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Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President

University Handbook, Appendix O:
Policy on Integrity in Research and Scholarly Activity

Policy on Integrity in Research and Scholarly Activity
(FSM 12-12-89; revised FSM 11-12-91; revisions 5/8/18)

Encouragement of Integrity in Research and Scholarly Activity

Researchers, scholars, and administrators have the responsibility to create and sustain an atmosphere where honesty and integrity in the conduct of research and scholarly activity are paramount. For individual researchers, integrity requires concern for quality of published works, generosity in recognizing and citing the accomplishments of others, careful review of manuscripts, conferring of co-authorship only to those who have made a significant contribution, and the ability and willingness of all authors to publicly defend published results. Students doing research or scholarly activity are expected to uphold the same standards of academic integrity as the faculty and staff. Thus, this policy applies to faculty, unclassified professionals, and students.

Departments and other individual administrative units have the responsibility to provide information regarding accepted standards of professional integrity and quality, including aspects specific to their own disciplines. This information should be provided as a continuing reminder to the research staff and as normal training for students. In addition, the members of the faculty, particularly major professors, are responsible for communicating standards for academic conduct to graduate students. It is the responsibility of the administration to make available to faculty members and research staff this policy, including the consequences of misconduct.

Reporting research misconduct is a mandatory responsibility shared by everyone at the university.

This policy only governs research misconduct. Other types of misconduct or unethical behavior will be addressed according to applicable University policies and practices.

Definition of Research Misconduct

 “Research misconduct” means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. It also includes questionable research practices. It does not include honest error or differences in opinion (for example, interpretation or judgments regarding data).

The definitions of fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, research, and questionable research practices are:

  1. “Fabrication” means making up the data or results and recording or reporting them.
  2. “Falsification” means 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.
  3. “Plagiarism” means the appropriation of a person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. This includes republishing one’s own research without crediting the prior publication.
  4. “Research” means the process to extend human knowledge beyond what is already known.
  5. “Questionable Research Practices” include practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the research community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. Examples include, but are not limited to: guest, gift, or ghost authorship; duplicate publication, dropping observations or data points based on “gut feel,” inadequate record keeping as outlined by award stipulations, and failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

Procedures to Be Followed in Cases of Alleged Misconduct in Research or Scholarly Activity

This document describes procedures to be followed when research misconduct is alleged against a university employee or student.

At every stage, great care shall be taken to ensure the rights of the individual(s) charged with research misconduct and of those bringing the charges to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings. The charged individual(s) shall be informed of their right to counsel as soon as they are informed of the allegations made against them. Counsel may accompany and provide advice to the individual(s) accused of research misconduct whenever that (those) person(s) is (are) interviewed, but shall not participate directly in these proceedings. At every stage of these proceedings the burden of proof shall rest with the university and shall be by the preponderance of the evidence, which means that the evidence must show, more likely than not, that the person(s) engaged in research misconduct. The procedures shall be carried out in a timely manner and care will be taken to ensure due process for all involved.

A finding of research misconduct requires that: (1) there be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; (2) the misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and (3) the allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence.

1.  Appointing the Integrity in Research and Scholarly Activity Committee

The Vice President for Research (VPR) shall appoint 15 tenured members of the graduate faculty, representing diverse areas of research and scholarly activity, to serve as members of the Integrity in Research and Scholarly Activity Committee (IRSAC). Members shall be appointed for three-year terms. Members may be reappointed for two consecutive additional terms to the IRSAC. In the event it becomes necessary for the Provost to select a Review Committee to investigate an allegation of research misconduct, members of the Review Committee shall be appointed from the membership of the IRSAC.

2.  Reporting of Alleged Research Misconduct

All members of the university community have the responsibility to report suspected, observed, or apparent instances of research misconduct to the appropriate Department Head, Dean, the VPR, or the Provost. This requirement does not prohibit persons from reporting research misconduct elsewhere, nor does it require that a person make a report to the University first. But a timely report to the University is required.

Before making a report of research misconduct, individuals are encouraged to try to resolve the issue directly with all researchers involved. If the issue is resolved with the researchers, then no report is required.

If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident falls within the definition of research misconduct, he/she may meet with the VPR to discuss the suspected research misconduct informally. If the circumstances described by the individual do not meet the definition of research misconduct, the VPR will refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials as appropriate. Using this process with the VPR will not result in a malicious or frivolous allegation of research misconduct.

Department Heads, Deans, and other administrators, as well as the entire academic community, are charged with protecting the careers of persons who report possible research misconduct in good faith. But malicious or frivolous allegations of research misconduct are not acceptable. A “malicious” allegation means that the person knows the allegation is false. A “frivolous” allegation means that the person has made the allegation with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity. Generally, a person should examine the readily ascertainable information available before making a research misconduct allegation. A person making a malicious or frivolous allegation may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

3. Inquiry

The VPR, upon receiving a formal report of potential research misconduct, will immediately conduct an inquiry regarding the allegation. The VPR will be assisted in the inquiry by the Dean of the College, the Head of the Department in which the respondent is appointed, the Senior Associate Vice President for Research, and others as deemed necessary by the VPR.

The inquiry will include: (1) an interview with the complainant (the person(s) making the allegation, regardless of where the allegation is made) to acquire a thorough understanding of the allegation; (2) an evaluation of the allegation to determine, if true, research misconduct may have occurred (if not, then the VPR will close the inquiry); (3) an interview with the respondent (the person(s) about who the allegation is made), giving a full account of the complaint and affording a full opportunity to respond; and (4) as appropriate, a review of pertinent written documentation and interviews with individuals who may have knowledge regarding the allegation.

The inquiry should typically be completed within ninety (90) calendar days, but some factors may require a longer time. At the end of the inquiry process, the inquiry team will create a report with its conclusions.

The inquiry team report should include: (1) a description of the specific allegation of research misconduct; (2) the basis for recommending or not recommending that the allegations warrant a full investigation; (3) a summary of the inquiry team conclusions; and (4) any documents acquired as part of the inquiry.

The inquiry team report shall be kept in the VPR's office for three years after conclusion of the inquiry.

There are three potential outcomes of an inquiry.

(1)      If the inquiry team concludes that no research misconduct has occurred, then the complainant and the respondent will receive a letter from the VPR describing the inquiry process and the determination that has been made. But if the inquiry ends before the respondent is notified about the allegation, then the VPR will determine whether to provide a letter to the respondent. If the inquiry team determines that the allegation may have been malicious or frivolous, then the inquiry team will notify the Provost. The VPR is responsible for determining whether an allegation is malicious or frivolous, and if so, then the VPR will recommend sanctions to the Provost. The Provost will decide any sanctions.

(2)      If the inquiry team concludes that research misconduct has definitely occurred but that it is not of such a serious or complex nature as to require a full investigation, then the inquiry team report, including any recommended sanctions will be provided to the Provost and the respondent. Within ten (10) calendar days from the date the inquiry team’s report was issued, the respondent may submit written comments to the Provost regarding the report. The Provost may also meet with the respondent, at the Provost’s option. If the Provost concurs with the inquiry team’s finding of research misconduct, then the Provost will issue a letter imposing appropriate sanctions, including any described in section 5, below. If the Provost does not concur with the inquiry team’s finding or believes that a full investigation is warranted, then the Provost will assign the matter to a Review Committee.

(3)      If it appears from the inquiry that research misconduct may have occurred and that a full investigation is warranted, the VPR will refer the matter to the Provost and provide the inquiry team report. The inquiry team report will also be provided to the respondent. Within ten (10) calendar days of receiving the inquiry team report, the respondent may submit written comments to the Provost regarding the inquiry team report. The respondent’s comments will be provided to the Review Committee.

The VPR will notify applicable agencies, such as the Office of Research Integrity, if the outcome of the inquiry is a finding of research misconduct or the initiation of a full investigation.

4. Full Investigation by Review Committee

After receiving the matter from the VPR, the Provost will charge a review committee with completing a full investigation. The Provost will also notify the respondent and the complainant of the results of the inquiry and the referral for full investigation, and provide both with a copy of the inquiry team report. The full investigation should generally begin within thirty (30) calendar days after referral to the Provost.

The Review Committee shall consist of 5 members selected from the IRSAC. In addition, where appropriate, the review committee may consult with a person from the respondent’s discipline outside Kansas State University as an advisor. One appointed member will be appointed by the Provost as Chair. The Chair will convene the committee, preside over meetings, and provide leadership in preparation of committee reports. The Review Committee shall seek the advice of the university general counsel prior to initiating the full investigation, and throughout the process as needed.

At the time of the appointment of the Review Committee, the respondent shall be informed by the Provost in writing of the names of the selected committee members and that respondent has a right to counsel. The respondent shall have the right to use up to two peremptory challenges to the first group of committee members appointed by the Provost.

The Review Committee should use diligent efforts to ensure that the investigation is thorough and sufficiently documented. The Review Committee shall conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations to determine whether the respondent engaged in research misconduct.

The Review Committee is expected to meet first with the complainant to hear the allegation in full, receive any pertinent written information, receive the names of other individuals who should be interviewed, and identify any additional written documentation that should be sought by the committee. This is followed by a meeting with the respondent to review the allegation. The respondent will be asked to respond to the allegation and to provide names of any additional individuals who should be interviewed or documents, records, or other materials that would be relevant to the review. The review committee will determine whether additional individuals should be interviewed, interview those additional individuals, and review all relevant documentation and materials. All interviews should be recorded.

The Review Committee will typically report the results of their review in writing to the Provost within 120 calendar days, unless circumstances require a longer time period. The Review Committee report should include: (1) a description of the specific allegation of research misconduct; (2) a description of the Review Committee’s process; (3) the facts as determined by the Review Committee; (4) the Review Committee’s conclusions regarding research misconduct; (5) the respondent’s position regarding the Review Committee’s report; (6) if research misconduct occurred, then recommendations to the Provost for remedial actions and/or sanctions; and (7) a list and description of the persons interviewed and relevant documents, records, and other materials received and reviewed.

The respondent will be provided with a copy of the draft report and, concurrently, a copy of, or supervised access to, the evidence on which the report is based. Within ten (10) calendar days from the date the draft report was provided, the respondent may submit written comments and additional evidence to the review committee regarding the report. The review committee will consider the respondent’s submissions and take any additional actions the Review Committee deems appropriate. At minimum, the respondent’s position regarding the report will be reflected in the final report.

All written and recorded records of the Review Committee shall be sealed and deposited in the office of the Provost. Records will ordinarily be retained for a period of seven years.

5. Completion of Case and Administrative Actions

If the Review Committee concludes there has been no research misconduct, the matter shall be considered closed and nothing shall be placed in the respondent’s personnel file. Both the complainant and the respondent will be notified of this decision in writing.

If the Review Committee determines that there was no research misconduct and that the allegation may have been malicious or frivolous, then the Review Committee will notify the Provost and VPR. The VPR is responsible for determining whether an allegation is malicious or frivolous, and if so, then the VPR will recommend sanctions to the Provost. The Provost will decide any sanctions.

If the Review Committee finds that research misconduct occurred, it shall recommend appropriate sanctions, which may include, but are not limited to: (1) a letter of reprimand placed in the personnel file; (2) loss of rights to conduct research and scholarly inquiry; (3) removal from the graduate faculty; (4) suspension, in cases for which the charges were not deemed serious enough to warrant termination of employment; and (5) termination of employment.

If research misconduct is determined to have occurred by the Review Committee, then the Provost shall take action appropriate to the seriousness of the misconduct. The Provost will promptly give written notice to the respondent of the action the university intends to take. Within twenty (20) calendar days of such notification, the respondent may appeal the proposed action to the appropriate board as set out below for a formal hearing. The notice from the Provost will state that failure to bring an appeal within twenty (20) calendar days after notification will be considered an informed waiver of the respondent’s right to further appeal the findings of the committee and the sanctions proposed by the Provost.

If the Provost finds that the research misconduct is serious enough to warrant dismissal and the individual charged is a tenured faculty member, the respondent may appeal the proposed dismissal as prescribed in Appendix M of the University Handbook, Procedure for Review of Dismissal of Tenured Faculty, and the procedure therein followed to its terminus.

The respondent may appeal the proposed dismissal or other sanctions to the General Grievance Board under the procedures of Appendix G of the University Handbook.

Graduate students may appeal the proposed dismissal or other sanctions under procedures of the Graduate Handbook. (http://www.k-state.edu/grad/graduate-handbook/appendixa.html)

Undergraduate students may appeal student code of conduct violations through the Judicial Branch of the Student Governing Association. (http://www.k-state.edu/sga/judicial/index.html)

All stages of this process are to be regarded as confidential. The disclosure of information to parties not directly involved is regarded as a serious breach of conduct.

Where research misconduct is established, the university shall do everything feasible to clarify the public record. This action may take the form of public announcements, published retractions, and disassociations with published papers or abstracts. The university may also provide a written summary of the outcome to a complainant.

All pending abstracts and papers emanating from research misconduct shall be withdrawn and editors of journals in which reports, papers, or abstracts of such work have appeared shall be notified in sufficient detail to establish correct public record. This notification shall be done by the Provost with information supplied by the respondent and the chair of the Review Committee.

If research misconduct is not established, the university shall consider whether a public announcement would be harmful or beneficial in restoring any reputations that may have been damaged. That decision will rest with the exonerated individual(s).

Upon completion and closure of the case, a letter will be sent to the VPR documenting the resolution of the case and the matter will be considered closed.