determines that the criteria for an inquiry are met, the DRO shall as quickly as practical convene a committee to conduct an inquiry into the allegation.
The purpose of the inquiry is to advise the DRO, who determines whether or not to conduct a full investigation of the allegation. The inquiry reviews the available evidence to separate allegations deserving of further investigation from those which are unjustified or clearly mistaken.
The inquiry should commence as quickly as practical. The inquiry, including preparation of the final inquiry report and the decision of the DRO on whether an investigation is warranted, must be completed within 60 days of initiation of the inquiry. Any extension of this deadline requires documentation of unusual circumstances and must be approved by the Deciding Official.
Notification and Evidence Sequestration
- At the time of or before beginning an inquiry, the RIO must notify the Respondent in writing of the allegations and these procedures for addressing the allegations. If the inquiry subsequently identifies additional Respondents, they must be notified similarly.
- Upon request, the Respondent may receive a copy of the allegations, redacted to protect the confidentiality and interests of the Complainant and others, after evidence sequestration has occurred.
- The inquiry committee shall consist of at least three individuals who have no responsibility for the research under inquiry, who can be impartial, and who have no interests that would conflict with securing a fair and thorough inquiry. The committee, as a whole, shall have the competence and expertise appropriate for the inquiry. When necessary to secure the needed expertise or to avoid conflicts of interest, the DRO may select committee members from outside the institution.
The Inquiry Report
- A written inquiry report must be prepared. The RIO will provide the Respondent and Complainant, under a confidentiality agreement if necessary, a draft copy of the inquiry report for comment within 10 days. Any comments that are submitted to the RIO by the Respondent or Complainant will be attached to the final inquiry report, which is sent to the DRO.
Conclusion of the Inquiry
- The DRO, in consultation with the RIO, will decide in writing whether or not to pursue an investigation
- The DRO will notify the RIO, Respondent, and Complainant of the completion of the inquiry and the DRO's determination.
- The DRO initiates an investigation if he/she determines that one is warranted.
- If the DRO decides that an investigation is not warranted, the determination is forwarded to the RIO.
- The RIO may, in consultation with the Deciding Official, request corrective action (e.g., re- training in good laboratory practices) even if an investigation is not pursued.
The purpose of the investigation is to develop a factual record by exploring the allegations in detail and examining the evidence in depth, leading to recommended findings on whether research misconduct has been committed, by whom, and to what extent. The investigation will also determine whether additional instances of possible research misconduct exist that would justify broadening the scope beyond the initial allegations.
- If the DRO determines that an investigation is warranted, the investigation must begin within 30 days of that determination.
- The investigation should be completed within 120 days of charging the investigation committee. However, if the investigation committee determines that the investigation will not be completed within this 120-day period, they should notify the RIO who will consult with and request additional time from the Deciding Official and applicable federal agencies or other sponsors.
- On or before the date on which the investigation begins, the RIO must notify the Respondent in writing of the allegations to be investigated.
- The RIO must give the Respondent written notice of any new allegations of research misconduct not addressed during the inquiry or in the initial notice of the investigation within 30 days of discovery of the new allegations.
Appointment of the Investigation Committee
- The DRO will appoint an investigation committee and chair as soon after the beginning of the investigation as is practical. The investigation committee must consist of at least three individuals with no unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with those involved with the investigation and should include individuals with the appropriate scientific expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the allegation, interview the Respondent and Complainant and conduct the investigation.
- The Respondent may state objections, and provide justification, to the DRO's selection of members of the investigation committee.
Conclusion of the Investigation
- The investigation committee shall prepare a written investigation report
- The Respondent will be provided for comment a copy of the draft investigation report and, concurrently, a copy of, or supervised access to, the evidence on which the report is based. The Respondent and Complainant (if applicable) will be allowed 10 calendar days from receipt to comment on the report. The comments must be included and considered in the final report.
- The DRO and RIO may assist the investigation committee in finalizing the investigation report.
- The DRO will transmit the final investigation report to the Deciding Official and copy the RIO.
Institutional Decision and Actions
- Upon receiving the investigation report, the Deciding Official will determine in writing whether the institution accepts the investigation report and its findings
- An institutional decision finding research misconduct requires that the allegation is proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
- The Deciding Official will convey the decision in writing to the Respondent, Complainant, RIO and other key personnel involved in the case.
The decision of the Deciding Official should be made within 20 days of receipt of the investigation report.
- If the Deciding Official's determination varies from the findings of the investigation committee, the Deciding Official will explain in detail the basis for rendering a decision different from the findings of the investigation committee. Alternatively, the Deciding Official may return the report to the investigation committee with a request for further fact-finding or analysis.
- If the Deciding Official determines that research misconduct occurred, the Respondent has the right to appeal the decision.
- If the Deciding Official determines that research misconduct did not occur, the Deciding Official will direct the RIO to complete the case and take steps to restore the reputation of the Respondent.
- If research misconduct is determined, the Deciding Official will consult with the DRO and others to decide the appropriate actions to be taken. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Removal of the responsible person from the particular project, letter of reprimand, special monitoring of or restrictions placed upon future work, probation, suspension, salary reduction, or initiation of steps leading to possible rank reduction or termination of employment;
- Withdrawal or correction of all pending or published abstracts and papers emanating from the research where research misconduct was found;
- Restitution of funds to the grantor agency as appropriate;
- Disciplinary action against a student, such as loss of course credit or degree requirement, probation, suspension, or expulsion; and
- Other actions appropriate to the research misconduct.
Initiating an Appeal
- The request for appeal shall be addressed in writing to the Deciding Official. The request for appeal must set forth the substantive or procedural reasons the Respondent believes the decision is erroneous.
- In an appeal from the institutional decision under this Section, the University bears the burden of proof for all issues related to the allegations of misconduct. The Respondent bears the burden of proof for any claims asserted in opposition to the institutional decision.
- The Respondent may submit a request for appeal within 10 days after service of the notice of the institutional decision. If an appeal is not requested by the deadline, the Respondent is deemed to have waived the right to such review
- The appeal procedure should ordinarily be completed by the committee within 45 days of its initiation.
Conduct of the Appeal
- Issues on Appeal. The CFRR, ASAC, or the ad hoc committee appointed by the Vice Chancellor for Research may conduct a hearing on appeal from the decision of the Deciding Official on the following grounds:
- That the decision is clearly erroneous;
- That the decision erred in application of the law and this error influenced the outcome of the decision;
- That the recommended sanction is inappropriate.
- Any committee hearing an appeal under section VII will be provided, upon request, legal counsel pursuant to Sections UWS 4.06(f) and 11.06 (2)(b).
- A hearing on an appeal initiated under this section shall commence no later than 20 days after the appeal request.
- All evidence, materials, and reports collected during earlier phases of the assessment, inquiry and investigation shall be made available to the committee hearing the appeal. All new information must be shared with the Respondent.
Findings and Decision
- The committee hearing the appeal will prepare a draft report and provide it to the Respondent, who will have 10 days from receipt of the draft report to submit a response to the committee. At the end of that ten-day period, the committee will prepare a final report for the Chancellor.
- If the appeal challenges the finding of research misconduct, the Chancellor or designee shall issue a decision and rationale affirming or reversing the finding.
- If the appeal concerns the institutional actions or sanction, the Chancellor or designee shall issue a decision and rationale to affirm, reject or modify the action.
- The appeal decision shall be made within 30 days after the submission of the recommendation by the committee hearing the appeal. The Chancellor may extend this period for good cause by notice to the Respondent, RIO and other parties.
Keywords: research misconduct scholarly research procedures