Policy on allegations, investigations, &
Adopted: April 1990. Revised: December, 1996
See also: UNCW
Questions on the interpretation of this policy should be directed
to the Dean of Graduate School and Research.
- Provider: Office of Research Administration
University of North
Carolina at Wilmington
- Contact: Office of Research Administration
- Last updated: December, 1996. Approved by Faculty Senate: December,
Presents procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of
scientific misconduct, and for the required notifications to federal
agencies of such allegations and investigations
- Authority: University Provost, reflecting requirements of federal
- Contact Person: Dean of the Graduate School and Research
- Individual reporting responsibility
- Process and time frame for college/school
- Internal coordination / Reports to Dean
of Graduate School and Research
- Notification to external agencies
- Determination of discipline
- Cautions and assistance
Each member of the University community has a responsibility to foster
an environment which promotes intellectual honesty and integrity, and
which does not tolerate misconduct in any aspect of research or scholarly
endeavor. Scientific misconduct is extremely troubling — in spite
of its infrequency — because when it occurs, it is very destructive
the standards we attempt to instill in our students, of the esteem
in which academic science in general is held by the public, and of
the financial support of the government and other sponsors for academic
scientific enterprise. The importance of integrity in research cannot
Some federal agencies currently have their own policies regarding
scientific misconduct, and require notification to the agency in the
event of such an allegation or investigation. At this time, those agencies
are the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Science Foundation
(NSF). Where required, this notification will be made by the Dean of
Graduate School and Research. See Sections
IV: Internal coordination/Reports to the Dean of Graduate School and
Research, and Section V: Notification to
While both PHS and NSF recognize that the primary responsibility for
the prevention and detection of misconduct, and for the conduct of
inquiries and investigations, rests with the awarded institution, they
both retain the right to initiate their own investigations at any time.
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The University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s definition
of scientific misconduct, and procedures for investigating and reporting
allegations of misconduct, conform to the definitions and regulations
of those federal funding agencies which have policies on this subject.
- scientific misconduct
“Scientific misconduct” is defined as fabrication, falsification,
plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those commonly
accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting,
or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences
in interpretations or judgments of data. Also included as “scientific
misconduct” for this purpose is retaliation of any kind against
a person who, acting in good faith, reported or provided information
about suspected or alleged misconduct.
This policy addresses only scientific
misconduct. University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s statement
on faculty discipline has been interpreted to include such other violations
as reckless disregard
for accuracy, failure to supervise adequately, and other lapses from
professional conduct or neglect of academic duties. Allegations or
suspicions of misconduct outside the scope of this policy should be
directed to the cognizant dean or Provost for inquiry or investigation,
although the process of investigation and reporting obligations may
differ from those required for scientific misconduct cases.
An inquiry consists of preliminary information-gathering
and preliminary fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or
an apparent instance
of misconduct has substance. The outcome of an inquiry is a determination
as to whether or not an investigation is to be conducted.
An investigation is a formal examination and evaluation
of relevant facts to determine whether or not misconduct has taken
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II. Individual reporting responsibility
Any individuals who believe an act of scientific misconduct has occurred
or is occurring should notify the dean of the appropriate school, who
should immediately begin an inquiry and so inform the Dean of Graduate
School and Research, who acts on behalf of the Provost. Reporting such
concerns in good faith is a service to the University and to the larger
academic community, and will not jeopardize anyone’s employment.
Applicability: This policy applies to all persons
involved in the research endeavor under UNCW auspices, regardless of
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III. Process and time frame for college/school
The dean’s inquiry and, if called for, the investigation may
be carried out personally or through such standing or ad hoc arrangements
as each dean deems best. (See Section
VII: Cautions and assistance.)
Upon receipt of an allegation of scientific misconduct, the college/college/school
dean shall immediately begin an inquiry and shall so inform the Dean
of Graduate School and Research, identifying any outside funding source(s)
for the research which is the subject of the inquiry. This inquiry
is to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted, and shall
be guided by the following:
- The accused individual shall be informed of the allegations, and
be invited to comment on them. This individual should also be provided
with a copy of the draft report of the inquiry, and be given an opportunity
to comment on the findings.
- Whether or not to withhold the identity of the individual(s) bringing
forward the complaint must be determined on a case by case basis.
- Any other relevant individuals, including the individual(s) who
raised the concern, should be interviewed.
- The final report, including a recommendation as to whether or not
a full investigation is warranted, must be submitted by the college/school
dean to the Dean of the Graduate School and Research within 60 days
of receipt of the allegation. (If this time frame is not possible in
a particular case, the reasons are to be documented and the Dean of
the Graduate School Research so informed.) The final report shall include
any comments provided by the accused in response to the draft report.
- The documentation should include sufficient detail to permit a
later assessment of the determination of whether or not a full investigation
was warranted. It should describe the information reviewed, include
a summary of the interviews conducted, state conclusions reached, and
indicate whether or not the college/school dean believes an investigation
- The final report of the inquiry and documentation must
be maintained in the school for three years.
Unless the Dean of the Graduate School and Research has further concerns,
a dean’s recommendation that an internal investigation is not
warranted will be final.
2. Investigation Procedures
If the inquiry leads to the conclusion that an investigation is necessary,
it will be guided by the following considerations:
- The formal investigation should begin within 30 days of the completion
of the inquiry. The investigation should be completed and the final
report sent to the Dean of the Graduate School and Research within
90 days. (If an investigation cannot be completed within this time
frame, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research should be notified
as soon as possible. In such cases, it may be necessary for the Dean
of the Graduate School and Research to request an extension of time
from federal funding agencies.)
- The investigative process must be thorough, fair and protective of
the confidentiality and reputations of all participants.
- An investigation should normally include an examination of all documentation,
including but not limited to relevant research data and proposals,
publications, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls.
- Those making accusations, those accused, and those who may have information
related to the matter should be interviewed. Each individual being
interviewed shall be provided a complete written summary of their interview.
Any comments should be appended to the summary, or reflected in a revised
summary if the interviewer agrees. The summaries must be retained by
the college/school dean.
- All significant issues should be pursued until the investigator is
reasonably certain that he or she has amassed all necessary and available
- A draft written report of findings should be made available to
the accused, who may respond in writing and/or request a subsequent
with the investigator. Those who made the allegations should also receive
the portions of the draft report which concern the role or opinions
they had in the investigation. Comments on the draft from the accused
or the accusers should be appended to the final report.
Note: If there
is more than one accused individual, and their involvement are found
not to be identical, separate draft reports should be prepared
if practical, in order to preserve confidentiality.
- In addition to the interview summaries and comments by the accused
and accuser(s) on the draft report, the final written report should
- a description of the policies and procedures followed
- how and from whom relevant information was obtained
- the findings and basis for them.
If either the college/school dean or the Dean of the Graduate School
and Research considers that sanctions may be warranted, the Dean of
the Graduate School and Research shall refer the final report to the
University official who makes that determination (see Section
The report should be sufficient for the Chancellor, or other appropriate
University officers, to determine whether disciplinary action is called
for. If any sanctions result, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research
shall be informed, and shall append that information to the final report.
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IV. Internal coordination / Reports to Dean of Graduate
School and Research
In order to assure compliance with external notification requirements,
college/school deans must report the following circumstances to the
Dean of the Graduate School and Research in a timely manner:
- commencement of an inquiry
- conclusion of an inquiry
- commencement of an investigation
- consultation if an investigation will take more than 90 days to complete
- conclusion of an investigation
If termination of an inquiry or investigation before its completion
is contemplated for any reason, this should be reported and discussed
with the Dean of the Graduate School and Research.
In addition, the Dean of the Graduate School and Research is to be
advised at once if any of the following circumstances are discovered:
- an immediate health hazard
- an immediate need to protect federal or University funds or equipment
- an immediate need to protect those making the allegation, those accused
or any of their associates
- likelihood that an alleged incident will be reported publicly
- a reasonable indication of a possible criminal violation.
Note: In emergency situations, the Director of the Office of Research
Administration is authorized to notify external agencies directly,
if conference with the Dean of Graduate School and Research is not
possible in a timely manner. (See Section V:
Notification to external agencies.)
The director shall also take interim action as necessary to protect
federal funds and the purposes of the federal grant or contract that
may be involved. Such action is administrative and not disciplinary.
The director shall inform the Dean of the Graduate School and Research
of such actions.
If, during an investigation, facts come to light that could affect
current or potential funding of the people under investigation, or
that may, in the dean’s judgment, need to be disclosed in order
to ensure proper use of research funds or protection of the public
interest, these facts should be reported to the Dean of the Graduate
School and Research as they are learned.
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V. Notification to external agencies
Note: University of North Carolina at Wilmington will comply with
the requirements and regulations of its funding agencies. The following
section reflects those requirements as of May 1994. In any particular
situation, college/school deans are advised to review current regulations
Under circumstances not involving Public Health Service or other regulated
funding agencies, the Chancellor will make the decision whether information
about the charges and their disposition will be disclosed publicly
or to specific parties, including the research sponsor. This decision
will normally be made upon the conclusion of the final report. However,
if required by urgent circumstances, such a disclosure may be made
at any time. The Chancellor will consult with the Administrative Cabinet
to the extent feasible and appropriate in such cases. Absent such urgent
need, University of North Carolina at Wilmington will not make interim
reports to outside agencies unless required by external regulation.
The Public Health Service requires annual assurances from University
of North Carolina at Wilmington of compliance as well as aggregated
information on allegations, inquiries, and investigations. Further,
in accord with Public Health Service and National Science Foundation
regulations, in cases involving research funded by either of those
agencies, the funding agency will be informed in the following situations.
Except as specifically described at the end of this section, the following
notifications to external agencies will be made only by the Dean of
the Graduate School and Research, acting on behalf of the Provost,
and on the basis of the information provided by the college/school
1. Outcome of an inquiry
PHS and NSF will be notified of the outcome of an inquiry involving
funds from their agency only if that outcome includes the recommendation
to conduct a full investigation. (Documentation from inquiries, even
those that do not recommend further investigation, will be made available
by the Dean of the Graduate School and Research upon an agency’s
2. Commencement of an investigation
Written notification will be provided to PHS or NSF upon determination
that an investigation will be conducted. This notice is to be provided
on or before the commencement of the investigation, and must include
all information required by the agency. In the case of PHS-funded research,
this notice must include at least the following: name(s) of the accused
individual(s); general nature of the allegation(s); and the PHS proposal
or award number involved. Regulations provide that this information
will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law. Note, however,
that although the information will not be disclosed to peer reviewers
or PHS advisory committees, it may be used by the Secretary of Health
and Human Services in making decisions about the award or continuation
3. Written request for a time extension
Although PHS regulations permit 120 days for completion of the investigation
and submission of the final report, University of North Carolina at
Wilmington requires deans to consult with the Dean of the Graduate
School and Research if it appears that the final report will take more
than 90 days to complete. This allows 30 days for the disciplinary
process, if it is decided to pursue one. The final report to PHS must
include a statement about the sanction (if any) imposed by the institution.
If the investigation and determination of discipline are likely to
take more than 120 days to complete, the Dean of the Graduate School
and Research will so notify PHS, including reasons for the delay, interim
progress reports, the estimated date of completion of the report, and
any other necessary information. If an extension is granted, PHS may
require the submission of periodic interim reports, or the agency may
undertake its own investigation prior to the University’s completion
of its investigation.
NSF requires completion of the inquiry within 90 days, and completion
of the investigation, including submittal of the final report, within
180 days. If completion of either is expected to be delayed, NSF may
require submission of periodic status reports.
4. Interim reports
PHS must be apprised during an investigation of facts that may affect
current or potential PHS funding of the individual(s) under investigation,
or that may need to be disclosed in order to ensure proper use of federal
funds or protection of the public interest.
Similarly, NSF requires interim reports if the seriousness of the
apparent misconduct so warrants; if immediate health hazards are involved;
if NSF’s resources, reputation, or other interests need protecting;
or if federal action may be needed to protect the interests of a subject
of the investigation or others potentially affected.
5. Early termination
PHS must be notified of any decision to terminate an inquiry or investigation
prior to the completion of all relevant requirements. This notice must
include the reasons for such action. PHS retains the right to investigate
the matter further on its own.
6. Final outcome
PHS and NSF will be notified of the final outcome of an investigation
involving their funded project(s), and provided with a complete copy
of the final report. Documentation of an investigation must be retained
in the Provost’s Office for three (3) years and will be made
available to ORI at their request.
7. Special emergency notifications
In addition, the Public Health Service must be informed at any stage
of an inquiry or investigation if any of the following are discovered:
- an immediate health hazard
- an immediate need to protect federal or University funds or equipment
- an immediate need to protect those making an allegation
- a likelihood that an alleged incident is going to be reported publicly
- a reasonable indication of possible criminal activity.
In the case of suspected criminal activity, PHS requires notification
within 24 hours.
In special emergency circumstances as defined above, Director of the
Office of Research Administration should attempt to reach the Dean
of Graduate School and Research (by phone if necessary; in writing,
if possible). However, the director is authorized to make such reports
directly to the agency, and to so inform the Dean of Graduate School
and Research afterwards, if, in the judgment of the director, such
action is necessary.
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VI. Determination of discipline
The determination as to whether discipline is to be imposed is governed
by existing policies. In cases involving faculty, sanctions may only
be imposed by the Chancellor, through the faculty disciplinary process.
The Dean of the Graduate School and Research will refer cases of significant
student misconduct to the Dean of Students. Cases involving staff members
will be referred to the Human Resources Office.
Both PHS and NSF have the right to impose additional sanctions, beyond
those applied by the institution, upon investigators or institutions,
if they deem such action appropriate in situations involving funding
from their respective agency.
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VII. Cautions and assistance
The gathering and assessing of information in cases of alleged scientific
misconduct can be extremely difficult. It is essential to protect the
professional reputations of those involved, as well as the interests
of the public and of any who might be harmed by the alleged misconduct.
In the course of conducting inquiries or investigations, the following
provisions are applicable:
- Expert assistance should be sought as necessary to conduct a thorough
and authoritative evaluation of all evidence.
- Precautions should be taken to avoid real or apparent conflicts of
interest on the part of those involved in the inquiry or investigation.
- The anonymity of accused individuals and, if they wish it, the confidentiality
of those who in good faith reported the alleged misconduct, should
be protected as much as possible, and care should be taken to protect
their positions and reputations. Except as required in the reporting
provisions above, only those directly involved in an inquiry or investigation
should be aware that the process is being conducted or have any access
to information obtained during its course. Where appropriate, efforts
should be made to restore the reputations of those accused when allegations
are not confirmed.