Misconduct Policy



1.0   Introduction .

Maintenance of the utmost integrity in scholarship, research, and teaching is fundamental to successful accomplishment of the mission of East Tennessee State University.  Furthermore, the privilege of academic freedom intrinsic to scholarship and research can only continue if public trust in the integrity of these activities is maintained.  Misconduct in scholarship and research by any member of the University community threatens the University as well as the individual. Therefore,  it is a fundamental responsibility of the faculty, staff, students, and administration of East Tennessee State University to assure that misconduct in scholarship and research is dealt with in a timely and effective manner. This policy describes the steps to be taken in response to an allegation of misconduct in scholarship and research.  The process includes objective examination of the facts related to the alleged misconduct and protection of the rights of all individuals involved in the case and, if the scholarly activity or research is supported by an external sponsor, the obligation to comply with requirements for reporting allegations and findings to the sponsor.

1.1   Definition of misconduct in scholarship and research.

Misconduct in scholarship and research or scientific misconduct means fabrication, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scholarly and scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research.  It does not include error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

1.2   Examples of misconduct in scholarship and research.

A. Dishonesty in reporting the results of research, ranging from fabrication of data, improper adjustment of results, and gross negligence in collecting or analyzing data to selective reporting or omission of conflicting data for deceptive purposes;
B. Plagiarism, including copying the writing of others without proper acknowledgment, stealing the results or methods of others, or otherwise falsely taking credit for the work or ideas of others;
C. Abuse of confidentiality such as taking or releasing information or ideas of other which were shared with the legitimate expectation of confidentiality, e.g. stealing ideas from manuscripts for publication or grant applications that are being reviewed for journals or funding agencies;
D. Deliberate misrepresentation of research, including the progress of research, to a research sponsor;
E. Knowing publication of material that will mislead readers, e.g., misrepresenting data, particularly its originality, or adding the names of authors without permission;
F. Deliberate and repeated violation of Federal, State, local, or University regulations governing conduct of research, including, but not limited to, guidelines for the protection of  human subjects; protection of animal subjects; use of recombinant DNA; use and disposal of radioactive material; and use and disposal of hazardous chemicals or biologicals;
G. Stealing or destroying the property of others, such as research papers, supplies, equipment of the products of research or scholarship;
H. Failing to report or actively covering up major offenses or breaches of research ethics by others when one knows of these offenses and breaches;
I. Retaliating against an individual for having reported an alleged major offense.  

2.0   Applicability .

This policy applies to all faculty, staff and students employed in research and other scholarly activity, including without limitation graduate student assistants, undergraduate students employed in research or other scholarly activity, postdoctoral fellows and research associates, residents, visiting faculty or staff, adjunct and part-time faculty and staff when performing University work, faculty on non-instructional assignment, and faculty or staff on leave without pay.

The policy applies to students only when they are employed by the University or involved in conduct of externally sponsored research even if they are not paid employees of the University.  It does not apply to students conducting research and scholarly activity as part of their degree requirements unless the research or scholarly activity is supported by an external sponsor.  Allegations of  academic misconduct by a student not included in this policy are to be examined using the procedures specified in the University policy concerning Academic Misconduct by students (Faculty Handbook Policy 5.7 and included in the Spectrum). Examination of a student’s conduct under the procedures described in this policy does not exclude additional application of the student Academic Misconduct policy to the same student.

The procedures set forth in this policy may be applied even if the subject of the allegations is no longer employed by the University.

3.0   Responsibilities of the Scholar or Researcher .

To assure the validity of the scholarly and scientific work generated by faculty, staff and students at East Tennessee State University, it shall be the responsibility of the researcher to retain relevant documentary evidence, including raw data, in a manner appropriate to the discipline.  This may include data entry into a log and/or data book, a computer, or any other appropriate mechanism.  Where possible, the raw data developed under a defined protocol should be included. In scholarly disciplines related particularly to the arts and humanities, raw data shall refer to all scholarly sources, original writing and creative works, and any appropriate sources for corroborating claims of original authorship and creativity. The investigator shall keep the raw data for three (3) years from the publication date, if possible, to permit access, subsequent examination, and evaluation, as appropriate by colleagues, peers, and/or readers of published material which results from the data. In cases where a number of individuals are involved a research project, the validation and retention of all data collected is the responsibility of the principal investigator, project director, or senior scholar.

4.0   Procedures .

Reporting suspected misconduct in research and scholarship is a shared and serious responsibility of all members of the East Tennessee State University community.  Allegations should not be made capriciously, but indications or evidence of fraud or misconduct must not be ignored.  The procedures described in this policy are intended to safeguard the rights of the accused and of the accuser and to recognize the interest of the University community in academic integrity. East Tennessee State University will protect, to the best of its ability, the privacy of those who, in good faith, report apparent misconduct. It is a violation of University policy to retaliate against an individual for reporting in good faith an allegation of misconduct in research and scholarship.  The University will also provide to the accused individual, or individuals, confidential treatment to the best of its ability, an expeditious and thorough investigation, and an opportunity to comment on all allegations during the inquiry stage and, if initiated, during the investigation.

East Tennessee State University may take interim administrative action to protect University, State, or Federal funds at any stage in the process of initial review, inquiry, investigation, and disposition.  Need to take action to protect funds will be determined by the Vice President of the unit in which the allegation is made.

The integrity of the process will be maintained by disclosure and evaluation of any prejudicial conflict of interest to the Vice Provost for Research who will, in consultation with the either the Vice President for Academic Affairs or the Vice President for Health Affairs, depending on the division from which the allegation arises, determine a plan to resolve the conflict of interest.  In no circumstances will individuals judged by the Vice Provost for Research and the Vice President of the involved unit to have a conflict of interest in the case be placed in decision-making roles in the process of inquiry or investigation.  If the Vice Provost for Research is the subject of the allegation, or the allegation involves a conflict of interest for the Vice Provost for Research as determined by the Vice President of the involved unit, the Vice President will perform all of the functions assigned in this policy to the Vice Provost for Research.  If the Vice President is involved in the allegation the President of the University will perform all the functions assigned in this policy to the Vice President.

4.1  Definition of terms:

Allegation: any written or oral statement or other indication of possible misconduct in research or scholarship.

Complainant: the person who makes the allegation of scholarly or scientific misconduct.

Good faith allegation: an allegation made with honest belief that scientific and scholarly misconduct may have occurred.  An allegation is not in good faith if it is made with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation.

Inquiry: information gathering and initial fact-finding to determine whether the allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants a formal investigation.  An inquiry is not a formal hearing.  It is intended to separate serious allegations deserving further investigation from trivial, frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken allegations, or from situations that clearly do not involve serious academic misconduct and which may be pursued through other administrative channels.

Investigation: the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if misconduct has occurred, and, if so, to determine the responsible person(s) and the seriousness of the misconduct.

Respondent: the person against whom an allegation of scholarly or scientific misconduct is directed or the person whose actions are the subject of the inquiry or investigation.  There can be more than one respondent in any inquiry or investigation.

4.2  Initial reporting and review of allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct.

Any allegation of misconduct in research or scholarship should first be addressed, preferably in writing, to the appropriate department chair, or equivalent supervisor. If the department chair is the subject of the allegation, or is the person making the allegation, or the allegation involves a conflict of interest for the chair, or there are members of multiple departments involved, than the allegation should be made to the Vice Provost for Research who will conduct the initial review.

The department chair must immediately report, in writing, the nature of the allegation to the Vice Provost for Research, the appropriate Dean, and the Vice President of the division in which the allegation is made.  The chair must also inform the accused (respondent) of the allegation and other indication of misconduct. The chair will have ten (10) working days from the date the allegation is made to review evidence related to the allegation and attempt to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the complainant and the respondent. If resolution is obtained by the chair in this time period the chair will send a report describing the evidence and recommending that the resolution be accepted to the Vice Provost for Research. If the Vice Provost concurs with the recommendation she or he will recommend to the Vice President of the division in which the department is located that the case be closed. If the Vice President accepts the recommendation the case will be closed and the chair, complainant and respondent will be informed of the decision in writing.  If the Vice Provost for Research and the Vice President are not satisfied that the investigation by the chair has been adequate or that the resolution has been fairly achieved, the chair, complainant, and respondent will be so notified in writing and the Vice Provost for Research in consultation with the appropriate Dean and Vice President will appoint a board of inquiry to further investigate the allegation. The Vice President will notify the President that an inquiry will be made and, if appropriate, solicit advice from the University or Tennessee Board of Regents legal counsel. The Vice Provost and Vice President must respond to the chair’s recommendation within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the chair’s recommendation.

4.3  Conduct of the inquiry

The board of inquiry shall consist of three individuals holding at least the rank of assistant professor and who have expertise in the academic discipline in which the misconduct is alleged, and are impartial.  External experts may be recruited if three experts without a conflict of interest in the case cannot be found within East Tennessee State University.  One member of the board of inquiry will be appointed by the Vice Provost for Research to serve as chair of the board.  The function of the board of inquiry is to gather information and engage in sufficient initial fact-finding to determine whether the allegation warrants a formal investigation. It shall be the responsibility of the board of inquiry to:

A. Complete the inquiry and submit a written report to the Vice Provost for Research and appropriate Vice President within thirty (30) days following appointment of the board.  The report should contain the allegation, a report of the findings of the inquiry, and a specific recommendation as to whether or not a formal full investigation should be conducted.
B. Provide maximum feasible confidentiality to the complainant;
C. Provide maximum feasible confidentiality to the respondent;
D. Provide the respondent with opportunities to comment in an expeditious manner on the allegation and all findings made by the board of inquiry.

If the board of inquiry finds that there is not sufficient evidence to warrant a formal investigation the appropriate Vice President will inform the respondent, the complainant, the Dean of the involved College, Departmental Chair and the University President of the finding. Additionally, the University will undertake efforts, if necessary and as appropriate and feasible, to ensure that the reputation of the respondent is not damage as a consequence of the inquiry. The report and all documentation of the inquiry will be retained in secure storage in the office of the Vice Provost for Research for three (3) years.

4.4  Conduct of the investigation

If the inquiry supports a formal investigation the the Vice President will notify the President that an investigation will be made and will also advise the University and Tennessee Board of Regents legal counsel of the investigation. The Vice Provost for Research, the appropriate Dean and the appropriate Vice President will consult and the Vice President will appoint a committee to perform the investigation. The committee shall have five (5) members who hold at least the rank of assistant professor, a minimum of two (2) of which are experts in the academic field in which the allegation has been made.  Experts may be recruited who are not faculty at East Tennessee State University. The committee may also solicit additional technical expertise if needed during the course of the investigation.  It will be the responsibility of the committee to:

A. Conduct a full investigation of the allegation and maintain complete records of all the proceedings;
B. Carry out the investigation within sixty (60) days of completion of the inquiry, unless mitigating circumstances (e.g., the respondent is no longer employed by the University) prevent conclusion of the investigation within this time period.  The investigation phase of the process should have a maximum time limit of one hundred twenty (120) days;
C. Make every reasonable effort to keep confidential the identity of the complainant and of the respondent.  However, at this stage the respondent will normally be entitled to know the identity of all witnesses called before the committee.
D. Keep the respondent, the Vice Provost and appropriate Vice President apprised of any additional allegations or other developments during the investigation.  It will be the responsibility of the Vice President to inform other individuals of the course of the inquiry on a need-to-know basis;
E. Present a formal report to the Vice Provost for Research and appropriate Vice President.  The report must include complete documentation supporting the committee’s conclusions.

The Vice President will communicate the findings and conclusions of the committee to the President of the University and to the respondent.  If the conclusions are that the respondent is guilty of serious misconduct the President and Vice President will decide what actions to take in accordance with University and Tennessee Board of Regents policies.  If the conclusions are that no serious misconduct occurred the University will undertake efforts, as appropriate and feasible, to maintain or restore the reputation of the respondent.

If the research is sponsored by the Federal Government, it will be the responsibility of the Vice Provost for Research to report, in accordance with Federal policy (42 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50, Subpart A, “Responsibilities of Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science.”), that a formal investigation of a misconduct allegation is to begin, and to report the progress while it is in process and its conclusions.

The committee report and a report of the disposition of the case will be secured in the office of the Vice Provost for Research for three (3) years.  If the research was sponsored by an external agency the University will comply with legal obligations to release information contained in the reports to the funding entity on a need-to-know basis.

5.0  Further Administrative Responsibilities .

It will be the responsibility of the Vice President to handle necessary communications concerning the inquiry and investigation to the President and the Tennessee Board of Regents and to solicit appropriate legal counsel about matters that arise during an inquiry or an investigation that involve current or potential litigation.  It will also be the responsibility of the Vice President to refer evidence of potential criminal violations that may be found during the inquiry or investigation to the Department of Public Safety at East Tennessee State University.

The Vice Provost for Research will be responsible, in accord with Federal policy (42 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 50, Subpart A, “Responsibilities of Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science.”), to notify the chair of the University Committee on Animal Care if the investigation involves issues concerning the care and use of animal subjects; the chair of the Institutional Review Board if the investigation involves issues concerning the use of human subjects; and the Safety Committee of the University if the investigation contains issues that involve the use of radioisotopes or recombinant DNA. 

5.1  Responsibility for dissemination of the policy.

The Vice Provost for Research has the responsibility to ensure that all faculty and staff of East Tennessee State University, and students to whom this policy applies, as defined in Section 2.0, understand the policy.  This will be done by direct contact with individuals receiving federal funding, presentation of annual workshops, and distribution of the policy and related materials through campus mail and E-mail.