Research Misconduct Policy & Procedures

Gettysburg College’s Research Misconduct

Policy & Procedures


The College policies, definitions, and procedures regarding research misconduct are required to conform to federal regulation 42 CFR Part 93 which states that the College must assume primary responsibility for prevention, detection, and investigation of research misconduct and must take action to ensure the integrity of research, the protection of the rights of research subjects and the public, and the observance of legal requirements related to federal research funding.[1]

College policies establish standards of ethical behavior for all members of the College community and prescribe procedures for due process and discipline for deviation from those standards. The policy and procedures on Research Misconduct deal with violations of a subset of these standards and apply to prohibited conduct in proposing, carrying out, and reporting research. Specifically, Research Misconduct procedures are invoked when the following allegations are made:

  • Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results;
  • Failure to comply with requirements for the protection of human or animal subjects

Policies and procedures for dealing with other violations of ethical standards, such as misappropriation of College or sponsor resources, intentional breach of College rules or sponsor regulations, or failure to follow financial disclosure disqualification regulations can be found in:

Gettysburg College’s Employee Handbook
Gettysburg College’s Faculty Handbook
Gettysburg College’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook

Principal Investigators have primary responsibility for the design, execution and management of research projects they direct, and must be vigilant in seeing that the standards of professional and ethical conduct are maintained in all phases of their projects. In order to protect both the integrity and the autonomy of the College, it is crucial that researchers assume these high standards and that in the event of allegations of misconduct, the College administer a fair system of review. Suspected violations of ethical standards of research should be reported immediately to the Dean of Academic Advising and Student Support Services (involving students), the Vice Provost (involving faculty), or the Human Resources Office (involving administrators or staff), as appropriate. If extramural funds are suspected to be involved, the Director of Foundation, Government, and Faculty Grants must be informed immediately to assure timely compliance with sponsor regulations.

In order to comply with Federal sponsor regulations and reassure the public that the College’s traditional standards are being upheld, the College must reaffirm its policies, to specify procedures and appropriate safeguards for handling investigations, and to foster an environment that discourages misconduct in all research. The following procedures conform to the Public Health Service {Department of Health and Human Services) Final Rule 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 93.

N.B. While 42 CFR Part 93 applies to all individuals who may be involved with a project supported by, or who have submitted a grant application to, the Public Health Service (PHS), this College policy applies to all individuals engaged in College research, whatever the funding source.

Investigation of Alleged Research Misconduct

  1. Definition of Research Misconduct (based on 42 CFR § 93.103) Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. 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. Plagiarismis the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

d. Failure to comply with requirements for the protection of human or animal subjects.

B. Requirements for Findings of Research Misconduct

A finding of research misconduct requires –

a. The misconduct is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research

c. The allegation be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

C. Delegation of Authority and Responsibility

The President delegates to the Provost responsibility for:

  • Coordination of all procedures related to allegations of research misconduct by anyone performing research under the College’s aegis.
  • Fostering a research environment that discourages misconduct in all research.
  • Dissemination of policy and maintenance of records related to misconduct in research.
  • Appointment of an individual Research Integrity Officer (RIO) who, in turn, may appoint individuals to conduct inquiries and investigations into allegations of research misconduct. If extramural funds are involved, the Provost determines whether the law, regulation, or the terms or conditions of the award: (1) require notification of the sponsor; (2) specify time limits; or (3) require other actions to assure compliance. The Provost coordinates with the RIO, the President's Office, the Development Office, and other concerned parties to assure compliance.
  • Assurance of appropriate confidentiality or anonymity, fairness, and objectivity of proceedings.
  • Assurance of a full and complete inquiry, investigation, and resolution process. Assurance that no real or apparent conflicts of interest arise in those appointed to pursue this process. Assurance that they have the appropriate disciplinary expertise and that due regard is given to the prevailing standards of the field.
  • Maintenance of confidentiality of records, in accord with established College policy, relating to the investigation and resolution of incidents of misconduct in research.
  • If appropriate or required, notification by Provost to concerned parties such as sponsors, co-authors, collaborators, editors, licensing boards, professional societies, and criminal authorities of the outcome of investigations, taking care to clear the name of anyone falsely charged.
  • Protecting, to the maximum extent possible, the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations of research misconduct, and those against whom allegations of misconduct are not confirmed.
  • Efforts to restore the reputation of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct when allegations are not confirmed.

N.B. In most cases, the Provost will designate the Vice Provost as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) for assessing allegations of research misconduct and determining when such allegations warrant inquiries and for overseeing inquiries and investigations, unless the Vice Provost is unavailable or has a clear conflict of interest with regard to the person or persons alleged to have committed the misconduct.

D. Inquiries and Investigations into Allegations of Misconduct in Research

College policy and procedures provide that it is primarily the responsibility of Principal Investigators to maintain ethical standards, and direct reporting of allegations to the Provost. However, all individuals associated with the College should report observed or suspected research misconduct to the Provost.

An allegation should, in addition to stating the nature of the suspected misconduct, present the evidence that leads the reporting individual to believe that an incident of research misconduct has occurred.

The Vice Provost, acting as the RIO, will immediately respond, as outlined below, to each allegation or other evidence of possible misconduct.

If an individual is unsure whether a suspected incident falls within the definition of research misconduct, he or she should contact the Office of the Provost (717-337-6820) and ask to speak with either the IRB Administrator--in the case of human subjects research, or the IACUC Administrator-- in the case of animal research, so as to discuss the suspected misconduct informally. If the circumstances described do not meet the definition of research misconduct, the IRB or IACUC Administrator, serving as the RIO pro tem, will refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the problem. If the circumstances, in the opinion of the RIO pro tem, do meet the definition of research misconduct, the person will be instructed to contact the Vice Provost (RIO) directly.

The informal discussion of possible research misconduct, as well as all subsequent stages in this procedure will be, to the extent possible as consistent with appropriate, necessary, and thorough assessment, inquiry and investigation, treated as confidential. The following describes steps to be followed once an allegation or other evidence of misconduct is received.

  1. Preliminary Assessment: The Vice Provost (RIO), in consultation with the Provost, will promptly assess the reported incident to determine if it constitutes a bona fide allegation of research misconduct— (1) does the alleged incident fit the definition of research misconduct; (2) is the evidence sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified; (3) is the alleged research misconduct within the jurisdictional criteria of 42 CFR § 93.102(b); and (4) does the allegation fall within the definition of research misconduct in 42 CFR § 93.103.[2] If it is concluded that an allegation of research misconduct meets these criteria, the misconduct procedure enters its inquiry phase. Ideally, the preliminary assessment should be concluded within a week after the allegation is lodged with the Vice Provost (RIO).

In conducting the assessment, the Vice Provost (RIO) is not required to interview the complainant, respondent, or other witnesses, or gather data beyond any that may have been submitted with the allegation, except as necessary to determine whether the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified. The Vice Provost (RIO) shall, however, on or before the date on which the respondent is notified of the allegation, obtain custody of, inventory, and sequester all research records and evidence needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding, as provided in the paragraph which follows, describing the sequestration of research records during the Inquiry phase.

  1. Inquiry: If the result of the Preliminary Assessment is that the allegation of research misconduct may have merit, the Provost appoints an Inquiry Committee of two or more persons, including the Vice Provost (RIO), to conduct an inquiry in order to determine whether there is sufficient substance to the allegation to warrant a formal investigation.[3] The purpose of the inquiry phase is not to reach a final conclusion as to whether misconduct occurred or who was responsible. This phase of information gathering and fact-finding should take no more than sixty calendar days from the receipt of the allegation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. If the inquiry phase must be extended beyond sixty days, the reasons for doing so should be documented.

The Vice Provost (RIO) will prepare a charge for the Inquiry Committee that:

a. Sets forth the time for completion of the inquiry;

b. Describes the allegations and any related issues identified during the preliminary assessment;

c. States that the purpose of the inquiry is to conduct an initial review of the evidence, including the testimony of the Respondent, Complainant and key witnesses, to determine whether an investigation is warranted, not to determine whether research misconduct definitely occurred or who was responsible;

d. States that an investigation is warranted if the committee determines:

(1) there is a reasonable basis for concluding that the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct and is within the jurisdictional criteria of 42 CFR § 93.102(b); and, (2) the allegation may have substance, based on the Committee’s review during the inquiry; and

e. Informs the Inquiry Committee that they are responsible for preparing or directing the preparation of a written report of the inquiry that meets the requirements of this policy and 42 CFR § 93.309(a).

At the Committee's first meeting, the Vice Provost (RIO) will review the charge with the Committee, discuss the allegations, any related issues, and the appropriate procedures for conducting the inquiry, assist the Committee with organizing plans for the inquiry, and answer any questions raised by the Committee. As a member of the Inquiry Committee, the Vice Provost (RIO) will be present or available throughout the inquiry to advise the Committee as needed.

At the time of or before the beginning of the inquiry, the Vice Provost (RIO) must make a good faith effort to notify the Respondent (the individual about whom misconduct allegations have been made) in writing that an inquiry is being undertaken and of the procedure that will be followed; indicates the membership of the Inquiry Committee; and, describes the nature of the misconduct allegation(s).

The Respondent then has five days to challenge, in writing, the Inquiry Committee's membership based on bias or conflict of interest. The RIO will determine whether to replace the challenged member with a qualified substitute.

On or before the date on which the Respondent is notified, and in the course of the inquiry, or of any subsequent investigation, the Vice Provost (RIO) will take reasonable steps to obtain custody 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 as is necessary to protect the integrity of the investigation. The exception to such sequestration would be if the research records and/or evidence encompass scientific instruments that are shared by a number of users. In such cases, custody may be limited to copies of the data or evidence on such instruments, so long as these copies are substantially equivalent to the evidentiary value of the instruments. The RIO may consult with OPI for advice and assistance in this regard. Where appropriate, the Respondent will be provided copies of, or reasonably supervised access to, the research records.

All records of the Gettysburg College research misconduct proceeding will be retained for seven years after the proceeding's conclusion.

If the research at issue receives or has received Federal funding and, at any point during an inquiry or subsequent investigation, it is ascertained that any of following conditions pertain, the College will notify the sponsoring Federal agency e.g., the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) of the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS).[4]

  • Health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects.
  • HHS resources or interests are threatened.
  • Research activities should be suspended.
  • There is 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 College believes the research misconduct proceeding may be made public prematurely so that HHS may take appropriate steps to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved.
  • The research community or public should be informed.

Matters pertaining to the inquiry will be treated confidentially to the maximum extent possible consistent with fact finding and required reporting to funding agencies.

A written report of the inquiry shall be prepared that describes the evidence that was reviewed, summarizes any interviews that were conducted, and includes the conclusion of the inquiry.

The individual(s) against whom the allegation was made shall be given a copy of the report of inquiry, and shall be invited to comment in writing. When comments are provided, they will be included in the record.

Upon receipt of the inquiry report, the RIO will make, in writing, the determination of whether an investigation is warranted to the Provost. Records of the inquiry, including all documentary evidence, interview notes, the inquiry report, and the RIO’s written determination shall be maintained in a secure manner for at least seven years. If an inquiry is terminated before its completion, a report of the planned termination, including the reasons for such an action, should be made to those Federal funding agencies that require it, e.g., the Office of Research Integrity of DHHS. The inquiry report and supporting documentation will be provided to relevant authorized federal agencies upon request.

If it is determined that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a formal investigation, the Vice Provost (RIO), with the approval of the Provost, shall (within 30 calendar days) initiate the process.

3. Investigation: An Investigative Committee is appointed to determine whether research misconduct has occurred, and, if so, to make recommendations with respect to the imposition of disciplinary sanctions. The investigation phase should be completed within 120 days from the appointment of the Investigative Committee, unless circumstances warrant a longer period. If the investigation stage is extended beyond 120 days the reasons for doing so should be documented.

In the case of a faculty member, the Investigative Committee is appointed by the Provost. It will be constituted from members of the faculty in consultation with the members of College’s Institutional Review Board or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and contain from one to three members. A larger committee may be appointed if, in the opinion of the Provost, it would facilitate the investigation.

In the case of academic researchers (visiting scholars, professional researchers, non-faculty academics, etc.), the Provost appoints an investigative committee that, typically, will include a member of the researcher's relevant peer group plus one or two members of the faculty.

In the case of a student, the Provost refers the matter to the Head of the Student Honor Commission, under the supervision of one of the Deans of Academic Advising and Student Support Services.

When Federal funding is involved, the pertinent agency shall be informed that an investigation will be initiated within 30 days of the Provost’s determination that there exists sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation of research misconduct. When it is required by Federal funding agencies, such as ORI or DHHS, an extension of the investigation beyond 120 days must be requested from the relevant agency. The extension request should include an explanation for the delay, an interim report on the progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of completion.

The Vice Provost (RIO) will notify the Respondent(s) in writing that an investigation is being undertaken, will inform him/her of the allegations that are under investigation, as well as of the composition of the Investigative Committee and the procedures that will be followed in the course of the investigation. In the event that new allegations arise in the course of the investigation, the Respondent will be so notified in writing.

The Respondent has five days to challenge, in writing, the Investigative Committee's membership based on bias or conflict of interest. The Vice Provost (RIO) will determine whether to replace the challenged member with a qualified substitute.

The investigation will normally include examination of pertinent documents, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence, and memoranda. Typically, the investigative committee will conduct interviews as part of its fact-finding process, including interviews with those making allegations of research misconduct and with the individual(s) against whom the allegations are made. Whenever it is feasible, investigators shall create and maintain recorded records of their interviews.

All individuals affected by the investigation will be accorded confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible consistent with an appropriate and thorough investigation.

If an investigation is terminated before its completion, a report of the planned termination, including the reasons for such an action, should be made to those Federal funding agencies that require it e.g., the Office of Research Integrity of DHHS.

The College will notify relevant Federal funding agencies if, during the course of the investigation, facts are disclosed that may affect current or potential Federal funding for individual(s) under investigation or that the Federal agency needs to know to ensure appropriate use of Federal funds and otherwise protect the public interest.

When the investigation is completed, the Chair of the Investigative Committee shall prepare, and submit to the Provost, a written report of the results, reviewing the facts, and stating the Committee's findings. The Provost shall make the report available to the Respondent(s) for comment. In a separate communication to the Provost, the investigative committee shall offer its recommendations with respect to disciplinary sanctions, if any.

The Respondent (s) shall have twenty-one calendar days to submit to the Provost comments on the investigative report.

When the Investigative Committee’s report and the Respondent’s comments have been received, the Provost will: a) If appropriate and/or required, communicate the committee’s report and findings to relevant agencies external to the College; b) Based upon a reading of the Investigative Report and any comments thereon, the Provost will make a determination of whether or not research misconduct has been committed. The Provost will issue a Final Report to the ORI or any external funding agency that requires it. The final report to ORI must describe the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, how and from whom information was obtained, the findings, and the basis for the findings, and include an accurate summary of the views of any individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct, as well as a description of any sanctions taken by the College. Documentation to substantiate an investigation's findings will also be made available to the Director of ORI; and c) The Provost decides whether or not to impose disciplinary sanctions.

4. Disciplinary Action: After considering the report, the Provost determines what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken; such action may include a reprimand or other alteration of status of the faculty member in question. In a case where the Provost believes that the appropriate sanction is the termination of a faculty member, the Provost shall make that recommendation to the President and the President decides whether termination is appropriate. As to all sanctions other than termination, the Provost determines the sanction. In addition, the Provost has the authority to mitigate the effects of the misconduct by withdrawing Gettysburg College’s name and sponsorship from pending abstracts and papers and by notifying persons known to have relied upon any work affected by the misconduct.

If, in the case of an academic researcher (visiting scholars, professional researchers, non-faculty academics, etc.), the Provost intends to impose disciplinary sanctions, the researcher is notified in writing of such intention, and is invited to respond to the allegations and proposed discipline in a personal conference with the Provost or Vice Provost (RIO). The researcher and the Provost or Vice Provost (RIO), shall each be entitled to bring a representative of their choice to such a conference. If the Provost and the researcher arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement, the matter is disposed of in accordance therewith.

If discipline is to be imposed upon the researcher pursuant to the settlement, or if there is no settlement, but the researcher has informed the Provost that he/she does not intend to contest the proposed discipline, the Provost may thereupon impose such discipline.

If, in the case of students, the Honor Commission makes a finding of research misconduct and sanctions are levied, the appeal process described in the Gettysburg College Honor Code book may be invoked.

The Provost shall report any disciplinary actions taken by the College to ORI and to any other external funding agency that requires it.

5. Appeal Process: If discipline other than dismissal is imposed without the agreement of the faculty researcher, an appeal of the sanction (not the Provost’s substantive decision as to whether misconduct has occurred) may be made to the President in writing by the faculty researcher within 15 days of the receipt of the decision from the Provost. The President will respond in writing to the faculty researcher within 15 days of receipt of the appeal request. The President’s decision regarding the sanction to be imposed is final.

The appeal and other processes set forth above are the only processes available to a respondent accused of research misconduct. The Faculty Grievance Policy is not applicable to these cases.