Scientific Misconduct: Policy on Allegations, Investigations, and Reporting

History: This interim policy was adopted by the Office of Research and Graduate Study at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology April 3, 2000. It is based upon the policy of Stanford University issued February 15, 1995. The majority of the text has been incorporated verbatim from The Stanford University Policy Handbook []

Arthur B. Western, Associate Dean of the Faculty April 3, 2000


  Originally issued: April 3, 2000

Classification: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Policy

Summary:  Presents procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of scientific misconduct, and for the required notifications to federal agencies of such allegations and investigations

Authority: Vice President of Academic Affairs, reflecting requirements of federal agencies

Contact Person: Associate Dean of the Faculty

Each member of the Rose-Hulman community has a responsibility to foster an environment which promotes intellectual honesty and integrity, and which does not tolerate misconduct in any aspect of research or scholarly endeavor. Scientific misconduct is extremely troubling - in spite of its infrequency - because when it occurs, it is very destructive of the standards we attempt to instill in our students, of the esteem in which academic science in general is held by the public, and of the financial support of the government and other sponsors for academic scientific enterprise. The importance of integrity in research cannot be overemphasized.

Some federal agencies currently have their own policies regarding scientific misconduct, and require notification to the agency in the event of such an allegation or investigation. At this time, those agencies are the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Where required, this notification will be made by the Associate Dean of the Faculty (ADOF) who is charged with the administration of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
While both PHS and NSF recognize that the primary responsibility for the prevention and detection of misconduct, and for the conduct of inquiries and investigations, rests with the awarded institution, they both retain  the right to initiate their own investigations at any time.




Rose-Hulman's definition of scientific misconduct, and procedures for investigating and reporting allegations of misconduct, conform to the definitions and regulations of those federal funding agencies which have policies on this subject.

"Scientific misconduct" is defined as fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those

commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Also included as "scientific misconduct" for this purpose is retaliation of any kind against a person who, acting in good faith, reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct.

This policy addresses only scientific misconduct . Rose-Hulman's statement on faculty discipline has been interpreted to include such other violations as reckless disregard for accuracy, failure to supervise adequately, and other lapses from professional conduct or neglect of academic duties. Allegations or suspicions of misconduct outside the scope of this policy should be directed to the cognizant dean or vice president for investigation, although the process of investigation and reporting obligations may differ from those required for scientific misconduct cases.



An inquiry consists of preliminary information-gathering and preliminary fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or an apparent instance of misconduct has substance. The outcome of an inquiry is a determination as to whether or not an investigation is to be conducted.


An investigation is a formal examination and evaluation of relevant facts to determine whether or not misconduct has taken place.



Any individuals who believe an act of scientific misconduct has occurred or is occurring should notify the Associate Dean of the Faculty (ADOF), who should immediately begin an inquiry and so inform the Vice President of  Academic Affairs (VPAA). Reporting such concerns in good faith is a service to the Institute and to the larger academic community, and will not jeopardize anyone's employment.





The ADOF's inquiry and, if called for, the investigation may be carried out personally or through such standing or ad hoc arrangements. (See Section VII, Cautions and Assistance.)

  1. Inquiry receipt of an allegation of scientific misconduct, the ADOF shall immediately begin an inquiry and shall so inform the VPAA, identifying any outside funding source(s) for the research which is the subject of the inquiry. This inquiry is to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted, and shall be guided by the following:

2. Investigation Procedures


If the inquiry leads to the conclusion that an investigation is necessary, it will be guided by the following considerations:

NOTE: If there is more than one accused individual, and their involvements are found not to be identical, separate draft

reports should be prepared if practical, in order to preserve confidentiality.


In addition to the interview summaries and comments by the accused and accuser(s) on the draft report, the final written

report should include:   

1)  a description of the policies and procedures followed

2)  how and from whom relevant information was obtained

3)  the findings and basis for them.  

If the VPAA considers that sanctions may be warranted, the VPAA shall refer the final report to the President, to determine whether disciplinary action is called for. If any sanctions result, the VPAA shall be informed, and shall append that information to the final report.


In order to assure compliance with external notification requirements, Associate Dean of the Faculty must report the following circumstances to the VPAA in a timely manner:

If termination of an inquiry or investigation before its completion is contemplated for any reason, this should be reported and discussed with the VPAA.


In addition, the VPAA is to be advised at once if any of the following circumstances are discovered: 

NOTE: In emergency situations, the Associate Dean is authorized to notify external agencies directly, if conference with the VPAA is not possible in a timely manner. (See Section V, Notification to External Agencies.)

The Associate Dean shall also take interim action as necessary to protect federal funds and the purposes of the federal grant or contract that may be involved. Such action is administrative and not disciplinary. The ADOF shall inform the VPAA of such actions.

If, during an investigation, facts come to light that could affect current or potential funding of the people under investigation, or that may, in the ADOF's judgment, need to be disclosed in order to ensure proper use of research funds or protection of the public interest, these facts should be reported to the VPAA as they are learned.  




NOTE: Rose-Hulman will comply with the requirements and regulations of its funding agencies. The following section

reflects those requirements as of May 1994. In any particular situation, the ADOF is advised to review current regulations

and requirements.  

Under circumstances not involving Public Health Service or other regulated funding agencies, the President will make the decision whether information about the charges and their disposition will be disclosed publicly or to specific parties, including the research sponsor. This decision will normally be made upon the conclusion of the final report. However, if required by urgent circumstances, such a disclosure may be made at any time. The President will consult with the Board of Trustees to

the extent feasible and appropriate in such cases. Absent such urgent need, Rose-Hulman will not make interim reports to outside agencies unless required by external regulation.

The Public Health Service requires annual assurances from Rose-Hulman of compliance as well as aggregated information on allegations, inquiries, and investigations. Further, in accord with Public Health Service and National Science Foundation regulations, in cases involving research funded by either of those agencies, the funding agency will be informed in the following situations. Except as specifically described at the end of this section, the following notifications to external agencies will be made only by the ADOF, acting on behalf of the VPAA.


1. Outcome of an Inquiry

PHS and NSF will be notified of the outcome of an inquiry involving funds from their agency only if that outcome includes the recommendation to conduct a full investigation. (Documentation from inquiries, even those that do not recommend further investigation, will be made available by the ADOF upon an agency's request.)

2. Commencement of an Investigation


Written notification will be provided to PHS or NSF upon determination that an investigation will be conducted. This notice is to be provided on or before the commencement of the investigation, and must include all information required by the agency. In the case of PHS-funded research, this notice must include at least the following: name(s) of the accused individual(s); general nature of the allegation(s); and the PHS proposal or award number involved. Regulations provide that this information will be held in confidence to the extent permitted by law. 


Note, however, that although the information will not be disclosed to peer reviewers or PHS advisory committees, it may be used by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in making decisions about the award or continuation of funding.  

3. Written request for a time extension


Although PHS regulations permit 120 days for completion of the investigation and submission of the final report, Rose-Hulman requires the ADOF to consult with the VPAA if it appears that the final report will take more than 90 days to complete. This allows 30 days for the disciplinary process, if it is decided to pursue one. The final report to PHS must include a statement about the sanction (if any) imposed by the institution.

If the investigation and determination of discipline are likely to take more than 120 days to complete, the VPAA will so notify

PHS, including reasons for the delay, interim progress reports, the estimated date of completion of the report, and any other necessary information. If an extension is granted, PHS may require the submission of periodic interim reports, or the agency may undertake its own investigation prior to the Institute's completion of its investigation.

NSF requires completion of the inquiry within 90 days, and completion of the investigation, including submittal of the final report, within 180 days. If completion of either is expected to be delayed, NSF may require submission of periodic status reports.

4. Interim reports


PHS must be apprised during an investigation of facts that may affect current or potential PHS funding of the individual(s) under

investigation, or that may need to be disclosed in order to ensure proper use of federal funds or protection of the public interest.

Similarly, NSF requires interim reports if the seriousness of the apparent misconduct so warrants; if immediate health hazards are involved; if NSF's resources, reputation, or other interests need protecting; or if federal action may be needed to protect the interests of a subject of the investigation or others potentially affected

5. Early Termination


PHS must be notified of any decision to terminate an inquiry or investigation prior to the completion of all relevant requirements.

This notice must include the reasons for such action. PHS retains the right to investigate the matter further on its own.

6. Final outcome


PHS and NSF will be notified of the final outcome of an investigation involving their funded project(s), and provided with a complete copy of the final report.

7. Special Emergency Notifications


In addition, the Public Health Service must be informed at any stage of an inquiry or investigation if any of the following are discovered: 

1. an immediate health hazard
2. an immediate need to protect federal or University funds or equipment
3. an immediate need to protect those making an allegation

4. a likelihood that an alleged incident is going to be reported publicly
5. a reasonable indication of possible criminal activity.    

In the case of suspected criminal activity, PHS requires notification within 24 hours. 

In special emergency circumstances as defined above, the ADOF and/or VPAA should attempt to reach the President (by phone if necessary; in writing, if possible). However, ADOF and VPAA are authorized to make such reports directly to the agency, and to so inform the President afterwards, if, in the judgment of the ADOF/VPAA, such action is necessary.



The determination as to whether discipline is to be imposed is governed by existing policies. In cases involving faculty, sanctions may only be imposed by the President, through the faculty disciplinary process. The VPAA will refer cases of significant student misconduct to the Rules and Discipline Committee. Cases involving staff members will be referred to the appropriate administrator.

Both PHS and NSF have the right to impose additional sanctions, beyond those applied by the institution, upon investigators or institutions, if they deem such action appropriate in situations involving funding from their respective agency.



The gathering and assessing of information in cases of alleged scientific misconduct can be extremely difficult. It is essential to

protect the professional reputations of those involved, as well as the interests of the public and of any who might be harmed by the alleged misconduct. In the course of conducting inquiries or investigations, the following provisions are applicable:   

misconduct, should be protected as much as possible, and care should be taken to protect their positions and reputations.

Except as required in the reporting provisions above, only those directly involved in an inquiry or investigation should be aware

that the process is being conducted or have any access to information obtained during its course. Where appropriate, efforts should be made to restore the reputations of those accused when allegations are not confirmed.

Questions on the interpretation of this policy should be directed to the Associate Dean of the Faculty, Office of the Research and Graduate Studies.