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PS-06.A.07 - Misconduct in Research, Scholarly, Creative and Government Sponsored Activities

​​​EFFECTIVE ​DATE: February 12, 2020​

ISSUE #: 3

PRESIDENT:​  Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz

​​PURPOSE

All members of the university community are expected to follow standards for conduct of scientific, scholarly, creative, and research activities, including but not limited to, faithful representation of data, accepting responsibility for the integrity of all work undertaken and reported individually or collectively, and accurate disclosure of all facts pertaining to all education and research and scholarly/creative activities.

This PS states the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) policy and procedures for promoting ethical behavior in all research, scholarly and creative activities, and government​-sponsored activities, and outlines how to handle allegations of misconduct in scientific, scholarly, creative, and research activities.

This policy applies to the body of research, scholarly, or creative activity done during an individual’s period of employment at the university; this policy operates independently from all other relevant review processes (including annual reviews and promotion and tenure). Misconduct committed prior to the date of this policy will be subject to the definition of misconduct in policy at the time of the misconduct, though procedure will operate under the current policy version.

Given the serious nature and implications of any allegations of misconduct, the university expects any individual(s) involved in any part of the reporting, inquiry, or investigation of alleged misconduct to act in good faith and maintain confidentiality.​

DEFINITIONS

2.1 Misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other material deviation from practices commonly accepted in the academic and scientific communities for proposing, conducting, or reporting results from education, research, and scholarly or creative activities. Misconduct also refers to retaliation against a person who, acting in good faith, reports or provides information about suspected or alleged misconduct. Misconduct compromises the integrity of the individual, colleagues, and/or organization. All levels of misconduct, whether intentional or unintentional, are subject to disciplinary action as described in this policy.

2.1.1 Self-plagiarism, otherwise known as text recycling or text reuse, “occurs when sections of the same text appear (usually unattributed) in more than one of an author’s own publications.” (Committee on Publication Ethics, 2013

2.1.2 Fabrication is making up data or results that are recorded and/or reported as authentic. 

2.1.3 Falsification is the manipulating of research materials, equipment, processes to misrepresent data or findings, or omitting data or results such that the research and its results are not accurately represented. 

2.1.4 A ghost author is someone “who is omitted from an authorship list despite qualifying for authorship.” (Committee on Publication Ethics, 2013

2.1.5 A guest or gift author is someone “who is listed as an author despite not qualifying for authorship.” (Committee on Publication Ethics, 2013

2.1.6 Material deviations from practices that are commonly accepted in the academic and scientific communities include unethical authorship practices (gift authorship, ghost authorship, or omitting authors who have made a substantive/bona fide (see section 3.3) contribution to the work in question) in all forums and venues, falsifying time and effort reports associated with sponsored programs, forging of authorizing signatures associated with the work, misrepresenting an individual’s qualifications, failure to obtain prior approval for human subjects research or animal research intended for publication or presentation, and deviation from other practices commonly agreed upon within the disciplines. [See section 3.3 for role of disciplinary faculty in identifying discipline-specific expectations.] 

2.2 Inquiry is defined as a stage of preliminary information-gathering and initial fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of misconduct warrants an investigation. All inquiry interviews will be digitally recorded. 

2.3 Investigation is a formal examination and evaluation of relevant facts to determine whether misconduct has taken place or, if misconduct has already been confirmed, to assess its extent and consequences and/or to determine appropriate action. All investigation hearings will be digitally recorded. 

2.4 Relevant Parties is defined as the person(s) against whom the allegations were made, the person making the allegations, and the funding agency (if a government-sponsored activity). 

2.5 Conflict of Interest is defined as per SAM 02.A.09.

2.6 Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, any adverse employment or educational action taken for making a report of misconduct or otherwise participating under this Policy

​POLICY

3.1 All members of the University community have the responsibility to report those activities which they believe constitute misconduct, either directly to the Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost (SVPASA) or through the UH System anonymous fraud system. Such individuals reporting in good faith may not be subject to retaliation, and, as per the SAM 01.C.04, are protected by the Texas Whistleblower Act. As part of the protection of these individuals, the SVPASA may choose to notify the individual’s chair and dean to be watchful (without providing specifics of the allegation). 

Any actual or threatened retaliation or any act of intimidation to prevent or otherwise obstruct the reporting of academic misconduct or violation of this policy or the participation in proceedings relating to academic misconduct may be considered a separate violation of this or other UHD Policies. 

3.2 All research and government-sponsored activities in which members of the University community engage shall be conducted according to the standards recognized in the academy for collegiate education, research, and scholarly/creative activities. 

3.3 As part of the review of Annual Evaluation and Rank and Tenure criteria, all tenured and tenure-track faculty in each department must articulate expectations and definitions of what constitutes a “bona fide” role in scholarly work that would warrant authorship or similar credit, as well as identify any other expectations particular to the discipline(s) housed within the department. Each discipline within a department may develop and submit separate expectations and definitions; all expectations and definitions should be reviewed and voted on by all tenured and tenure-track faculty within the discipline or department. Faculty may consult or reference external professional organizations or resources as part of this task. 

The Department Chair should ensure that the faculty undertake this task each year. All expectations and definitions must be reviewed annually and included with the Rank and Tenure Criteria, submitted no later than December 15 to the college dean and SVPASA as per PS 10.A.01​​.

3.4 All allegations of misconduct involving any sponsored program must be reported to the appropriate sponsoring agency as per the agency’s guidelines, including science and/or engineering activities funded by the Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, and/or the National Science Foundation, must be reported according to the steps delineated in the procedures of these organizations. 

3.5 If at any point during the inquiry or investigation phase the number of allegations and/or respondents expands beyond the capacity for executing the procedures of this policy as defined below, the Inquiry Team or the Investigating Committee (IC) may request that the SVPASA, in consultation with the President, expand timelines, resources, and personnel to accommodate the expanded scope.

PROCEDURES

4.1 Allegations of misconduct must be reported in writing to the SVPASA or through the UH System anonymous fraud reporting system for review and action. If the SVPASA has a possible conflict of interest, the allegation must be reported to the President. In such instances, duties assigned to the SVPASA in implementing this policy will be implemented by the President. 

4.2 Interim administrative action may be taken by the university and/or the awarding agency upon receipt of allegations of misconduct scientific, scholarly, creative, and research activities. The SVPASA will authorize an inquiry into the suspected or alleged misconduct and determine whether the allegations warrant further investigation as violations of University policy. Within five working days of the receipt of a misconduct allegation, the SVPASA must appoint an Inquiry Team and give the team a timeline for completion and reporting (see section 4.3). The Inquiry Team will include the a representative from the Provost’s Office who carries faculty rank along with two faculty members chosen from a pool of four faculty; the pool of four will consist of one elected tenured faculty member from each college, elected by Faculty Senate procedures for two-year terms. 

4.3 The duration of the inquiry period will be 60 to 90 working days determined by the SVPASA at the beginning of the inquiry, depending on the complexity of the case. The inquiry timeline should be as timely as possible while allowing for due process and labor of individuals involved. The inquiry must include a meeting with the subject(s) of the allegation within 10 days after the Inquiry Team has been appointed. At that meeting, the Inquiry Team will inform the subject(s) about the timeline for this phase and provide a brief overview of this policy and process. 

The inquiry should provide information sufficient to make a recommendation but need not provide exhaustive coverage of the allegation. This inquiry will result in the Inquiry Report minimally containing the following information:

  • Date inquiry was initiated and date completed; 
  • Name and title of the person(s) against whom the allegations were made; 
  • General nature of the allegations; 
  • The application/grant number (if a government-funded activity); 
  • Evidence reviewed and persons interviewed; and 
  • Conclusions. (A recommendation to dismiss, expand, or amend the allegation(s) or proceed with a formal investigation.) 

4.4 Within 10 working days of receiving the Inquiry Report, the SVPASA will notify in writing relevant parties of the decision—either to dismiss the allegations or to move to an investigation. At this time, the SVPASA will provide a copy of the Inquiry Report to the subject(s) of the allegation(s). All evidence and materials related to the inquiry shall be maintained by the Office of SVPASA for seven years after termination of the inquiry. 

4.5 Within 30 working days after the SVPASA makes a decision to initiate a formal investigation, the SVPASA will appoint an IC. The SVPASA will make available to the IC the inquiry report along with all supporting materials collected during the inquiry. The members of the IC will be appointed by the SVPASA in consultation with the Chief Integrity Officer or a similar member of the Provost’s Office who carries faculty rank and the President of the Faculty Senate (or Senate President-elect in cases of conflict of interest or availability). The IC will consist of at least two tenured faculty representatives from each of the four academic colleges as well as the Chief Integrity Officer or other representative from the Provost’s Office who carries faculty rank as an ex officio member. 

4.6 The IC will meet within 10 working days of being appointed. At its first meeting, the IC will elect a chair from the appointed faculty members to handle procedural and administrative matters, as well as communicate the membership of the IC to the subject(s) of the investigation. The IC will also receive an orientation from the Provost and General Counsel regarding all relevant department, college, and university policies and documents. The investigative phase will begin at the meeting of the IC. The length of the investigative phase will be commensurate with the complexity of the allegations, number of subjects and witnesses in the investigation, and amount of evidence to be reviewed. The length of the investigative phase will be documented in the charge to the IC with justification by the Provost, with a maximum of 120 days. 

4.7 In the course of the investigation, the IC will investigate and address all allegations of misconduct identified in the original allegation(s), and those that arise as a result of the inquiry and investigative process. The IC may conduct interviews, seek advice, request materials, or seek testimony material to the case.

4.8 The IC shall insure confidentiality of all related proceedings to the extent possible and shall undertake diligent efforts to protect the position, anonymity, and reputation of all parties in the investigation. 

4.9 As part of its process, the IC must invite the subject(s) of the allegation to appear before the IC. If the subject(s) chooses to meet with the IC, he/she/they will be given sufficient time to present his/her/their case, which may include documents, written arguments, witnesses, and/or statements from external parties (which must be verifiable by the IC). The IC may ask questions of the subject(s) and any witnesses during this meeting. At this meeting, the subject(s) may have legal counsel or an advisor but must speak for himself/herself/themself. Written notification of the presence of legal counsel or an advisor by either the IC or the subject(s) must be provided to all parties at least one week in advance of the planned meeting. The subject(s) of the allegation will has/have access to all evidence available to the IC, including recordings of interviews with other parties. The subject(s) may also submit information to the IC at any point during the investigation phase. The subject(s) of the investigation may communicate with the elected IC chair or the Chief Integrity Officer or other provost’s office IC representative regarding questions or concerns about the process, or contact the UHD Faculty Ombuds. If those individuals cannot address the questions or concerns, they will suggest an alternate source. 

4.10 A record of the proceedings and all related documentation shall be maintained by the IC chair throughout the investigative process. All interviews conducted as part of the investigation will be recorded. Breach of confidentiality by relevant parties may be grounds .action under existing university policy or procedure. 

4.11 Within the given timeframe for the investigation, the IC will conclude its work, and issue a formal report summarizing its findings and conclusions with respect to all allegations of misconduct, which may include a majority and minority report. The formal IC report is an advisory document for the SVPASA, who will consider the report along with other policy violations, or findings of misconduct for each subject. The formal IC report, the record of the proceedings and all related documentation will be forwarded to the SVPASA. Within 10 working days of receiving the IC report, the SVPASA will forward copies of the report to the relevant parties. 

4.12 All documentation related to the inquiry and investigation proceedings shall be retained for seven years in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost. 

4.13 Penalties and Appeals

4.13.1 Within 20 working days of receipt of the report, the SVPASA shall weigh the collected evidence, testimony, and findings of the inquiry and investigation to determine whether research misconduct has occurred. The SVPASA may consult with IC as part of this review. Consonant with the seriousness and intentionality of the offense, if the SVPASA determines that misconduct has occurred, the SVPASA may impose disciplinary measures which include, but are not limited to, a written notice to the employee, withholding of pay raises for a period of time, notification of the offense to pertinent organizations and publishers, or initiating dismissal procedures within the regulations of the University. The sanctions must be communicated in writing to the subject(s) of the investigation. If misconduct occurs related to any sponsored program, the SVPASA will notify the sponsoring agency as per the agency’s guidelines. The SVPASA will notify the IC and parties whose decisions may need to consider such information including Rank and Tenure Committees, Department Chair, and Dean, of any sanctions. 

4.13.2 Sanctions imposed by the funding agency, if misconduct occurs in a government-sponsored activity, range from minimal restrictions to suspension or termination of an active award, loss of funding and/or debarment or suspension of an individual, a department, or the University from participating in government-sponsored programs. 

4.13.3 The subject of the investigation may appeal the sanctions imposed to the President. This written appeal must occur within 30 working days of the receipt of the sanctions. The President has 30 working days to render a written decision on the appeal. The President’s decision will be final and binding.

REVIEW PROCESS

Responsible Party (Reviewer): Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs Review: Every three years on or before May 1st. Signed original on file in Employment Services and Operations.

POLICY HISTORY

Issue #1: 10/16/95

Issue # 2: 08/17/15

Issue # 3: 02/12/20

REFERENCES

Committee on Publication Ethics. (2013). How to spot authorship problems.

Committee on Publication Ethics. (n.d.) Text Recycling Guidelines.

SAM 02.A.09

SAM 01.C.04

PS 03.A.23

PS 10.A.01

PS 10.A.05​​

Last updated 3/15/2022 5:24 PM