Policy on Misconduct in Research and Scholarship for La Sierra University
The essence of all research scholarship is the pursuit of truth. Actions that undermine the integrity of scholarly activity may inpede the advancement of knowledge, jeopardize the position of collaborators, compromise the work of other investigators, harm innocent members of the general public, and besmirch the reputation of the University. Such misconduct, while extremely rare, cannot be tolerated when it does occur.
In dealing with allegations of misconduct in research, the University must ensure fairness by providing procedures for timely and through investigation, by protecting the rights of all parties, and by distinguishing serious breaches of integrity from honest error, simple carelessness, or technical violations of rules.
SCOPE OF POLICY
The term "misconduct in research" refers to any serious deviation from practices that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or scholarship. The definition specifically includes plagiarism; fabrication or falsification of evidence or data; unauthorized use of privileged information; and deliberate and substantial violation of federal, state, or University regulations relating to the conduct of research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation of data.
Researchers and scholars have a special responsibility to assure the integrity of work conducted under their supervision, but all authors in a group effort share responsibility for the published result. Publications should therefore list as authors only those who have contributed to the research, who have reviewed the manuscript carefully, and who are prepared to stand behind the conclusions.
This policy applies to all employees or other persons conducting research under the auspices of the University.
While this policy is general in nature, it is intended to conform to misconduct-in-science polices promulgated by the Public Health Service (42 CFR 50) and the National Science Foundation (45 CFR 689). Accordingly, where applicable, these and other federal sponsor regulations concerning research misconduct are incorporated by reference and are to have the same effect as if fully written out in this document.
APPOINTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER
The Provost / Vice President for Academic Administration (Provost/VPAA) will appoint as the administrative officer an individual to whom allegations of misconduct in research should be reported. The administrative officer will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of this policy.
When the administrative officer has a real or apparent conflict of interest in a particular case, the Provost/VPAA will appoint someone else to serve in this capacity for the duration of that particular case, to assure that it is handled in a fair and impartial manner.
ALLEGATION OF MISCONDUCT
Any person who has reason to believe that misconduct in research, as defined in this policy, has taken place, should contact the administrative officer. Upon notification that an allegation of misconduct in research has been made, the administrative officer will immediately notify the Provost/VPAA and the appropriate dean(s) of the allegation in writing.
The administrative officer will discuss with this individual the procedures to be followed. If the individual decides to make a formal allegation, the administrative officer will initiate a preliminary inquiry. Even if the individual decides not to make a formal allegation, the administrative officer may initiate a preliminary inquiry if, in his or her judgment, sufficient cause exists to warrant one.
Some concerns reported to the administrative officer may fall outside the scope of this policy. In such a case, the administrative officer will advise the person reporting the concern about other policies or procedures that may pertain.
When an inquiry is initiated, the administrative officer will immediately notify the person suspected of misconduct of the allegation and the process that will follow. The administrative officer will also appoint a committee of three University employees who will conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry into the alleged misconduct. The purpose of this preliminary inquiry will be to gather and review factual information to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted.
The three university employees on the inquiry committee will be tenured faculty members if the person suspected of misconduct is a faculty member. Even if the person is not, the committee will include at least one tenured faculty member. Committee members should be free of any conflict of interest and should have appropriate backgrounds for judging the issues at stake. They will secure whatever expertise is necessary and appropriate to evaluate the relevant evidence.
The committee will submit a written report to the administrative officer within 60 calendar days of its appointment unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, the committee will provide the administrative officer written documentation of the reasons for exceeding this limit.
The report of the committee will state what evidence was reviewed, summarize relevant interviews, and include the conclusions of the committee. The person against whom the allegation was made will receive a copy of this report and have the opportunity to comment on it, as part of the record.
If the committee determines that the allegation is frivolous, that it cannot be substantiated, or that there is insufficient evidence to justify further investigation, all proceedings will be terminated. If it determines that sufficient evidence exists, the administrative officer will initiate a formal investigation within 30 days of receiving the report.
Records of inquiries will include sufficient documentation to explain the basis of the decision to terminate proceedings or to initiate a formal investigation. The administrative officer will maintain these records in a secure manner for at least three years after completion of the inquiry.
The administrative officer will initiate a formal investigation by notifying the individual suspected of misconduct, his or her immediate supervisor, the appropriate Chair and Dean, and the Provost/VPAA.
The Provost/VPAA will appoint a special committee to conduct a formal investigation. The special committee will include five employees of the University who will proceed according to the guidelines in the policy and those in the Faculty Handbook.
The investigation normally will include examination of all documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data, proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls. The committee conducting the investigation will make every effort to interview all individuals who have made the allegation, been the subject of the allegation, or possess information regarding important aspects of it. Complete summaries of these interviews should be prepared, given to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and included as part of the investigatory file. The committee will secure whether expertise is necessary and appropriate to carry out a thorough and authoritative evaluation of the relevant evidence.
In the course of its work, the investigating committee may discover additional information that justifies broadening the scope of the investigation beyond the initial allegation. The committee should inform both the Provost/VPAA and the person whose conduct is being investigated when it intends to broaden the scope of an investigation.
The committee will submit its final report within 120 calendar days of its appointment. If the committee determines that it will not be able to meet this deadline, it must submit to the Provost/VPAA a written request for an extension that includes an explanation for the delay, an interim report on the progress to date, and an estimated date of completion.
The administrative officer will be responsible for maintaining records of the investigation in a secure manner for at least three years after completion of the investigation.
If the investigating committee finds that misconduct has occurred, sanctions may be implemented in accordance with procedures in the Faculty Handbook.
PROTECTION OF RIGHTS
Individuals against whom allegations of misconduct in research are made will be afforded confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible, a prompt and thorough inquiry and investigation if warranted, and an opportunity to comment on allegations and findings of any inquiry and investigation. When allegations are not confirmed, the University will make diligent efforts to protect the reputations of persons against whom the allegations have been made.
The University will also make diligent efforts to protect the privacy, reputations and positions of those who in good faith report apparent misconduct. Allegations that are not brought in good faith, however, may lead to disciplinary action.
PROTECTION OF WHISTLEBLOWERS
The administrative officer will monitor the treatment of individuals who bring allegations of misconduct and those who cooperate in inquiries or investigations. The administrative officer will ensure that these persons will not be retaliated against in the terms and conditions of their employment or other status at the institution and will review instances of alleged retaliation for appropriate action. Faculty or other employees should immediately report any alleged or apparent retaliation to the administrative officer. Also the University will protect the privacy of those who report misconduct in good faith to the maximum extent possible. For example, if the whistleblower requests anonymity, the University will make an effort to honor the request during the allegation assessment or inquiry within applicable policies and regulations and state and local laws, if any. The whistleblower will be advised that if the matter is referred to an investigation committee and the whistleblower’s testimony is required, anonymity may no longer be guaranteed. Institutions are required to undertake diligent efforts to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations.
INTERIM ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION
Pending final disposition of a case, the Provost/VPAA or the administrative officer may take interim administrative action to protect federal funds, the health and safety of research subjects, or the interests of the University.
NOTIFICATION OF SPONSORS
External sponsors have a right to expect that the integrity of research for which they provide funding will be maintained.
If the University decides after an initial inquiry to proceed with a formal investigation of misconduct in any research project supported by external funds, the administrative officer will notify the sponsoring agency on or before the date the investigation begins. The final report of the investigating committee will ordinarily be submitted to the agency within 120 days of the appointment of the committee. When government agencies or other sponsors require more detailed reporting procedures, the University will comply with those procedures.
Depending on the nature of misconduct that is found, the University may also have an ethical responsibility to notify other parties of the conclusions of a formal investigation. These parties may include research collaborators, editors of journals in which the research was published, professional licensing boards, other institutions with which the individual has been affiliated, or other persons or organizations with a direct interest in the matter.
COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL REGULATIONS
The University will comply with all federal regulations pertaining to misconduct in research.