next up previous
Next: Literature Used Up: scientific Previous: Definition of Scientific Misconduct

Subsections

Procedure for Dealing with Allegations of Scientific Misconduct

General Provisions and Statement of Principles

1.
This Procedure outlines the steps which should be followed when complaints of Scientific Misconduct are brought against any member of the Observatory or against anyone who is authorised to undertake research in the Observatory or to use the Observatory's facilities whose research is liable to bring the Observatory into disrepute.

2.
The Procedure is to be implemented without prejudice to the normal operation of the Observatory's disciplinary procedures. In the event of any conflict between the implementation of this Procedure and the relevant disciplinary practice, then the latter shall prevail.

3.
The Observatory treats any complaints of Scientific Misconduct seriously, and is committed to ensuring that complaints of misconduct are investigated with thoroughness and vigour, bearing in mind any legal requirements.

4.
The goal of the Code of Good Practice for Scholarly and Scientific Research is to ensure the integrity of academic activity, to achieve a rapid and equitable resolution of all charges and to ensure that all parties are treated with fairness and an attention to natural justice.

5.
All members of the Observatory are required to observe the highest standards in the conduct of their research. In pursuing such high standards, it is expected that they shall:

6.
Failure to comply with this Code of Practice may give rise to a complaint of Scientific Misconduct. Such misconduct may be grounds for disciplinary action, and if serious, for dismissal or expulsion.

Responsibility

All members of the Observatory have a responsibility to report any incident of Scientific Misconduct. Suspicions reported in good faith will not lead to disciplinary proceedings against the person making the complaint. In the event, however, of a complaint judged to be mischievous or malicious, disciplinary action may be taken against the complainant.

Confidentiality

All complaints will be investigated in the strictest confidence that is reasonable in the circumstances. All those involved in the procedures for investigating a complaint, including witnesses, representatives and persons providing information, evidence and/or advice, have a duty to maintain confidentiality.

Those charged with considering any complaint under this Procedure must take all reasonable steps not to breach confidentiality or to reveal the identity of the complainant until a Formal Investigation is initiated. Thereafter, confidentiality will be maintained insofar as it is consistent with a fair and thorough investigation and with the right of the person or persons being investigated to be aware of the details of the matter raised.

Reprisals or Victimization

Any reprisals against or victimization of a complainant under these procedures will be treated as a serious disciplinary matter.

Repeated or Stale Complaints

Where an investigation results in a finding that no misconduct has occurred, the Observatory will not instigate a new investigation into the same issue unless new material evidence is presented by a different complainant, or unless the person who was the subject of the previous investigation requests another investigation.

Because of the difficulty of assessing stale claims and the unfairness to the person against whom the allegation is made, allegations based on conduct which occurred three years or more prior to the making of the allegation will not be investigated under this policy unless the circumstances indicate that the alleged conduct was not discoverable earlier.

Possible Legal Action

It must be borne in mind that a complaint of Scientific Misconduct is serious and potentially defamatory and could lead to legal proceedings.

Procedure

The Observatory is committed to ensuring that all allegations of Scientific Misconduct are investigated thoroughly, fairly and expeditiously, and with care and sensitivity. To this end, the procedure for handling allegations of Scientific Misconduct is separated into two stages. First, an initial assessment to determine whether there is a prima facie case for investigation, and secondly a formal investigation to examine and evaluate all the relevant facts and to determine whether Scientific Misconduct has occurred.

Initial Investigation

The initial allegation should be reported first to the Administrator or, if for any reason this is not possible or appropriate, the Director. The person who receives the initial allegation is here termed `the Reporting Officer'.

1.
If the allegation of Scientific Misconduct is clearly frivolous or mistaken, or of a minor nature suitable for informal resolution (for example an inadvertent or unintentional violation of this Code of Good Practice), the Reporting Officer shall take appropriate action and terminate the investigation.

2.
Otherwise, the Reporting Officer shall immediately identify any external funding sources for the research which is the subject of the inquiry, and any external collaborators who may be involved in the investigation. The Reporting Officer shall then also ask the person making the allegation to submit in writing a detailed statement in support of the allegation. The Reporting Officer may also, at his or her discretion, choose to evaluate anonymous allegations, depending on the seriousness of the issues, the credibility, and the feasibility of confirming the allegation with credible sources.

3.
If the allegation is subject to criminal or civil law, or would be the cause of instant dismissal or suspension under other Observatory procedures, it should be dealt with under the appropriate mechanism. Otherwise, the Reporting Officer shall where practicable within a period of 20 days identify an Assessment Team consisting of a minimum of two members of staff who have no conflicts of interest in the case, are unbiased, and have expertise to evaluate the appropriate research issues, to investigate the circumstances of the alleged Scientific Misconduct. (Here, and elsewhere, the term `day' is used to mean `working day'.)

4.
The Reporting Officer shall inform the individual against whom the allegation is made (the respondent) the membership of the proposed Assessment Team and the nature of the allegation, giving the respondent 10 days in which to appeal the choice of membership of the Assessment Team on grounds of conflicts of interest in the case, bias, or lack of relevant expertise in the appropriate research issues. If no suitable members of staff can be identified to serve on the Assessment Team, consideration may be given to appointing an Assessment Team comprising individuals from outside the Observatory.

5.
The Assessment Team shall identify which member is to chair the team, and specifically limit its scope to that of evaluating the facts only to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of Scientific Misconduct to warrant an investigation.

6.
The respondent shall be informed in writing by the Reporting Officer of the allegations and the membership of the Assessment Team, and shall be invited to respond both orally and in writing. The respondent shall be given a copy of the Observatory's Code of Good Practice for Scholarly and Scientific Research and Procedure for Dealing with Allegations of Scientific Misconduct, and any reasonable assistance in providing or preparing a response.

7.
The Assessment will normally involve the Assessment Team interviewing the initiator, the respondent and key witnesses, and examining relevant research records and materials.

8.
The Assessment Team shall complete the assessment and submit its report in writing to the Reporting Officer within a maximum of 30 days where practicable from the date the team is appointed. The report should state what evidence was reviewed, summarise relevant interviews and draw conclusions as to whether an investigation is warranted.

9.
The respondent shall be given a copy of the report and evidence considered by the Assessment Team. Care must be taken to maintain the anonymity of the initiator and key witnesses. Any comments that the respondent submits within 10 days will be attached as an addendum to the report.

10.
The Reporting Officer shall determine from the report, and any addendum, whether to conduct a formal investigation, drop the matter, or take some other appropriate action. The initiator and respondent will be informed in writing of the decision where practicable within 20 days of the Reporting Officer receiving the report and any addendum.

Formal Investigation

The purpose of the formal investigation is to examine and evaluate all relevant facts to determine whether Scientific Misconduct has been committed, and if so, the responsible person or persons, and the seriousness of the misconduct. The public presumption of innocence should be maintained until the investigation process is complete.

1.
If the Reporting Officer decides that a Formal Investigation shall be conducted, he or she shall notify appropriate persons including the Director and the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee, appropriate external funding bodies and other collaborators. (Several Research Councils and research charities have clauses stating that they should be notified of any cases of suspected misconduct and kept informed of developments.)

2.
The Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee, in conjunction with the Director (unless the Director is a party to the alleged scientific misconduct), shall appoint an Investigation Panel where practicable within 20 days after the decision of the Reporting Officer to proceed to this stage.

3.
The Investigation Panel shall consist of at least three individuals who have no conflicts of interest in the case, are unbiased, and have expertise to evaluate the appropriate research issues.

4.
At least one member of the Investigation Panel will be a peer professional from outside the Observatory (i.e. unconnected with either the Observatory itself or its senior management structure), and no member of the Assessment Team may serve on the Investigation Panel. The Investigation Panel shall identify which member is to chair the Panel.

5.
The Investigation Panel must keep meticulous records of the proceedings and will be provided with a clerk if required.

6.
As soon as the Investigation Panel is appointed, its Chair or clerk shall notify the respondent in writing of the allegation, the membership of the Panel and of the Panel's intended procedure, and invite him or her to respond to the allegation within 20 days. The Panel should interview the respondent to allow the respondent to present information and respond to the subject matter of the investigation.

7.
The Investigation Panel shall determine its own detailed procedures. Specifically, it may:

The respondent may choose to bring a Trade Union representative or another member of staff to the interview.

8.
The Investigation Panel shall submit a report in writing where practicable within 90 days of the Panel being appointed, to the Reporting Officer, the Director, and the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee. The report shall generally describe the investigative process, indicating whether or not it finds the allegations proven, in whole or in part, and give reasons for its conclusions. It shall uphold the allegation only if it finds the allegation proven beyond reasonable doubt.

9.
The Director (or if the Director is a party to the allegation, the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee) will convey the Panel's findings to the respondent, the initiator, the Reporting Officer, and any other person or bodies as he or she deems appropriate.

Appeal

Any appeal by the respondent or the initiator against the findings of the Reporting Officer, Assessment Team or the Investigation Panel must be addressed to the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee, and lodged within 30 days of the findings being made to the person making the appeal. The Chair or Deputy Chair of the Management Committee will refer the appeal to the Management Committee, which will form a Sub-Committee to reassess all the relevant evidence pertaining to the alleged Scientific Misconduct. The Sub-Committee, which must consist of persons who have had no previous role in the case, may take such action as it deems necessary, including the instigation of a new Formal Investigation.

The Appeal hearing shall be held where practicable within 30 days of the receipt of the appeal from the respondent or initiator, and the result of the appeal shall be notified in writing to the appellant where practicable within 10 days of the hearing.

The Sub-Committee's decision regarding the Appeal is final.

Subsequent Action

If the Investigation Panel has found the alleged Scientific Misconduct proven, in whole or in part, and any appeal has not been upheld, the Reporting Officer, Director (if the Director is not a party to the alleged Scientific Misconduct), and the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Management Committee will determine what action needs to be taken. Such action may include, for example:

If the allegation has not been upheld, the Reporting Officer, together with the Director and the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Management Committee, will take all appropriate steps to preserve the good reputation of the respondent and to protect the initiator from victimization. If the case has received any publicity, the respondent shall be offered the possibility of having an official statement released by the Observatory to the press or other relevant parties, or both. If the Investigation Panel has found that the initiator's allegation was malicious, the Reporting Officer may recommend that action be initiated under the Observatory's published disciplinary procedures.


next up previous
Next: Literature Used Up: scientific Previous: Definition of Scientific Misconduct
webmaster@star.arm.ac.uk