Safeguarding Integrity in Research, Training, and Other Related Activities — Graduate Studies

Effective Date

Monday, January 20, 2014

Office of Primary Responsibility

School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Affected Parties

School of Graduate & Advanced Studies Students

Policy Statement

Overview. Dartmouth College recognizes that academic freedom, including freedom in conducting research, is fundamental to its educational and intellectual life and that misconduct in research, research training, and other related activities undermines the intellectual integrity of the College. Accordingly, this policy provides guidelines for dealing with cases of alleged misconduct in research, research training, and other related activities. Maintaining confidentiality is critical to the proceedings and inquiries conducted under this policy; the need for this should be recognized by all involved in the process.

Role Of The Council On Sponsored Activities. The Council on Sponsored Activities will function as the College's advisory body on both general and specific matters related to misconduct in research, research training, and other related activities. If, for example, there is a pattern of allegations of misconduct or some other general issue regarding misconduct at Dartmouth, and the Provost believes that a broader investigation of policies and procedures is needed, he or she may request that the Council on Sponsored Activities form a subcommittee to conduct an investigation and recommend an appropriate institutional response to the problem.

Scientific Misconduct Defined. Scientific misconduct is morally unacceptable behavior that, if widespread, would seriously damage the institution of science. It has three main subdivisions, as follows: (1) Deception or knowing misrepresentation in the proposing, performing, or reporting of research, including the fabrication of evidence, the falsification of data, and plagiarism. (2) Attempting to prevent the reporting of misconduct as well as attempting to prevent the reporting of mistakes. This includes harassment or retaliation against anyone who has made a legitimate allegation of misconduct. (3) Obstructing the scientific research of others. This includes making malicious allegations of misconduct.

Scientific misconduct does not include honest error or genuine difference of opinion. Although scientific ideals encourage sharing, refusing to help further the research of others is not necessarily obstruction, and therefore not necessarily misconduct.

The research enterprise is so complex that these categories may not adequately identify all cases of scientific misconduct and other ethically unacceptable practices. Further information on these and other examples of various forms of scientific misconduct and other ethically unacceptable behavior is available in the Office of Grants and Contracts. This information includes contributions by members of the Dartmouth scholarly and research community and will be updated periodically to reflect ongoing research activities.

Procedures for Processing Reports of Misconduct

Scientific Misconduct Procedures for Undergraduates. In cases involving alleged misconduct by undergraduates, the ordinary processes set forth in the “Undergraduate Student Handbook” will be followed. To the extent additional reports or proceedings are necessary for undergraduates, either to comply with federal rules or because of the involvement of undergraduates in cases involving graduate students, faculty, or employees, the Provost may direct such reports or proceedings on an ad hoc basis.

Procedure for Faculty, Research Scientists, Graduate Students and Staff

The following pages (23-38) detail the procedures to be followed in cases where scientific misconduct has been alleged or is suspected. While rather detailed, they are provided here as part of this Handbook so that any reader who might find him or herself having to confront such an issue will have available to them information on how to proceed.

Step 1. Allegations of Scientific Misconduct:

Institutional procedures for handling misconduct should maintain a common, formal, and easily available entry point for receiving all allegations of scientific misconduct. All allegations of scientific misconduct must be made in writing. It is also important to maintain many routes for connecting the designated misconduct administrator (Provost) with other institutional personnel to whom allegations are made initially, including faculty, laboratory directors, chairs, associate deans, etc. Henceforth, individuals making allegations of scientific misconduct will be identified as the COMPLAINANT and those against whom allegations are made will be identified as the RESPONDENT.

Step one involving allegations of scientific misconduct is for the individual receiving the complaint to inform the Provost in writing. The individual writing to the Provost should state the nature of the complaint and provide all of the particulars to the Provost. The Provost at this point must inform the appropriate Dean that a complaint has been made and that a review will occur. Before consideration of a complaint, every effort should be made by the appropriate parties to resolve complaints through an informal process of discussion and, where appropriate, through mediation. Every effort should be made to handle all complaints with sensitivity, discretion, and with due regard for the interests of both the complainant and the respondent. Anonymous reports of misconduct will be considered only if sufficient evidence is provided to warrant an objective investigation of misconduct.

Step 2. Decision-Making about Whether an Inquiry is Warranted:

The Provost at this point must consult with at least one other individual at the College to determine whether to conclude the process or to proceed to the inquiry stage. Among those with whom the Provost may consult are the Dean of Graduate Studies, and The Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Officer. The Provost will so inform in writing the complainant. The complainant has the opportunity to appeal the decision by stating in writing the reasons for the appeal and directing it to the Provost.

A decision to conclude or move to the inquiry state must be made within 15 working days of the date that the Provost received the complaint. When a decision to inform the respondent that an allegation of scientific misconduct of deception or knowing misrepresentation has been made, the Provost and any other individual asked to assist in the process must immediately secure all relevant data. The data secured should include laboratory notebooks, primary data, specimens, samples, and anything else considered relevant. This is a critically important step because it protects both the complainant and the respondent as well as insuring the integrity of the process. When possible, copies of notebooks or other intellectual property will be made available to the respondent upon request.

Retention of research data is the responsibility of the institution. The data is generally the property of the institution, not of the principal investigator or the researcher producing the data. Certainly that is the case if the research was funded by a federal agency because the grant is made to the institution and not to the individual. Additionally, institutions are required by federal regulations to retain records for specific lengths of time and to provide records upon request to funding agencies as well as to other government agencies.

Step 3. Inquiry of Allegations:

Once a decision is made to proceed to the inquiry stage, the Provost, with the assistance of the person consulted above as well as the assistance of the appropriate Dean, will appoint an Inquiry Panel. The Inquiry Panel will be given its charge, with as much detail as is required to conduct a thorough and fair review. The Panel also will be provided with the resources needed for the inquiry, as well as the time necessary to conduct the inquiry and gain access to legal council. Members of the panel will be indemnified by the College. At all stages of the process confidentiality is to be maintained as much as possible by any and all involved. Unwarranted breach of confidentiality may be subject to sanctions.

The Provost will inform the complainant and respondent about the composition of the Panel, the process, the time schedule for completing the inquiry and any rights that they have in the process. The complainant and the respondent have the right to comment on the composition of the Inquiry Panel and may raise questions concerning the membership. The Panel will conduct the inquiry by reviewing the evidence and interviewing the parties involved, as well as any other relevant witnesses.

The inquiry will conclude with a decision by the panel about whether a formal investigation is necessary. The decision will be rendered in a report to the Provost and may include recommendations for further actions. The decision must be rendered to the Provost within 60 days of the appointment of the panel. If the panel believes that the allegation appears substantial, the process will move to the investigation stage. If the allegation is unsubstantiated, the Provost will seal the record.

If, after reviewing the record of the inquiry, either the Panel or the Provost believe that there may have been misconduct, they will notify the individual involved and will discuss the findings. If, after this discussion, either still believe that misconduct may have occurred, they will refer the case (within seven days) to one of the following for a detailed investigation:

  • Committee Advisory to the President (for Arts & Sciences faculty and research scientists)
  • Dartmouth Medical School Advisory Board (for Dartmouth Medical School faculty and research scientists)
  • Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (for Tuck School faculty)
  • Tenure Committee (for Thayer School faculty and research scientists)
  • Dean of Graduate Studies (for Arts & Sciences graduate students)
  • Academic Honor Committee (for Tuck School graduate students)
  • Honor Committee (for Thayer School graduate engineering degree students)
  • Committee on Student Performance (for Dartmouth Medical School graduate medical degree students)
  • ad hoc Committee appointed by the Director of Human Resources (for College staff)

In addition, if misconduct occurred in the context of an externally funded program, the Director of Grants and Contracts must be informed (see Procedures For Reporting guidelines for additional guidance if PHS funding is involved). If there is an allegation of misconduct involving individuals from different categories of employees and/or students, the Provost will meet with the appropriate Deans, Committee Chairs or other responsible officers listed above to organize a single, coordinated detailed investigation.

Step 4. Detailed Investigation:

The body or person assigned to conduct the detailed investigation must initiate the investigation within 30 calendar days of receiving the Inquiry Panel's report from the Provost. The detailed investigation will consist of an examination of all relevant documentation, e.g., research data, correspondence, grant proposals, and publications, and interviews with all concerned, including the individual who made the original allegation of misconduct, the person alleged to have committed the misconduct, and any others who might have pertinent information. Complete summaries of these interviews will be prepared and made available to the interviewees for comment and revision, and then made part of the investigation's supporting documentation. The detailed investigation should be completed within the period set by appropriate college guidelines and/or the Federal Government, and a final written report that either supports or rejects the Inquiry Panel's report shall be submitted to the appropriate Dean and the Provost. If it is concluded that misconduct occurred, disciplinary actions will be initiated in accordance with applicable College policies for faculty, staff, and students.

The guidelines outlining this process are contained in the Organization of the Faculty of Dartmouth College (faculty), the graduate Student Handbook (Arts & Sciences graduate students), the appropriate handbook for professional schools (graduate students in the professional programs), and the AP I and AP II handbooks.

According to applicable Dartmouth College policy, individuals found to have committed misconduct may be : 1) removed from a particular project; 2) given a letter of reprimand; 3) monitored in performance of work; 4) placed on probation; 5) reduced in rank; 6) suspended for a fixed period of time; 7) terminated.

If the detailed investigation concludes that misconduct did not take place, efforts will be made: 1) to ensure that the reputation of the person alleged to have committed misconduct is not damaged; and 2) to ensure that no retaliatory action be taken against the individual who made the original allegation, unless there is a determination that the allegation was maliciously motivated, in which case disciplinary action should be taken.

Regardless of the conclusion, copies of the final report will be provided to the Provost, the appropriate Dean, the Chair of the Council on Sponsored Activities, the individual against whom the allegation of misconduct was made, the Inquiry Panel, and the Director of Grants and Contracts (if extramural funding was involved). A copy of the complete investigation record must be kept in the Provost's office and in the Dean's office.

Conclusion. Misconduct as defined in section 3 violates College policy and undermines the integrity of scholarly endeavors within the larger academic community. Dartmouth College encourages serious and well-intentioned efforts to expose misconduct and will take appropriate action against individuals found to have committed such actions.

Procedures for Reporting Guidelines When Public Health Service (PHS) Funding is Involved

If the Dean of the appropriate school believes that an inquiry of allegations of the alleged misconduct is warranted (see Step 3), he or she must provide an initial written notice to the Director of the Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI) at PHS on or before the date the investigation begins. This notice will include the name of the individual against whom the allegation of misconduct has been made, the general nature of the alleged misconduct, and the PHS proposal and grants numbers involved.

If either the initial inquiry or the detailed investigation is terminated before completion for any reason, the Provost must provide OSI with a written explanation for terminating the proceedings.

The detailed investigation's final report will be completed within 120 calendar days after initiation of the investigation. This includes conducting the investigation, preparing the final report, circulating the report to appropriate individuals, and submitting the report to OSI. The final written report to OSI will include: 1) a description of the detailed investigation; 2) how and from whom supporting documentation relevant to the investigation was received; 3) the investigation's conclusion and the basis for it; 4) the response of the individual alleged to have committed the misconduct; and 5) if misconduct is found to have taken place, the actions taken against the individual involved. If available, the name of the individual who made the original allegation of misconduct should be included in this final report.

In addition, if any of the following conditions exists at any point in either the initial inquiry or the detailed investigation, the Dean will notify the Provost, who in turn should notify OSI and the Director of Grants and Contracts:

  1. there is an immediate health hazard;
  2. there is an immediate need to protect Federal funds or equipment;
  3. there is an immediate need to protect the interests of the individual who made the original allegation of misconduct and his or her colleagues;
  4. it is probable that the alleged incident will be reported publicly; or
  5. there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violations (in this case, the Provost must inform OSI with 24 hours of obtaining such information).

In addition, the Provost will submit an annual written assurance to OSI that Dartmouth has an established administrative process to review allegations of misconduct and report any investigation of misconduct that seems substantial to the Secretary of HHS. The Provost will also submit aggregate information on allegations of misconduct and subsequent initial and detailed investigations upon request to the Secretary of HHS.

Contact(s)

School of Graduate & Advanced Studies