PART 1: DEFINITION OF RESEARCH MISCONDUCT
Research misconduct is academic misconduct, dishonest behavior, or any form of unethical practices involving an act of deception whereby one’s work or the work of others is misrepresented. Other terms, such as research fraud or scientific misconduct, are subsumed within the term academic misconduct. Research misconduct is distinguished from honest error and from ambiguities of interpretation that are inherent in the scientific process. The principal element of research misconduct is the intent to deceive others or misrepresent one’s work. Research misconduct may also involve wrongful acts or omissions relating to non-compliance with applicable law or regulation, a failure to report known misconduct or retaliation against others involved in the reporting, investigation or correcting misconduct. Research misconduct may take numerous forms such as, but not limited to:
- Falsification of Data: Fabrication, willful suppression and/or distortion of data with the intent to falsify results.
- Plagiarism: The use of the work of another without proper acknowledgment.
- Improprieties of Authorship: Improper assignment of credit, such as excluding other authors, inclusion of individuals as authors who have not made a definite contribution to the work published, or submission of multi-authored publications without the concurrence of all authors.
- Misappropriation of the Ideas of Others: Unauthorized use of privileged information (such as violation of confidentiality in peer review), however obtained.
- Violation of Generally Accepted Research Practices: Deceptive practices in proposing, conducting, or reporting research.
- Material Failure to Comply with Governmental Requirements: Serious, repeated, willful violations of governmental requirements arising from law, statute, regulation, or agreement. Regulations include, but are not limited to, those governing the use of funds, care of animals, human subjects, and biological, chemical, pharmacological, and radiological materials.
- Inappropriate Behavior in Relation to Research Misconduct: Unjust and malicious accusation(s) of misconduct, failure to report misconduct, withholding or destruction of information or evidence relevant to a claim of misconduct, or malicious retaliation against persons involved in the allegation or investigation of misconduct.
PART 2: SCOPE OF RULE
This rule applies throughout the university system to faculty, staff and students involved in research and research-related work regulated by federal law or sponsored externally. Such research includes, but is not limited to, research involving human subjects, vertebrate animals, biohazardous agents and/or recombinant DNA. Research projects involving the surveying of other students, university personnel, or members of the general public fall within the scope of this rule, unless exempted by federal law. Academic misconduct alleged against a student generally will not be covered by this rule, unless it falls within the above scope, and will instead be addressed pursuant to the Academic Misconduct policy housed in the NMSU Student Handbook.
PART 3: DUTY TO REPORT
Individuals with a reasonable factual basis to believe that a researcher has committed an act of research misconduct prohibited by this rule are obligated to report such occurrences to a supervisor not involved in the alleged misconduct. Such reports of suspected research misconduct shall be forwarded to the vice president for research for prompt investigation, and subsequent corrective action and reporting, if warranted by the investigative findings. If the reporter, the supervisor, or the vice president have reason to suspect that a crime may have been committed, the report shall also be made to the NMSU Police or other appropriate law enforcement for a separate and distinct criminal investigation. (See also Parts 9 and 10 below.)
PART 4: PRELIMINARY INTERNAL INVESTIGATION
If an appropriate oversight committee (Institutional Review Board, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Institutional Biosafety Committee, or Radiation Safety Committee) reports misconduct substantiated by an investigation with factual findings, this shall serve as the internal preliminary investigation.
In all other cases, the vice president for research will refer the reported matter to the appropriate college dean and associate dean for research, or equivalents, to conduct a preliminary internal investigation into the alleged misconduct. The investigation will be conducted confidentially.
Within twenty (20) business days from the initial receipt of the report of potential academic misconduct, the evidence and any recommended findings shall be forwarded to the vice president for research. During the preliminary investigation stage, the funding agency will not be notified, except as may be otherwise required by law or written agreement.
PART 5: ACTION ON RESULTS OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION
The vice president for research shall consider the evidence and the recommended findings of the preliminary investigation, and initiate further action as follows within twenty (20) business days from the date the evidence and the findings were received.
- If the vice president for research concludes that no infraction occurred, the matter will be dismissed. This decision, including all supporting documentation, will be reported to the Office of University General Counsel.
- If the vice president for research concludes that an infraction occurred, but was not an unanticipated problem, did not involve serious or continuing non-compliance with federal regulations or university policy, rules or procedures, and did not involve a suspension or termination of an approval granted by the appropriate oversight committee, the vice president for research will refer the matter to the college dean or appropriate vice president for disciplinary action or other administrative corrective action, as warranted by the factual findings.
- If the vice president for research concludes that the matter may involve an unanticipated problem, a serious or continuing non-compliance issue, or a suspension or termination of an approval granted by the appropriate oversight committee, the vice president for research shall refer the matter for a confidential formal investigation, at which time the funding agency and/or the appropriate federal or state oversight agency will be notified by way of an Initial Report. The Initial Report shall indicate that either follow up reports or a final report, or both, will be forthcoming as soon as practicable under the circumstances.
- If the vice president for research concludes that a crime may be implicated, the matter shall be immediately reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency for a separate and distinct criminal investigation.
PART 6: FORMAL INVESTIGATION
The confidential formal investigation will be conducted by an ad hoc committee to be convened and chaired by the vice president for research. The committee shall consist of the appropriate college dean and associate dean for research or equivalents, the appropriate department head, and three faculty or exempt staff members from the University Research Council, selected by the university research council chair. Substitutions, in the event of conflict of interest, will be made by the vice president for research or the executive vice president and provost, as appropriate. This formal investigation should be completed within two months from the date the committee is formed. The committee shall gather relevant documentation; interview witnesses with relevant testimony, including the person charged with the misconduct; preserve any physical evidence; and prepare an investigative report summarizing all evidence in the form of factual findings. The final draft investigative report shall be shared with the person charged with the misconduct, and that person shall be given a minimum of five business days to respond.
PART 7: ACTION ON RESULTS OF FORMAL INVESTIGATION
Consistent with the results of the formal investigation, the vice president for research and/or the appropriate college dean or vice president shall take appropriate, university-wide corrective action to ensure that similar incidents do not recur, and shall coordinate with the Office of Human Resource Services regarding disciplinary action, if any, to be taken.
PART 8: NOTIFICATIONS AND RECORD RETENTION
All documentation of the preliminary inquiry and formal investigation, if any, shall be maintained in the office of the vice president for research for at least three (3) years and must, upon request, be provided to authorized government personnel. The university shall comply with notification requirements imposed by funding agency regulations and agreements.
PART 9: ANTI-RETALIATION
In order to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, report reasonably suspected academic misconduct in research, the university prohibits retaliation in any form to be taken against the reporter or any person who cooperates in the investigative process. A complaint of suspected retaliation will also be cause for the initiation of a separate internal investigation to be conducted in coordination with the Office of Human Resource Services, and if substantiated, will be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
PART 10: FALSE OR UNFOUNDED COMPLAINTS
If the preliminary or formal investigative report reflects that the complaint of academic misconduct in research was not substantiated, the university will make efforts to restore the reputations of the researcher who was accused of having engaged in misconduct. Additionally, and depending upon the circumstances, the university may initiate a separate internal investigation in the event the investigative report indicates that the initial complaint or any testimony given as part of the internal investigation, may have been intentionally falsified. If deliberate falsification of such a complaint or testimony is substantiated, it will be grounds for disciplinary action against the false reporter, up to and including termination of employment.