scientific misconduct policy

TSU Office of General Counsel

Scientific Misconduct Policy
(Policies and Procedures for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science)

A.    Policy

Research is a component in the mission of Texas Southern University. Therefore, the University seeks to provide an environment that encourages research and creativity on the part of faculty and students. The University views research as an aspect of truth seeking and disapproves of scientific misconduct associated with research. Therefore, it is the policy of the University to conduct an inquiry and if necessary an investigation of any allegations of scientific misconduct by Texas Southern University faculty. If misconduct is proven, the University will invoke sanctions appropriate to the offense on the individual responsible. The University will promulgate to the faculty its procedures for dealing with scientific misconduct.

B.    Definition of Scientific Misconduct

Under this policy, scientific misconduct means (1) fabricating, falsifying, or plagiarizing any and all aspects of a scientific investigation in a manner that seriously deviates from those methods and practices that are commonly accepted in the scientific community relative to proposing, conducting and reporting the results of research. Honest errors or honest differences in interpretation of data or judgments are not considered to be scientific misconduct; (2) deliberate failure to implement federal requirements for protection of human subjects, the public, researchers and for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals; (3) deliberate failure to satisfy other material legal requirements governing research.

C.    Procedures for Determining Scientific Misconduct

Inquiry-Definition: A procedure for collecting information in order to determine if any allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants a formal investigation.

When an allegation of scientific misconduct is reported to a University administrator in writing, the Dean of Graduate School and Research will convene a three-person panel of inquiry consisting of the Dean and two faculty members. The dean will chair the committee. Members of the panel will be selected in equal numbers by the Chairman of the Faculty Council and the Head of the Department of the accused faculty member. Individuals selected must not have any real or apparent relationship to the case under investigation; and should have a suitable professional background for making critical decisions about the issues in the case. If the Dean of Graduate School and Research has a conflict of interest, the Vice President for Academic Affairs will be asked to appoint a chairman of the committee. The panel of inquiry must complete its inquiry and submit its report to the academic Vice President within a period of sixty (60) calendar days from the date of receipt of the allegation, including the preparation of the written report.

D.    Initiation of an Inquiry

An inquiry will be initiated if a complaint is received and it appears to the Dean of Graduate School and Research that there is sufficient evidence that warrants further investigation. The inquiry, therefore, is a fact-finding probe to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a full investigation of the charges.

To initiate the inquiry a committee will be appointed and the affected person(s) will be notified of the charges and the process that will be followed in the inquiry. The affected person (s) will be invited to submit appropriate information, data and materials to the committee within a specified period of time. If the affected individual(s) refuses to cooperate, the committee will file its report with the Academic Vice President and the President.

Before, during and after the inquiry, the panel will put forth a special effort to protect the privacy of those who in good faith have reported apparent misconduct. Likewise, the panel will afford the affected individual(s) confidential treatment to the extent possible, a prompt inquiry into the facts and an opportunity to respond to allegations and the findings of the inquiry.

During the inquiry, the panel will call witnesses, and examine relevant documents in order to determine if a formal investigation of the charges is warranted. If the panel votes unanimously that a full investigation should be made, then the panel will recommend that this action be followed.

Witnesses will be given a written summary of their testimony and will have an opportunity to clarify the summary before it is put in the final report.

Following the conclusion of the inquiry the affected person(s) will receive a copy of the panel's report and will have seven working days to submit a written response, if desired. The written response will become a part of the panel's final report.

If the panel determines that no investigation is warranted, all parties will be informed and the proceedings will end with the filing of the final report. All parties and actions pertaining to the inquiry will be held in strictest confidence. However, the University will maintain the records in a safe place for a minimum of three (3) years for submission, if necessary, to appropriate agencies.

If a determination is made that a formal investigation of the charges should be conducted, the President, and Academic Vice President must be notified in writing so that the investigation can begin. If the research was supported by a federal agency, the Public Health Service (PHS), Office Of Scientific Integrity (OSI) will be notified of the impending investigation of possible scientific misconduct.

E.     Procedure for the Investigation of Possible Scientific Misconduct

An investigation entails the formal, confidential examination and evaluation of all appropriate facts pertaining to the charge to determine if scientific misconduct has occurred.

The investigation must begin within a period of thirty (30) calendar days after the closing of an inquiry that shows "cause" and must conclude within 120 calendar days after its initiation.

The investigatory committee will consist of three faculty members and two administrators, four from Texas Southern University and one from another university. The outside faculty members and at least one from within Texas Southern must be in the academic discipline of the affected individual(s). The two administrators will be selected by the Academic Vice President who will also appoint one of them to chair the panel. One of the faculty members will be appointed by the department head and the other by the chairman of the Faculty Council. The Academic Vice President will be responsible for securing the outside faculty member. At least one of the faculty members from within the University must be from the same discipline as the accused faculty member. All faculty members must be tenured. No member of the panel can have a real or apparent conflict of interest.

For the purpose of conducting the hearings, a quorum will consist of a minimum of three panel members, the investigation will include the calling of witnesses, and reviewing of documents, including proposals, research data, correspondence, publications, memoranda, etc. If necessary, the panel may secure experts who are knowledgeable about the research studies under investigation.

The panel must maintain documentation to substantiate its Findings and provide witnesses with a summary of their testimonies for review and possible classification prior to inclusion in the final report. Every effort must be made to provide confidentiality to witnesses and to all affected individuals. If there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violations, OSI will be notified within twenty-four (24) hours of such determination.

If federal funds are involved, the sponsoring agency will decide if it wishes to conduct its own inquiry to utilize the findings of the institution. Furthermore, if the University decides to terminate an inquiry or investigation, as the case may be, the sponsoring federal agency must be informed and given the reasons for the termination. Then, the granting agency may decide whether it will conduct its own investigation.

F.     Conclusion

After the panel has heard all witnesses and received documents and other information and the affected individual(s) has had an opportunity to respond to the evidence, the panel will file a majority report, and if there is one, a minority report, with the President and with PHS, OSI and will be advised continually of developments during the investigation. The report will outline the protocol used by the panel in its investigation, the source of evidence, the findings as well as the basis on which the panel's findings were made. In addition, a summary of the views of each witness and of the affected individual(s) will be included. Maintenance of the report to substantiate the findings of the investigation will be continued for a period of three (3) years after PHS acceptance of the final report.

Immediately after the final report has been filed indicating scientific misconduct, a "hold" will be placed on the federal grant account supporting the research and will not be removed until approved by the President and PHS.

Based on the evidence in the report and the recommendations of the panel, the President will decide what sanctions, if any, should be applied and will initiate the process, if necessary, to apply to sanctions as specified in the University's Faculty Manual.

G.    Right to Appeal

A faculty member who has been found guilty of scientific misconduct may appeal the decision to the University's Board of Regents.