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- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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:
- take all due steps to acquaint themselves with available guidance as
to `best practice' in matters of research policy, finance and safety
relevant to their area of research activity, as contained, for example, in
the statement `Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice' published by the
Director General of the Research Councils and the Chief Executives of the
UK Research Councils in December 1998, and similar documents.
- observe such legal and ethical requirements as are laid down by the
Observatory or such other properly appointed bodies as are involved in
their field of research;
- take steps to ensure the safety of those associated with the
- report any conflict of interest, whether actual or potential, to the
appropriate authority; and
- observe fairness and equity in the conduct and publication of their
- 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.
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.
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
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
Any reprisals against or victimization of a complainant under these
procedures will be treated as a serious disciplinary matter.
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
It must be borne in mind that a complaint of Scientific Misconduct is
serious and potentially defamatory and could lead to legal proceedings.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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'.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Assessment will normally involve the Assessment Team
interviewing the initiator, the respondent and key witnesses, and
examining relevant research records and materials.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Investigation Panel must keep meticulous records of the
proceedings and will be provided with a clerk if required.
- 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.
- 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.
- interview the respondent and any other parties it chooses, including
- widen the scope of its investigation if it considers that necessary;
- require the respondent -- and if it judges it necessary, other
members of the Observatory -- to produce files, notebooks and other
- seek evidence from other parties.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Conveying the findings of the Investigation Panel to any relevant
professional body, any external funding bodies or other public body with an
interest, external collaborators, and the editors of any journals which
have published articles by the person against whom the allegation has been
- Recommending the initiation of formal disciplinary proceedings under
the Observatory's published disciplinary procedures, or other relevant
bodies' procedures where those prevail, against the individual against
whom the allegation has been upheld.
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