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Research Misconduct

(as revised by the Board of Trustees, February 12, 1997) from Faculty Handbook (2010-2011, pg. 102)

Pomona College adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards in research.  Accordingly, the College has adopted a policy for responding to allegations of research misconduct by members of its faculty and professional staff.  This policy applies to all research conducted in College facilities and to all professional employees of the College involved in any research project, including those supported by the Public Health Service (PHS) or for which an application to PHS has been submitted.

Definitions

In all research projects, the Principal Investigator has the responsibility to record and retain primary data and to adhere to accepted research protocols.  The Principal Investigator has supervisorial responsibility for ensuring acceptable research conduct on the part of all personnel engaged in research under his/her direction.  Examples of research misconduct include but are not limited to:

  • Knowingly falsifying, fabricating, or otherwise misrepresenting data, methods of data procurement, or data analysis;
  • Plagiarism;
  • Improper use of privileged information such as grant proposals or manuscripts under review, or use of information gathered through unauthorized means;
  • Substantial failure to comply with federal requirement concerning research conduct or with commonly accepted standards of conduct within the academic community.

Filing a Complaint

Anyone concerned about possible research misconduct is urged to discuss the issues involved with the Associate Dean of the College who serves on the Research Committee.  Complaints shall be made in writing to the Associate Dean, Pomona College, 550 North College Avenue, Room 226, Claremont, CA 91711.

Upon receiving an allegation of scientific misconduct, the Associate Dean will immediately assess the allegation to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an inquiry, whether federal support or applications for federal funding are involved, and whether the allegation falls under the policy’s definition of scientific misconduct.  To the extent possible, the privacy of the reporting individual will be protected.  Retaliation against persons bringing complaints of research misconduct is forbidden, and any apparent retaliation should be reported immediately to the Associate Dean.

Inquiries and investigations will be conduced in a manner that will ensure fair treatment to the respondent in the inquiry or investigation and confidentiality to the extent possible without compromising public health and safety or thoroughly carrying out the inquiry or investigation.

Confidentiality

Institutional employees who make, receive, or learn of an allegation of research misconduct will protect, to the maximum extent possible, the confidentiality of information regarding the complainant, the respondent, and other affected individuals.  The Associate Dean may establish reasonable conditions to ensure the confidentiality of such information.

Initial Inquiry

A copy of the complaint will be given to the respondent.  The respondent has the right to seek legal counsel.   The respondent will be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.  In general, the respondent will be instructed to respond in writing within one month of receiving a copy of the complaint.  This written response to the allegation should be filed with the Associate Dean, who upon reviewing the complaint and the response, may request an interview with the respondent.  Both the respondent and the College have the right to have legal counsel present at the interview.

In cases of alleged research misconduct involving falsification or other misrepresentation of data or research protocols, the Associate Dean may sequester the respondent’s research records at the time which the respondent is notified of the complaint.  Any sequestered records will be promptly photocopied and returned to the respondent.

After the respondent has addressed the complaint, the Associate Dean will convene the Research Committee to review the complaint.  It is expected that in general the members of the Research Committee will have no real or apparent conflicts of interest in the case, and will have the necessary expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues related to the allegation, interview the principals and key witnesses, and conduct the inquiry.  When this is not the case, committee members with conflicts may be recused and/or additional qualified persons may be added to the committee membership for the purpose of conducting the initial inquiry. Additional persons may be scientists, subject matter experts, administrators, lawyers, or other qualified persons from inside or outside the institution. Adjustments to the committee’s membership will be made by the Associate Dean. Decisions of the Research Committee will be by majority vote, with the Associate Dean voting when the votes of the other members result in a tie.

If the committee feels there is insufficient evidence to suggest research misconduct, it will confer with the complainant.  If, after such consultation the committee feels there is insufficient evidence to support an investigation of research misconduct, the complainant and respondent will be so notified in writing.  The College will undertake diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputation of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct and to maintain the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, made the allegations of misconduct.  Detailed documentation of an inquiry which determines that an investigation is not warranted will be maintained for at least three years and will be provided to authorized personnel of involved funding agencies, including PHS, upon request.

If the Research Committee feels there is reason to believe that possible research misconduct is involved, a formal investigation will be undertaken.

A record of the Research Committee’s deliberation will be kept in the confidential files of the Associate Dean.  This report, prepared and signed by the members of the Research Committee, will contain the original complaint, the evidence reviewed, interview summaries, a summary of the committee’s deliberations and conclusions, and all written statements received from the respondent.  A copy of the inquiry report will be given to the respondent, who has the right to respond to the report, including all allegations and findings.  Any comments made by the respondent, which in general will need to be made in writing, will be made part of the inquiry record.  In cases in which more than 60 days were required to complete an inquiry, the circumstances contributing to the protracted nature of the inquiry must be documented and made part of the inquiry record.

If the research project is federally funded, the funding agency will be notified of the complaint in cases where the alleged misconduct might pose an immediate health hazard or substantial threat to federal funds or equipment.  Appropriate interim administrative actions will be taken to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of the federal funding are being carried forward to the extent possible.  In the case of PHS-supported research, the Office of Research Integrity will also be notified if (1) there is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegations or of the individual(s) who is the subject of the allegations as well as his/her co-investigators and associates, if any; or (2) it is probably that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly; or (3) the allegation involved a public-health-sensitive issue, such as a clinical trial; or (4) there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation, in which case the institution will notify the Office of Research Integrity within 24 hours of reaching such a determination.

Investigation

In consultation with the faculty members of the Executive Committee, the Associate Dean will form a committee to investigate the charges of research misconduct.  A typical committee will consist of five people and may include Pomona College faculty, non-faculty personnel, outside faculty or scholars, and legal counsel.  In cases involving alleged misconduct pertaining to animal care and use or to human subjects, the College’ relevant standing committee will generally form the core of the investigative committee.  Committee members will be selected in order to provide the committee with necessary and appropriate expertise for undertaking the investigation, taking care to prevent real or apparent conflicts of interest in the investigation.  The committee will be chaired by the Associate Dean, who will vote only in cases in which the vote is tied.

The Associate Dean will notify the respondent of the proposed committee membership within 10 days.  No challenges of members for cause shall be accepted, but the respondent shall have the right of two peremptory challenges.  In all such cases the Associate Dean, in consultation with the Executive Committee, shall replace the challenged members after each challenge. 

The investigative committee will conduct a thorough review of the alleged misconduct, affording the affected individuals confidential treatment to the maximum extent compatible with a thorough review.  They will review the existing file and examine all documentation including but not limited to research records, computer files, research proposals and publications, and correspondence.  Interviews should be solicited from the complainant, the respondent, and others who might have relevant information.  Interviews of the respondent should be tape recorded or transcribed; other interviews should be tape recorded, transcribed, or summarized.

If, in the course of an investigation, substantial evidence is uncovered that suggests immediate health hazards, a need to protect federal funds or equipment and individuals affected by the investigation, and/or that the alleged incident will probably be publicly reported, the involved federal funding agency and relevant oversight offices such as the Office of Research Integrity should be notified.  Agencies and oversight offices should also be notified promptly if, during the course of the investigation, facts are disclosed that may affect current or potential federal funding for individuals under investigation or that federal agencies need to know to ensure appropriate use of federal funds and otherwise protect the public interest.  If there arises any reasonable indication of possible criminal violations, federal agencies and oversight offices such as the Office of Research Integrity must be notified within 24 hours.  The College must take appropriate interim administrative actions to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of the federal financial assistance are being carried out.

The findings of the committee should be based on a preponderance of the evidence, with the decision reached by majority vote.  A committee report reviewing the committee’s procedures, evidence and deliberations must be signed by all members of the committee.

If the committee finds that no misconduct has occurred, the College must make reasonable attempts to restore the reputation of the respondent, including publicity of the respondent’s exoneration by the investigative committee.

If the investigative committee finds that research misconduct has occurred, its report may include recommendations for institutional action.  The committee’s report and supporting documentation will be forwarded to the Dean of the College for review and institutional response.

The respondent will be notified of the committee’s findings and provided with a copy of the report within working five days of its receipt by the Associate Dean and will have the opportunity to comment on the report, including all allegations and findings.  If the committee has found that misconduct has occurred, the respondent’s comments on the findings will be forwarded to the Dean of the College for consideration along with the report of the committee.

If the College plans to terminate an inquiry for any reason without having brought it to completion, a report of these plans and the reasons behind them will be made to any federal agency that has been informed of the alleged misconduct and to the Office of Research Integrity in any case involving funding by the PHS. If, in cases involving PHS funds, the College intends to complete an investigation but cannot do so within 120 calendar days, it must submit to the ORI a request for an extension which should include an explanation for the delay, an interim report on the progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of completion.

Institutional Review and Action

The Dean of the College will make a final determination whether to accept the findings and recommendations of the investigation report.  The Dean may ask the investigative committee to perform further fact-finding or review of the evidence.  If the Dean does not accept the findings and recommendations of the committee, the Dean will respond to the investigative committee in writing, detailing the reasons for reaching different conclusions.  The explanation must be consistent with the College’s policy on research misconduct, with definitions of scientific misconduct recognized by relevant federal funding agencies, and with the evidence produced during the investigation.  If the Dean rejects all findings of research misconduct, the College will make diligent efforts to restore the reputation of the respondent.

In cases in which the Dean of the College finds research misconduct to have occurred, any funding agencies involved will be notified within 90 days; reports to federal agencies will be in the form required by those agencies.   When PHS funds are involved, the report must describe the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation, the findings, and the basis for the findings, and include the actual text or an accurate summary of the views of any individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct, as well as a description of any sanctions taken by the College.   Institutional action against faculty and professional staff found to have engaged in research misconduct will be determined by the Dean, and may vary, in accordance with the seriousness of the breach of professional standards, from reprimand to dismissal, and the finding of misconduct will be reflected in the respondent’s personnel file.  The College will prepare and maintain documentation to substantiate an investigation’s findings.  In cases involving PHS funds, the documentation will be made available to the Director of ORI upon request.

Timetable for Responding to Complaints of Research Misconduct

The College’s response to any complaint of possible research misconduct must be thorough and fair.  The speed with which the College can respond will generally be affected by several factors, including the need of participants to seek legal counsel, the scope of the investigation, and the difficulty of assembling committees and conducting investigations during the College’s summer recess.  In general, a complaint shall be delivered to the respondent within 5 working days of its receipt by the Associate Dean.  The respondent shall respond in writing within 30 days.  Upon receiving the respondent’s answer to the complaint, the Associate Dean has 10 days in which to confer further with the respondent as necessary and to convene the Research Committee to review the case.  Once an inquiry has been initiated, the Research Committee must complete the inquiry, including submitting its report, within 60 calendar days unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period.  If the Research Committee feels that there is sufficient cause to suspect research misconduct, the College has 30 days from the date of the committee’s vote to appoint the investigative committee.  The Research Committee’s report is due within 10 days of their final vote.  The respondent has 5 working days in which to announce any peremptory challenges of members of the committee.  The length of the investigation, including preparing the report, will not extend beyond 60 days unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer inquiry.  Reports to granting agencies will be made within 120 days of the first meeting of the investigative committee.

Allegations of Research Misconduct Not Made in Good Faith

If the Dean of the College determines that an allegation of research misconduct was not made in good faith, he/she will decide what, if any, administrative action will be taken against the complainant.

Academic Dean