Policy on High Ethical Standards for Research
January 27, 1997
(Replaces policy dated April 22, 1996)
[Editorial changes made June 28, 2007]
See also the following UAB documents:
- Institutional Review Board Guidebook
- Institutional Review Board Assurance of Compliance
- Animal Resources Program Information Manual
NOTE: This policy has been adapted from a statement on "The Maintenance of High Ethical Standards in the Conduct of Research" (1982) published by the Executive Council of the Association of American Medical Colleges and has been revised to be in compliance with the Public Health Service final rule entitled "Responsibilities of Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science" (1989). It incorporates recommendations of the UAB Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee and the UAB Faculty Senate.
The principles that govern scientific research and scholarship have long been established and have been applied by faculties and administrators for the discovery of new knowledge needed by mankind. The maintenance of high ethical standards in research based on these principles is a central and critical responsibility of faculties and administrators of academic institutions. Validity and accuracy in the collecting and reporting of data are intrinsically essential to the scientific process; dishonesty in these endeavors runs counter to the very nature of research, that is, the pursuit of truth.
The responsibility of the academic community to the public is acknowledged. The maintenance of public trust in this pursuit is vital. In short, it is in the best interest of the public and of academic institutions to prevent misconduct in research and to deal effectively and responsibly with instances in which misconduct is suspected.
- UAB shall accept as faculty members only those individuals whose career activities clearly demonstrate the highest ethical standards. To this end, the credentials of all potential faculty are to be thoroughly examined by the appropriate department/unit heads or their representatives in order to verify the claimed accomplishments of the candidate. The appropriate department/unit heads or their representatives shall seek further confirmation of the candidate's accomplishments during the normal procedures of personal interviews and letters from references. Proof of faculty credentials shall be maintained by the appropriate dean or department head.
- Faculty members who are in supervisory positions with regard to colleagues, fellows, technicians, and students are expected to work closely with those individuals to provide them with appropriate guidance and counsel to the end that those individuals continue to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.
- The faculty is encouraged to increase student and staff awareness of the importance of maintaining high ethical standards in research and to discuss issues related to research ethics in formal courses, in seminars, and by other informal means.
- Research results should be supported by verifiable evidence. Faculty and staff should maintain sufficient written records or other documentation of their studies. It is the responsibility of department/unit heads, division directors, and experienced investigators to develop among junior colleagues and students the necessary respect for careful recording and preservation of primary data.
- The faculty is encouraged to engage in free discussion of results, to share data and techniques, and to avoid secrecy in the conduct of original investigations. It should be remembered that independent confirmation of results is important in direct proportion to the potential significance of the results in question and may be crucial to the establishment of new concepts.
- Faculty members are responsible for the quality of all reports based on their own efforts or on the collaborative work of students, technicians, or colleagues, especially those which bear the faculty member's name. The term "reports" as used here includes, but is not limited to, manuscripts submitted for publication and abstracts submitted for presentation at meetings. The same standards of scientific integrity apply to abstracts as to full-length publications. Abstracts or other reports of preliminary findings should indicate clearly that the findings are preliminary. No faculty member shall allow his/her name to be used on any report containing results for which that faculty member cannot assume full professional and ethical responsibility.
- Any UAB employee (including, but not limited to, regular and adjunct faculty, fellows, technicians, and student employees) or any UAB student who has reason to suspect any other employee or student of misconduct with regard to the conducting or reporting of research has the responsibility of following up these suspicions in accordance with the procedures outlined below. For purposes of this policy, "misconduct" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices which seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Intentionally withholding information relevant to the investigation of an alleged case of misconduct, intentionally pressuring others to do so, or bringing malicious charges against another individual shall itself be considered misconduct. Also, any act of interference, retaliation, or coercion by a UAB employee against a student or employee for using this policy is prohibited and is itself a violation of this policy.
Procedures To Be Followed
The "Scientific Misconduct Allegation Review Checklist" attached to this policy is to be used in conjunction with the procedures in this section.
It is the responsibility of student employees, trainees, fellows, faculty members, staff members, or other employees who become aware of misconduct in research and other scholarly activities to report such misconduct to one of the following: (a) their department/unit head, (b) the dean of the school in which their department/unit is located, or (c) the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer. In the case of graduate students or of trainees at any level, such evidence also may be reported to the Dean of the Graduate School.
The individual receiving such evidence of misconduct must immediately report such evidence and the allegation of misconduct to the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer, the department/unit head and the dean of the unit in which the alleged misconduct occurred, and the Provost. If the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer determines that the allegation warrants initiation of the inquiry process, the inquiry shall be initiated immediately, and the Office of Counsel shall be informed.
Allegations of this nature are very serious matters, and all parties involved should take measures to assure that the positions and reputations of all individuals named in such allegations and all individuals who in good faith report apparent misconduct are protected. Details of the charge, the name of the accused, the identity of the individual bringing suspected fraud, and all other information about the case shall be kept confidential as far as possible, compatible with investigating the case. Revealing confidential information to those not involved in the investigation shall itself be considered misconduct.
Because UAB is interested in protecting the health and safety of research subjects, students, staff, and faculty and because UAB is responsible for protecting sponsored research funds and for ensuring that those funds are spent for the purposes for which they were given, if the situation warrants it, interim administrative action may be used prior to conclusion of either the inquiry or the investigation to provide for the protection of individuals and funds in accordance with existing UAB policy. Such action includes, but is not limited to, administrative suspension; re-assignment of student(s); involvement of the Institutional Review Board, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and the Office of Internal Audit-UAB; or notification of external sponsors when required by federal regulations.
Initial Inquiry: For purposes of this policy, "inquiry" means information gathering and initial fact finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of scientific misconduct warrants an investigation.
- The department/unit head or dean conducting the inquiry shall keep the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer informed and may request assistance from the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer. The UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall keep the Office of Counsel informed during the inquiry process, and the Office of Counsel shall provide advice concerning procedural matters. In order to ensure that a real or apparent conflict of interest does not exist, the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall review the selection of persons to be involved in the inquiry. If it is determined that a conflict of interest exists, the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer is responsible for designating who will be involved in the inquiry.
If UAB plans to terminate an inquiry for any reason prior to completion of the normal progression of such an inquiry, the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall notify the federal Office of Research Integrity and shall include in that notification a description of the reasons for termination of the inquiry.
UAB will make every effort to complete the inquiry within 60 days of its initiation. If the inquiry extends beyond 60 days, the reasons for the extension will be documented by the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer and will be retained with the record of the inquiry.
The written report of the inquiry shall state what evidence was reviewed, shall indicate the relevant expertise of the persons reviewing the evidence, shall summarize the relevant interviews, and shall include the conclusions of the inquiry. The individual(s) against whom the allegation was made shall be given a copy of the inquiry report and shall have an opportunity to make written comment regarding the report. This report, including a conclusion as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that misconduct has occurred, shall be forwarded to the Provost (with a copy to the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer) through the appropriate dean who should make whatever comment or recommendation is deemed warranted.
- The Provost, with the advice and counsel of the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer and others as appropriate, shall decide whether to close the matter or to appoint an Investigating Committee. If findings from the inquiry provide sufficient basis for conducting an investigation, the investigation must be started within 30 days of completion of the inquiry. The written report of the inquiry will be made available to the Investigating Committee.
- If the Provost determines that it is not necessary to undertake an investigation, the Provost will report to the President the reasons for this decision and the findings of the inquiry. The report will be maintained in a secure manner for at least three years by the Office of the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer.
Investigation: For purposes of this policy, "investigation" means the formal examination and evaluation by a committee of all relevant facts to determine if scientific misconduct has occurred.
- The Investigating Committee is appointed by the Provost and will elect its own chairperson. Members of the Committee shall consist of at least three tenured faculty members who have the expertise to deal with technical aspects of the activities in question. At least two of these faculty members must be from outside the suspected individual's department. The Provost shall take precautions not to appoint any committee member who has a real or apparent conflict of interest with the outcome of the investigation.
The chairperson shall conduct meetings of the Investigating Committee as frequently as required in order to determine whether or not the activities in question do indeed constitute misconduct. All such meetings and the deliberations thereof shall be held in confidence to protect the affected individual or individuals. Those accused of misconduct shall be given a written summary of the charges and supporting evidence and shall be afforded an opportunity to appear before the Committee to comment on allegations. The accused may be represented by counsel. The Office of Counsel shall be kept informed of the investigation process and shall advise the Investigating Committee concerning procedural matters.
The Committee should take no more than 60 days to complete its review and to prepare its report for submission to the President. UAB will make every effort to complete all investigative matters within 120 days from initiation of the investigation. This includes the work of the committee, preparing the report, submitting the report to the President, making the report available for comment by the subject(s) of the investigation, and submitting the final report to the federal Office of Research Integrity. If the investigation cannot be completed within 120 days, the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall request an extension from the federal Office of Research Integrity. The extension request will include an explanation for the delay, an interim report on progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of completion.
If UAB plans to terminate an investigation for any reason prior to completion of the normal progression of such an investigation, the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall notify the federal Office of Research Integrity of UAB's plan to terminate the investigation and shall include a description of the reasons for such termination.
- The President, based on the Investigating Committee's findings and responses to those findings, shall determine what actions are appropriate. Appropriate actions may include discharge from employment at UAB or expulsion from UAB in the case of a student. Such actions shall be consistently applied throughout UAB. The President will notify the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer who in turn will work with the Office of Grants and Contracts Administration to notify any agencies or foundations supporting the research in question and any journals or other publications which may have been affected by the publication of results of that research.
- The UAB Scientific Integrity Officer shall submit the report of the investigation to the federal Office of Research Integrity and shall include in that report the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation, the findings of the investigation, and the basis of the findings. Also included will be a description of any sanctions taken by UAB and the actual text of, or an accurate summary of, the views of any individual(s) found to have engaged in scientific misconduct.
- If the Provost initiates a formal investigation, any agency or foundation supporting the research in question shall be notified by the Director of the Office of Grants and Contracts Administration upon receipt of information from the UAB Scientific Integrity Officer. Any such agency or foundation shall be notified immediately if it is ascertained at any time during the initial inquiry or subsequent investigation that there is an immediate health hazard involved; an immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment; an immediate need to protect the interests of the persons making the allegations, the individuals who are the subject of the allegations, or any co-investigators and associates, if any; a probability that the alleged incident is going to be publicly reported; or a possibility that criminal violation has occurred. The agencies also will be given interim reports of any investigation should the circumstances warrant.
- If the initial inquiry or the subsequent investigation indicates that the allegations are unsubstantiated, UAB will make diligent efforts to restore the reputation of those accused at UAB, with any involved funding agencies and elsewhere.
- Any involved funding agencies shall be notified of the final outcome of any investigation.
The form entitled "Scientific Misconduct Allegation Review Checklist" as attached to this policy is to be used as a guideline and summary of documentation related to reviews of allegations of violations of this policy. The form may be revised from time to time without affecting the policy itself.