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Human Resources

Human Resources

Policies and Procedures

Ethical Research Policy (faculty)

Effective 10/19/13
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Table of Contents

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Scope
  3. Reporting Suspected Research Misconduct
  4. Investigation of Allegations
  5. Retaliation
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Definitions
  8. Other Related Policies, Documents and Resources

1. Policy Statement

Eckerd College's supports a faculty dedicated to fostering student learning through effective teaching and mentoring, productive scholarship and artistic endeavor, and broad participation in the campus community. Eckerd faculty are encouraged to be active scholars, in pursuit of research opportunities for their students and themselves. The College's increasing interest in sponsored research requires that Eckerd establishes an institutional process to respond to allegations or evidence of misconduct in sponsored research.
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2. Scope

This Policy applies to all instances of alleged or apparent misconduct involving research, research training, and applications for support of research conducted, funded or regulated by the Federal Government including the Department of Health and Human services.  The Policy applies to any College employee, faculty, student, staff or other individual who participates in the research project. This Policy carries out Eckerd College’s responsibilities under the Public Health Service (PHS) Policies on Research Misconduct, 42 CFR Part 93

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3. Reporting Suspected Research Misconduct

The general purpose of this section is to establish Eckerd College’s policy on disclosure of research misconduct, to protect research subjects, as well as to protect those individuals from retaliation for disclosing what they believe evidences research misconduct. All employees or individuals associated with the College should report observed, suspected, or apparent misconduct in research to the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA).

Reporter Protection
Eckerd will use its best efforts to protect employees reporting research misconduct against retaliation. Eckerd College cannot guarantee confidentiality. The College will keep the reporter’s identity confidential, unless: (1) the person agrees to be identified; (2) identification is necessary to allow Eckerd College to respond effectively to the report; (3) identification is required by law; or (4) the person accused is entitled to the information as a matter of legal right in disciplinary proceedings.
Reporting Procedure
The College has a responsibility to investigate and report to appropriate parties research misconduct, and to protect those employees who, in good faith, report these activities to the appropriate authority. A complaint procedure has been established for employees to report concerns about research misconduct.

The process for reporting suspected research misconduct is as follows:
  1. Employees wishing to file a complaint about misconduct can call the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA). The VPAA’s telephone number for this purpose is 727-864-8212.
  2. The VPAA or his/her designee shall consider the disclosure and take whatever action he or she determines to be appropriate under the law and circumstances of the disclosure.
  3. In the case of disclosure of misconduct which involves or potentially involves the VPAA, the disclosure may be directed to the President of the College. The President can be reached at 727-864-8211.
  4. Reasonable care should be taken in dealing with suspected misconduct to avoid:
    1. Baseless allegations
    2. Premature notice to persons suspected of misconduct and/or disclosure of suspected misconduct to others not involved with the investigation.
    3. Violations of a person’s rights under the law.

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4. Investigation of Allegations

(a) Inquiry
The VPAA will have primary responsibility for implementation of the procedures set forth in this document. The VPAA is the College official who is qualified to handle the procedural requirements involved and is sensitive to the varied demands made on those who conduct research, those who are accused of misconduct, and those who report apparent misconduct in good faith.

The VPAA will be responsible for making reports and providing information to research sponsors in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and research funding agreements. In particular, the VPAA will, to the extent and in the manner required by applicable law and regulations, report to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and keep ORI apprised of any developments during the course of the inquiry or investigation that may affect current or potential funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the individual(s) under investigation or that Public Health Services (PHS) needs to know to ensure appropriate use of Federal funds and otherwise protect the public interest. In the event that the VPAA is unable to fulfill any of the responsibilities set forth herein for any reason, such responsibilities will be fulfilled by a designee of the President of the College.

(i) No Violations of Policy
Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the VPAA will promptly assess the allegation to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an inquiry and whether the allegation falls under the definition of research misconduct.

If relevant, the VPAA will determine whether the complainant's allegations of research misconduct were made in good faith. If the VPAA determines that the allegations were baseless, he/she will undertake appropriate administrative actions necessary against the person who failed to act in good faith.

(ii) Informal Inquiry
Following a preliminary assessment of the case, if the VPAA determines that the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified and falls under the definition of research misconduct as set forth below, he or she will promptly initiate an informal inquiry. The VPAA will provide written notice of the inquiry to the respondent. In initiating the inquiry, and in providing notice to the respondent, the VPAA will clearly identify the original allegation and any related issues. The purpose of the inquiry is to make a preliminary evaluation of the available evidence and testimony of the respondent, complainant, and key witnesses to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of possible research misconduct to warrant an investigation. The purpose of the inquiry is not to reach a final conclusion about whether misconduct definitely occurred or who was responsible. The findings of the inquiry will be set forth in an inquiry report.

The inquiry report will be presented to the President for review. The President will make the determination if a full investigation is warranted and will inform the VPAA of his/her decision.

(iii) Formal Inquiry
If the President determines that an investigation is warranted, the VPAA will oversee the appointment of an investigation committee, with consideration that necessary and appropriate expertise may be appropriate to carry out a thorough and authoritative evaluation of the relevant evidence in the investigation. The VPAA will maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings, consistent with this policy and other applicable policies and law. The VPAA may, in his or her discretion, be assisted in fulfilling these responsibilities. The VPAA will assist the investigation committee and college personnel in complying with these procedures and with applicable standards imposed by government or external funding sources. The VPAA is also responsible for maintaining files of all documents and evidence and for the confidentiality and the security of the files.

An investigation committee will ordinarily be appointed and the investigation process initiated within thirty (30) days of the completion of the inquiry by the VPAA, if findings from that inquiry provide a sufficient basis for conducting an investigation. The investigation will normally involve examination of all relevant documentation including, as applicable, but not necessarily limited to, research records, computer files, proposals, manuscripts, publications, correspondence, memoranda, and notes of telephone calls. Whenever possible, the committee will interview the complainant(s), the respondents(s), and other individuals who might have information regarding aspects of the allegations. Interviews of the respondent should ordinarily be tape recorded or transcribed. All other interviews should ordinarily be transcribed, tape recorded, or summarized. For major witnesses, summaries or transcripts of the interviews should be prepared, provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and included as part of the investigatory file.

(b) Findings
Once the initial investigation has concluded, the committee will draft a report that summarizes the investigation process, the basis of the complaint, the response of the respondent, as well as other relevant evidence. The committee shall make a recommendation on how to proceed from this point.

The VPAA will provide the respondent with a copy of the draft investigation report for comment. The draft investigation report will provide a detailed description of all testimony and other evidence upon which the investigation committee intends to rely in making its findings. Within four (4) business days after receipt of the draft report, the respondent may submit a written request for copies of summaries or transcripts of testimony and copies of other documentary evidence cited in the draft report. The respondent will be permitted fourteen (14) business days from receipt of the draft investigation report or ten (10) business days from the receipt of requested copies of summaries or transcripts of testimony and/or copies of other documentary evidence, whichever is later, to review and comment on the draft report. The respondent's comments will be attached to the final report. The findings of the final report will take into account the respondent's comments in addition to all the other evidence.

The VPAA will provide the complainant; if he or she is identifiable, with those portions of the draft investigation report that address the complainant's role and opinions in the investigation. The report will take into account, as appropriate, the complainant's comments.

In distributing the draft report, or portions thereof, or copies of testimony or other evidence referred to therein, to the respondent and complainant, the VPAA will inform the recipient of the confidentiality under which the draft report and all such evidence are made available and may establish reasonable conditions to address such confidentiality. The recipient(s) of the draft report and all evidence made available may be requested to sign a confidentiality statement or to comply with other measures to protect the confidentiality of the draft report.

The President will make the final determination whether to accept the investigation committee's report, its findings, and any recommendations, including any recommendations for actions to redress the consequence of the misconduct in accordance with the Faculty Handbook. If this determination varies from that of the investigation committee, the President will provide the basis for rendering a decision different from that of the investigation committee in the letter that the College will transmit with the report to ORI in cases of PHS-funded research. The explanation of the President will be consistent with the definition of research misconduct, the policies and procedures of the College, and the evidence reviewed and analyzed by the investigation committee. The President may also return the report to the investigation committee with a request for further fact-finding or analysis. The determination of the President, together with the investigation committee's report, constitutes the final investigation report for purposes of ORI review. For other types of grant funded projects, the President will comply with all disclosures and provide the information required by the grantor.

(c) Disposition
When a final decision on the case has been reached, the VPAA will notify both the respondent and the complainant in writing. The VPAA shall provide a copy of the final written decision to the respondent. In addition, the President will determine whether law enforcement agencies, professional societies, professional licensing boards, editors of journals in which falsified reports may have been published, collaborators of the respondent in the work, or other relevant parties should be notified of the outcome of the case. The VPAA is responsible for ensuring compliance with all notification requirements of funding or sponsoring agencies.

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5. Retaliation

The College does not support or condone retaliation against anyone that reports possible research misconduct in good faith. Anyone that comes forward with a concern about a practice that they believe, in good faith, to be a violation of law, rule, policy, or otherwise constitute misconduct should be treated courteously and respectfully.

If an employee or student believes that he or she has been retaliated against in the form of an adverse action for reporting possible misconduct under this policy, he or she may file a written complaint with the office of Human Resources. The complaint shall be filed within a time period not to exceed 90 days from the day of occurrence. Complaints should be in writing and shall include:

  • Name and contact information of the complainant;
  • Name and title of the official(s) against whom the complaint is made;
  • The specific type(s) of adverse action(s) taken;
  • The specific date(s) on which the adverse action(s) were taken;
  • A clear and concise statement of the facts that form the basis of the complaint;
  • A clear and concise statement of the complainant's explanation of how his or her report of possible misconduct is related to the adverse action; and
  • A clear and concise statement of the remedy sought by the complainant

Within sixty (60) calendar days of receipt of complaint, the office of Human Resources shall consider the written complaint, shall conduct, or have conducted an investigation which, in his or her judgment, is consistent with the circumstances of the complaint and disclosure, and shall report to the complainant the conclusions of the investigation absent overriding legal or public interest reasons. The identity of the complainant and the subject of the complaint shall be kept confidential to the extent possible within the legitimate needs of law and the investigation.

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6. Confidentiality

The VPPA shall, as required by 42 CFR § 93.108 :  (1) limit disclosure of the identity of respondents and complainants to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective and fair research misconduct proceeding; and (2) except as otherwise  prescribed by law, limit the disclosure of any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified to those who need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding.  The VPPA shall use written confidentiality agreements or other mechanisms to ensure that the recipient does not make any further disclosure of identifying information.  Depending on the case and the specific circumstances, the College may provide confidentiality for witnesses when the situation indicates that the witnesses may be intimidated.

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7. Definitions

Allegation means any written or oral statement or other indication of possible research misconduct made to the VPAA

College means Eckerd College

Complainant means the person making allegations in good faith, maintaining confidentiality, and cooperating with the inquiry and investigation.

Falsification and/or Fabrication – The office of research integrity defines these terms as 

  • Completing a questionnaire for a fictitious subject that was never interviewed (refer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Research Integrity's site);
  • Creating a data set for an experiment that was never actually conducted;
  • Adding fictitious data to a real data set collected during an actual experiment for the purpose of providing additional statistical validity; and
  • Inserting a clinical note into the research record to indicate compliance with an element of the protocol.

Fabrication of data is rendered punishable when the false data is incorporated into the official study notebook; submitted to a funding agency; or publicly disseminated through the process of publication, patent application, or at a public forum such as a professional meeting, seminar, or symposium; regardless of whether the data is subsequently published or not.

Research Misconduct includes, without limitation, fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research or in reporting research results.

Investigation means the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if misconduct has occurred.

Office of Research Integrity means the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity.

Public Health Services (PHS) means United States Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Respondent means the individual accused of misconduct.  The respondent is responsible for maintaining confidentiality and cooperating with the conduct of an inquiry and investigation.

Research Record means any data, document, electronic file, or any other written or non-written account or object that reasonably may be expected to provide evidence or information regarding the proposed, conducted, or reported research that constitutes the subject of an allegation of misconduct. A research record includes, but is not limited to, grant or contract application, whether funded or unfunded; grant or contract progress and other reports; laboratory notebooks; notes; correspondence; videos; photographs; X-ray film; slides; biological materials; computer programs, files and printouts; manuscripts; and publications; equipment use logs; laboratory procurement records; animal facility records; human and animal subject protocols; consent forms; medical charts; and patient research files.
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8. Other Related Policies, Documents and Resources

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