Policy Concerning the Responsible Conduct of Research and Other Scholarly Activities

Policy Concerning the Responsible Conduct of Research and Other Scholarly Activities

Abstract:
This policy underscores the ethical principles for responsible conduct by which all UAB faculty, employees, and trainees must abide in the performance, recording, and reporting of research and scholarly activities. It also sets forth the procedures to be followed in the case of suspected research misconduct, from preliminary assessment through final outcome of an investigation.
Effective Date:
1/2/2013
Contacts:
Research Integrity Officer
Administrative Category:
Applies To:
Faculty, Staff, Students
Material Original Source:

 

University of Alabama at Birmingham
 
POLICY CONCERNING THE RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH AND OTHER SCHOLARLY ACTIVITIES
 
January 2, 2013
 
 
[Replaces January 27, 1997 policy, “POLICY CONCERNING THE MAINTENANCE OF HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS IN RESEARCH AND OTHER SCHOLARLY ACTIVITIES”]
 
 
See also the following UAB documents:
  Institutional Review Board Assurance of Compliance
  Animal Resources Program Information Manual
 
 
NOTE: The previous version of this policy was 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. The current version, while based on the 1997 version, has been modified to conform to the Public Health Service Policies on Research Misconduct: Final Rule, 42 CFR Parts 50 and 93, published May 17, 2005 in the Federal Register. This policy is broad in scope and addresses, as the title states, “ethical standards in research and other scholarly activities.”
 
 
Introduction
  
The maintenance of high ethical standards in research and scholarly activities is paramount to ensuring the success of UAB’s mission and demonstrates UAB’s values in action.  Validity and accuracy in performing, recording, and reporting research and other scholarly activities are intrinsically essential to the process for discovery of new knowledge; dishonesty in these endeavors runs counter to the very nature of research and scholarly activities, that is, the pursuit of truth and public trust. 
 
It is in the best interest of the public and of academic institutions to prevent misconduct in research and scholarly activities and to deal effectively and responsibly with instances in which misconduct is suspected.  This policy supports these fundamental values and reinforces the expectations of UAB community members as expressed in the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct. 
 
 
Definitions
 

For purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply:

Allegation – A disclosure of possible Research Misconduct through any means of communication
 
Assessment – A review to determine if the Allegation states a potential claim of Research Misconduct, as defined by this policy, and if the Allegation is sufficiently credible and specific to identify possible evidence of Research Misconduct.
 
Fabrication – Making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
 
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.
 
Inquiry – A process conducted by a committee involving information gathering and initial fact finding to determine whether an Allegation of Research Misconduct requires further review and to determine the Respondent(s).
 
Investigation – A formal examination and evaluation of facts conducted by a committee for the purpose of determining if Research Misconduct has occurred and, if Misconduct is established, to identify the person(s) responsible. 
 
Plagiarism – Appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words, without giving appropriate credit.
 
Reports – Work product, including but not limited to, manuscripts submitted for publication, publications or presentations, abstracts submitted for presentations at meetings, summaries of Research  or other deliverables to Research sponsors, and any internal Research summaries, publications or presentations. 
 
Research – A systematic experiment, study, evaluation, demonstration,  survey, or other scholarly work   designed to develop or contribute to general knowledge or specific knowledge.
 
Research Misconduct – Fabrication, Falsification or Plagiarism in proposing, recording, performing or reviewing Research, or in reporting Research results.  
 
Respondent – the individual against whom an Allegation of Research Misconduct is directed or who is the subject of a Research Misconduct proceeding.
 
 
Policy Statement
 
  1. UAB shall accept as employees only those individuals whose career activities clearly demonstrate the highest ethical standards.  To this end, the relevant credentials of all potential employees 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 responsible 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 responsible dean or department head in accordance with appropriate records retention policies and schedules.

  2. Faculty members and any individuals who supervise colleagues, fellows, technicians, staff, or students are expected to provide them with appropriate guidance and counsel to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.

  3. The UAB academic and research community is encouraged to promote individual awareness of the importance of maintaining high ethical standards in Research and scholarly activities and to discuss issues related to Research ethics in formal courses, in seminars, and by other informal means.

  4. Results of Research and scholarly activities should be supported by verifiable evidence.  Faculty and staff should maintain sufficient records or other documentation of their studies for at least six years following the most recent use of such records or information contained in such records.  It is the responsibility of senior investigators and scholars to develop among junior colleagues and trainees the necessary respect for careful recording and preservation of primary data.

  5. The UAB research and academic community is encouraged to engage in free discussion of results, to share data and techniques, and to avoid secrecy in the conduct of scholarly activities, provided such free discussion and sharing are consistent with the proper protection of intellectual property.  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.

  6. 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 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.   Any Report of Research results must include the name of at least one faculty member, employee, or trainee who assumes full professional and ethical responsibility for the contents of the Report.  Each contributor to the Report must assume full responsibility for their own contributions to the Report.  UAB supports the practice of explicitly describing the role(s) of each contributor in the conduct of the project and preparation of resulting Report(s).

  7. Any faculty member, employee, or trainee who has reason to suspect any other faculty member, employee, or trainee of Research Misconduct with regard to the conduct or reporting of Research has the responsibility of following up these suspicions in accordance with the procedures outlined below.

     
  8. Research Misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences of opinion. Intentionally withholding information relevant to the review of Research Misconduct, intentionally pressuring others to do so, or bringing malicious charges against another individual shall be considered a violation of this policy and the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct.  Additionally, any act of interference, retaliation or coercion by a UAB employee against a faculty member, employee, or trainee for using this policy is prohibited and is also a violation of this policy and the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct. 

  9. A finding of Research Misconduct requires that: 1) there is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant Research or scholarly community; 2) the Research Misconduct is committed intentionally, or knowingly or recklessly; and 3) the alleged Research Misconduct is proven by a preponderance of the evidence.  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.

  10. 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 Research Misconduct are protected.  Details of the charge, the name of the accused, the identity of the complainant, 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 review shall itself be considered a violation of this policy and the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct.

  11. 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 resources, if the situation warrants it, interim administrative action may be taken prior to conclusion of either the Inquiry or the Investigation to provide protection for individuals and resources 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, the University Compliance Office, and the Office of Internal Audit-UAB; or notification of external sponsors when required by federal regulations.

  12. In the event that a respondent is employed by UAB and another organization, UAB may share information with such employees of the other organization as it deems appropriate and employees from such organization may also participate in the process set forth in this Policy as UAB deems appropriate.
  
Procedures To Be Followed

 

Reporting Allegations of Research Misconduct

It is the responsibility of faculty, employees, and trainees who become aware of Research Misconduct to report such Research Misconduct to one of the following: (a) their department/unit head, (b) the dean of the school in which their department/unit is located, (c) the UAB Research Integrity Officer (RIO), or (d) the UAB Ethics Matters Hotline.  In the case of graduate students or of trainees at any level, such evidence also may be reported to a faculty mentor or the Dean of the Graduate School.  Those individuals receiving such Allegations or evidence of Research Misconduct must immediately report to the UAB RIO. The RIO will report the Allegation to the Dean of the unit in which the alleged Research Misconduct occurred and to the Provost. In the event that there are Allegations against a Dean or other member of senior leadership, the RIO will consult with the Office of Counsel regarding the appropriate reporting line. 

 

Assessment

In consultation with the Dean and the Provost, or other appropriate responsible official, the RIO will conduct or direct a preliminary Assessment of the information presented.  The purpose of the preliminary Assessment is to determine if the Allegation states a potential claim of Research Misconduct, as defined by this policy, and if the Allegation is sufficiently credible and specific to identify possible evidence of Research Misconduct.  If these criteria are met, the RIO will inform the appropriate department/unit head and the Office of Counsel and will initiate an Inquiry.  Reporting Allegations to the department/unit head in advance of the preliminary Assessment will be at the discretion of the Dean.

 
Inquiry  
  1. If, as a result of the Assessment, an Inquiry is deemed necessary, the RIO will prepare a written summary of Allegations for the suspected individual (respondent), if named or known, which will be delivered in a manner sensitive to the confidentiality of the process.  At the time the summary of the Allegations of Research Misconduct is delivered to the respondent, i.e., the accused party, records thought to be relevant to the Allegation(s) will be sequestered by the RIO or his/her designee.  Such records will be inventoried and, thereafter, access to the originals or copies will be provided, to the respondent or his/her designee, as may be necessary.  Original records will be retained by the RIO for the duration of the Inquiry/Investigation.

  2. In consultation with the Dean(s), the RIO shall appoint a committee of faculty members to investigate the charges through an Inquiry process, including interviews with the individual making the Allegation (complainant, if known), the respondent (if one is known), and such other individuals deemed necessary to determine whether the Allegation warrants an Investigation.  The RIO will appoint the committee chair.  The Inquiry Committee will usually be comprised of at least three members with relevant expertise who, preferably, do not hold primary academic appointments in the department of the respondent.  To ensure that necessary expertise is available to the Inquiry Committee, advice may be sought from appropriate individuals outside the Committee and University.  The RIO shall consult with the Dean, the proposed members of the Committee, and the respondent in order to ensure that a real or apparent conflict of interest does not exist between the Committee members and the complainant, or the Committee members and the respondent.  The decision of the RIO regarding an alleged conflict of interest shall be final.

  3. UAB will endeavor 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 RIO and will be retained with the record of the Inquiry.

  4. The RIO shall keep the Dean or department/unit head and the Office of Counsel informed during the Inquiry process, and the Office of Counsel shall provide advice concerning procedural matters.

  5. The written report of the Inquiry shall state what evidence was reviewed, shall summarize the relevant interviews, and shall include the conclusions of the Inquiry and the basis for its recommendation.  The respondent(s) shall be given a copy of the Inquiry report and shall have up to 14 calendar days to make written comment regarding the report.  This report, including a conclusion as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that Research Misconduct has occurred, shall be forwarded to the Provost (with a copy to the UAB RIO) through the appropriate dean who should make whatever comment or recommendation is deemed warranted.

  6. The Provost, with the advice and counsel of the RIO and others, as appropriate, shall decide whether to close the matter following the Inquiry or whether sufficient basis exists to proceed with an Investigation.
 
Investigation  
  1. The RIO, in consultation with the Provost and others, as necessary, will initiate a formal Investigation and appoint an Investigation Committee within 30 days of the completion of the Inquiry.  The written report of the Inquiry will be made available to the Investigation Committee.

     
  2. The RIO shall appoint a chair of the Committee.  The Investigation Committee will usually be comprised of at least five members who, if possible, do not hold primary faculty appointments in the department of the respondent(s) and were not part of the Inquiry proceeding.  The RIO shall consult with the Provost, the proposed members of the committee, and the respondent to ensure that a real or apparent conflict of interest does not exist between the Committee members and the complainant, or the Committee members and the respondent.  The decision of the RIO regarding an alleged conflict of interest shall be final.

  3. If applicable, upon initiation of an Investigation, the RIO will notify the appropriate oversight agency or body, for example, the Office of Research Integrity, in accordance with federal regulations and in consultation with the Provost.  Appropriate funding agencies or journals shall be notified if it is ascertained during the Inquiry or Investigation that the potential Research Misconduct constitutes an immediate health hazard or, if such notification is necessary 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, or, if it is likely that the alleged incident is going to be publicly reported or if there is a likelihood that a criminal violation has occurred.

  4. The chairperson shall conduct meetings of the Investigation Committee as frequently as required in order to determine whether or not the activities alleged in the charge constitute Research Misconduct, and, if so, to identify the individual(s) responsible.  During the course of the Investigation, new charges and/or different respondents may be identified and the Investigation may be modified accordingly.  If additional Research data are thought to be relevant to the Investigation, they may be sequestered and access to the originals or copies will be provided, as may be necessary. 

  5. The respondent(s) will be given a written summary of the charge(s) and access to supporting evidence, and will be afforded an opportunity to appear before the Committee to comment on Allegations.  The respondent may be accompanied by an advisor of his or her choosing, but the advisor may not participate in the proceeding or address the Committee.  The Committee will base its findings and conclusions on a preponderance of the evidence considered.

  6. All meetings and deliberations of the Investigation Committee shall be held in confidence.  The RIO and/or his or her designee(s) and a representative of the Office of Counsel may be present at meetings for technical assistance and to provide guidance and advice as to process.  The Committee may call upon persons with technical expertise for assistance in the review of data or in the investigative process, as necessary.  Technical expertise may be sought from within or outside the University, at the discretion of the Committee.  If persons called to meet with the Committee are unable to meet face-to-face, interviews may occur by other means.  Interviews of persons appearing before the committee in formal session, whether in person or remotely, will be recorded and transcribed.  In some instances, one or more members of the Committee may be authorized to conduct an interview on behalf of the entire Committee.

  7. The Committee will endeavor to complete its review and report for submission to the President within 120 days of being charged with its task.  This time period includes 30 days for the respondent to provide a written response to the report (see below).  In the event that a case takes longer to resolve, the RIO will request , if required, extensions from the appropriate oversight agency or body, for example the Office of Research Integrity for PHS-funded research.

  8. A copy of the Committee’s report will be provided to the respondent, who will have up to 30 calendar days to provide a written response, if desired.  Such response will be included as an appendix to the report submitted to the President.  A respondent found by the Investigation Committee to have committed Research Misconduct will also have 30 calendar days to submit a written appeal of the findings and conclusion(s) of the Committee to the President. An individual found by the Investigation Committee to have committed Research Misconduct may or may not be the respondent identified in the original Allegation.

  9. The President, based on the Investigation Committee's findings and responses to those findings, shall determine what actions are appropriate; such actions may include discharge from employment at UAB or, in the case of a student, expulsion from UAB.  The President will notify the UAB RIO who in turn will work with the appropriate UAB offices to notify any sponsors 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 President’s decision is final.

  10. If applicable, the UAB RIO shall submit the report of the Investigation to the appropriate federal oversight agency, e.g., 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 Research Misconduct.