C.11. Misconduct in Research and Other Scholarly Activities
Middlebury is committed to fostering an environment in which the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research and other scholarly activities are followed. The primary responsibility for maintaining such standards of honesty in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge rests with the researchers. An individual engaged in research and other scholarly activities must be aware of the ethical standards governing his/her discipline and of applicable regulations and conduct himself/herself accordingly. Members of the Middlebury community should report conduct that they believe in good faith constitutes misconduct in research or other scholarly activities. Protection shall be provided to whistleblowers through provisions in this policy and Middlebury’s Whistleblower policy.
“Research misconduct” means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. For purposes of this Policy, the term "research" encompasses both research and scholarship. Misconduct includes retaliation of any kind against a person who in good faith reports or provides information about possible misconduct. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
a) “Fabrication” is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
b) “Falsification” is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
c) “Plagiarism” is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
“Complainant" refers to the person who has made the allegation of research misconduct.
"Respondent" refers to the person who allegedly engaged in research misconduct.
Academic integrity is one of Middlebury’s three pillars. Without integrity, we could not justify the privilege of academic freedom intrinsic to scholarship and education, nor could we provide to society the advancements of knowledge that derive from free and open inquiry. This policy is designed to address important issues of academic integrity that arise in academic life and to ensure Middlebury’s compliance with applicable federal law. While no single policy can guarantee responsible research conduct, this Policy serves to set the high standards of integrity that Middlebury expects from all faculty, trainees, staff and students.
Consistent with Middlebury’s core values and all applicable federal regulations (including but not limited to 42 CFR Parts 50 and 93) this Policy describes the behavioral expectations of faculty, staff and students, involved in research and scholarship, as well as the procedures to be followed in response to allegations of research misconduct (as defined below) involving a faculty member or staff researcher. Allegations of students’ misconduct shall be referred to the Student Research Integrity Officer (SRIO) for consideration according to established procedures. In cases where alleged student misconduct is in connection with work on a federal or other externally-sponsored project, the SRIO shall notify the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) of the progress of proceedings so that any required reports to the relevant federal agency can be made in a timely manner.
2. Prohibition on Research Misconduct
Any of the defined forms of research misconduct are prohibited as inconsistent with Middlebury’s requirements of academic integrity for all members of the Middlebury community and shall be subject to sanction under this or other applicable policies.
All members of the institution (faculty, staff and students) have a responsibility to report observed, suspected, or apparent research misconduct to the appropriate RIO. If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident falls within the definition of research misconduct, he or she may meet with or contact the RIO to discuss the suspected research misconduct informally, which may include discussing it anonymously and/or hypothetically. If the circumstances described by the individual do not meet the definition of research misconduct, the RIO will refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the problem, as appropriate. At any time, an institutional member may have confidential discussions and consultations about concerns of possible misconduct with the RIO and will be counseled about appropriate procedures for reporting allegations.
Faculty and staff members, including Respondents and Complainants, as well as students, shall cooperate with the RIO and other institutional officials in the review of allegations of research misconduct and the conduct of inquiries and investigations. All have an obligation to provide evidence relevant to allegations of misconduct to the RIO or other institutional officials.
D. Procedures for Responding to Allegation(s)
Because the allegations of misconduct may differ, the procedures outlined below provide a broad framework for assessing and investigating allegations. In all cases when research is funded by an external sponsor, the regulations of that sponsor will take precedence. All proceedings shall be kept as confidential as possible, while complying with federal, state or other requirements. Minutes of all proceedings shall be maintained by the RIO and provided as necessary to relevant federal agencies or offices as required by law. Middlebury reserves the right to designate alternate officials as needed to address possible conflicts of interest, absences, etc. Ordinarily, any investigation will be completed within 180 days from the date of the allegation of research misconduct to the RIO unless specific circumstances warrant additional time.
1) Guiding Principles: Throughout the inquiry, investigation, and implementation of any administrative actions or other resolution, all participants must bear in mind several considerations:
- The importance, in fact and appearance, of fairness, objectivity, and reasonable expediency;
- Protecting, to the maximum extent possible, the privacy of those who in good faith report alleged misconduct;
- Protecting, to the maximum extent possible, the rights and privacy of the Respondent, including the right to be informed of the alleged misconduct, of the evidence in support of the allegation of research misconduct, and other procedures to be followed;
- The importance of ensuring that the professional interests and integrity of the Respondent are respected; and
- The importance of consulting with outside agencies or institutions which have an interest in the research in question.
2) Assessment: Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the RIO shall assess the allegation to determine whether it warrants an inquiry. An inquiry is warranted if the allegation:
- falls within the definition of research misconduct as set forth herein; and
- is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified.
3) Interim Actions: At any stage in the process, the RIO shall have the authority to take interim action as needed, which may include additional monitoring of the research process and the handling of federal funds and equipment, reassignment of personnel or of the responsibility for the handling of federal funds and equipment, additional review of research data and results, and/or delaying publication. In case of any one of the following circumstances, the relevant federal agency or office, or sponsoring organization, shall be notified immediately. Interim action may be warranted if the RIO has reason to believe that:
- the health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects;
- federal resources or interests are threatened;
- the research activities should be suspended;
- there is a reasonable indication of possible violations of civil or criminal law;
- federal action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding;
- the research misconduct proceeding should be made public prematurely in order for federal action to be taken to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved; or
- the research community or public should be informed.
- Notification and Evidentiary Matters: If an inquiry is warranted, the RIO shall, at the time of or before beginning an inquiry:
- i. notify the Respondent(s) of the allegation and intended inquiry; and
- ii. to the extent it has not already been done at the assessment stage, promptly take all reasonable and practical steps to collect of all the research records and evidence needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding, inventory the records and evidence, and sequester them in a secure manner, except that where the research records or evidence encompass scientific instruments shared by a number of users, custody may be limited to copies of the data or evidence on such instruments, so long as those copies are substantially equivalent to the evidentiary value of the instruments. The RIO shall collect and/or take custody of any additional items as they become known or relevant to the proceedings.
- Inquiry Committee:
- i. The inquiry will be conducted by a committee, appointed by the RIO, consisting of a minimum of three persons with appropriate experience and/or background to judge the issues being raised. Standing committees that deal with research issues (e.g., Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects Research, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) may be used as one source for members of an inquiry committee. Committee members may be from within or outside the Middlebury community and must have no real or apparent conflicts of interest bearing on the inquiry.
- ii. The RIO will also sit with the committee as a non-voting member.
- iii. The inquiry will ordinarily be completed within 60 days and a report made to the Deciding Official (DO.) All specific requirements concerning timing, reporting, documentation, and confidentiality will be met, in accordance with the appropriate federal regulations or the policies of any agency or organization funding the research.
- Inquiry Committee’s Charge
- i. The Inquiry Committee shall conduct an initial review of the available evidence to determine whether to conduct an investigation. An inquiry does not require a full review of all the evidence related to the allegation. An investigation is warranted if:
- there is reasonable basis for concluding that the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct as defined herein; and
- the allegation may have substance, based on the preliminary information-gathering and fact-finding.
- Inquiry Report: The RIO will prepare a written Inquiry Report which, at a minimum, shall contain the information set forth in Exhibit B. The RIO shall notify the Respondent whether the Inquiry Committee found that an investigation is warranted and provide the Respondent an opportunity to review and comment on the draft Inquiry Report. Any comments received from the Respondent shall be attached to the final Inquiry Report. The RIO may also notify the Complainant whether the inquiry found that an Investigation is warranted and provide relevant portions of the report to the Complainant for comment.
- DO Determination Whether to Conduct an Investigation: The RIO will deliver the Inquiry Report, on behalf of the Inquiry Committee, to the DO. The DO will receive the Inquiry Report and, after consulting with the RIO and/or other institutional officials, decide whether an investigation is warranted under the criteria set forth in Section 3-1 above. A finding that an investigation is warranted must be made in writing by the DO. Applicable regulatory requirements concerning timing, reporting, documentation, and confidentiality will be met, as well as any contractual requirements imposed by the funder.
- Records of Inquiry: Detailed documentation of the inquiry must be retained for seven (7) years after termination of any inquiry, regardless of outcome.
- Timing of Investigation: If warranted, an investigation should commence within 30 days of the DO’s determination, and shall ordinarily be completed within 120 days unless circumstances warrant additional time. Applicable regulatory requirements concerning timing, reporting, documentation, and confidentiality will be met, as well as any contractual requirements imposed by the funder.
- Notification and Evidentiary Matters: If an investigation is warranted, the RIO shall, within a reasonable amount of time of the determination and before the investigation commences:
- i. notify the Respondent(s) in writing of the investigation, including written notice of any new allegations not previously addressed; and
- ii. to the extent it has not already done so at the assessment or inquiry stage, take the actions described under Section 2.2. above.
- Investigative Committee: The RIO will appoint an Investigative Committee in consultation with the DO, using the same criteria of research expertise and lack of personal relationship or conflict of interest with the parties involved, as required above for the Inquiry Committee. The RIO will sit with the committee as a non-voting member. The DO shall have no direct involvement in the investigation. The Investigative Committee shall consist of a minimum of three persons. The Respondent shall be informed of the membership of the Investigative Committee.
- Investigation: The Investigative Committee and RIO shall undertake a careful and thorough review of the facts of the allegation and take reasonable steps to ensure an impartial and unbiased investigation to the maximum extent practical. The Committee and RIO must:
- i. interview each Respondent, Complainant, and any other available person who has been reasonably identified as having information regarding any relevant aspects of the investigation, including witnesses identified by the Respondent, and record or transcribe each interview, provide the recording or transcript to the interviewee for correction, and include the recording or transcript in the record of the investigation;
- ii. pursue diligently all significant issues and leads discovered that are determined relevant to the investigation, including any evidence of additional instances of possible research misconduct, and continue the investigation to completion;
- iii. evaluate the evidence and testimony to determine whether, based on a preponderance of the evidence, research misconduct occurred and, if so, the type and extent of it and who was responsible;
- iv. If raised, Respondent has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence any affirmative defenses raised, including honest error or a difference of opinion
- v. The Investigative Committee shall determine whether a preponderance of the evidence establishes that:
- research misconduct, as defined by this Policy, occurred
- the research misconduct is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and
- the Respondent committed the research misconduct intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly.
- vi. Informing Respondent: The Respondent shall be kept informed by the RIO of the procedures to be followed and of the nature of the evidence presented, and shall be given the opportunity to appear before the Investigative Committee to respond to the allegation(s).
- vii. Documentation: The RIO shall use diligent efforts to ensure that the investigation i is thorough and sufficiently documented and includes examination of all research records and evidence relevant to reaching a decision on the merits of the allegations.
- viii. Investigation Report: The Investigative Committee, shall produce a written Investigation Report, which shall include, at a minimum, the information set forth in Exhibit C. The Investigative Committee must provide the Respondent and the Complainant a reasonable opportunity to review and comment on the draft Investigation Report and, concurrently, the Respondent must be provided with a copy of, or supervised access to, the evidence on which the report is based. Any comments of the Respondent or the Complainant must be submitted within 30 days of the date on which the draft was provided to the commenter. The Investigative Committee shall consider all comments received before issuing its final report.
6) Deciding Official (DO) Determination and Administrative Actions: The Investigative Committee will submit its report to the DO. The DO will determine in writing:
- whether the institution accepts the Investigative Committee’s report, its findings, and the recommended institutional actions; and
- the appropriate institutional actions in response to the accepted findings of research misconduct.
- If the DO determines that research misconduct is substantiated by the findings, he or she will decide on the appropriate actions to be taken, after consultation with the RIO and other Middlebury officials. If this determination varies from the findings of the Investigative Committee, the DO will, as part of his/her written determination, explain in detail the basis for rendering a decision different from the findings of the investigative committee. Alternatively, the DO may return the report to the Investigative Committee with a request for further fact-finding or analysis.
7) Actions Following Conclusion of Investigation: When a final decision has been reached:
- the RIO shall notify both the Respondent and the Complainant in writing;
- the DO shall ensure, and may direct the RIO to implement, that the final Investigation Report, the findings of the DO and a description of any pending or completed administrative actions are provided to any relevant federal agency or office or sponsoring organization, as required or appropriate;
- the DO shall determine whether law enforcement agencies, professional societies, professional licensing boards, editors of journals in which falsified reports may have been published, collaborators of the Respondent in the work, or other relevant parties should be notified of the outcome of the case;
- both the DO and the RIO are responsible for ensuring that Middlebury staff, faculty and students cooperate with any further federal, state, and/or sponsor investigations, proceedings or sanctions.
- the DO shall determine whether the finding of research misconduct under this policy should be considered an allegation of faculty (or staff) misconduct that must then be separately considered under the terms any faculty (or staff) misconduct policies at Middlebury for potential additional sanctions.
8) Right to Appeal: A faculty or staff member found to have committed misconduct in research and against whom sanctions are imposed by the DO may appeal the DO's decision to the Provost of Middlebury College, or their designee. The appeal must be filed within 10 days of the DO’s decision. All specific requirements concerning timing, reporting, documentation, and confidentiality of appeals will be met, in accordance with the appropriate federal regulations or the policies of any agency or organization funding the research.
9) Confidentiality; Retaliation: Protection of Respondent’s Reputation.
- Confidentiality: Throughout the proceedings, the RIO and all participants in the proceedings shall, to the extent possible, limit disclosure of the identity of Respondent(s) and Complainant(s) to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective and fair research misconduct proceeding; and, except as otherwise prescribed by law, limit the disclosure of any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified to those who need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding. The RIO may, in their discretion, arrange for a witness (other than the Complainant) to provide information confidentially in compelling circumstances. Notwithstanding the foregoing,
- the identity of Respondent(s) and Complainant(s) will be disclosed to any federal agency or other sponsor that requires such disclosure, which may result in the information becoming a public record, and
- administrative hearings of the federal agencies are open to the public.
- Retaliation: Faculty, staff members, or students may not retaliate in any way against Complainants, witnesses, or committee members. Any alleged or apparent retaliation against Complainants, witnesses, or committee members shall be reported to the RIO, who shall review the matter and, as necessary, make all reasonable and practical efforts to counter any potential or actual retaliation and protect and restore the position and reputation of the person against whom the retaliation is directed.
- Protection of Respondent’s Reputation: After the proceeding and as appropriate, the RIO and other institutional officials shall make reasonable efforts to protect or restore the reputation of persons alleged to have engaged in research misconduct but against whom no finding of research misconduct is made.
10) Allegations Not Made in Good Faith: If relevant, the DO will determine whether the Complainant’s allegations were made in good faith, or whether a witness or committee member acted in good faith. If the DO determines that there was an absence of good faith, he/she will determine whether any administrative action should be taken against the person who failed to act in good faith.
E. Roles and Responsibilities
The Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the relevant Middlebury program has the responsibility for final determinations regarding allegations of research misconduct and implementing institutional administrative action. The VPAAs are therefore the “Deciding Official” for cases arising within their program (the VPAA/Dean of the Faculty for College faculty, the VPAA/Dean of the Institute for the Institute faculty, and the VPAA/Dean of the Language Schools for Language Schools faculty) as that term is used in federal regulations and within this Policy.
The Research Integrity Officer (RIO) has primary responsibility for implementation of these policies and procedures. The RIO is responsible for minutes of all proceedings, as well for ensuring that Respondent()s promptly receive all the notices and opportunities to present their case, consistent with this Policy. The RIO at the College shall be the Dean for Faculty Development and Research (DFDR) who will also be the RIO of record for the Public Health Service-Office of Research Integrity; at the Institute and Schools the RIO, ordinarily a faculty member, shall be designated by the VPAA, in consultation with the DFDR. The RIO’s responsibilities under this policy are summarized in Exhibit A. The RIO may consult with appropriate staff as needed, such as the General Counsel, compliance staff, etc.
The Student Research Integrity Officer (SRIO) is the institutional official responsible for all student activities including student discipline, ordinarily the Vice President for Student Affairs. The RIO will determine the appropriate SRIO for any situation involving students.
F. Policy Contact
Research Integrity Officer, Dean of Faculty Development & Research
G. Related Forms and Information:
Summary of RIO’s Responsibilities
Contents of Inquiry Report (Exhibit B)
Contents of Investigative Report (Exhibit C)