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Scientific Misconduct in Research

A page within Research & Sponsored Programs

Recognizing that honesty in the conduct of academic research is fundamental to its integrity, credibility, and maintenance of public trust, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse adopts this statement of policy and procedures (as outlined in Section 2) for reviewing and investigating allegations of scientific misconduct in research.

Statement of Policy

Scientific misconduct (Section 2) is prohibited at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and may be cause for discipline or dismissal (Section 3). The University fosters a research environment that discourages misconduct in all research. The University deals forthrightly with possible misconduct in all research and with possible misconduct associated with research for which federal funds have been provided or requested.

Statement of Assurances-General Criteria

Consistent with this policy, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse hereby provides the following assurances:

  • The University has established, and will comply with, the following administrative process for reviewing, investigating, and reporting allegations of misconduct in scientific research conducted at this University or sponsored by this University.
  • The University will implement this policy and procedure, keep it current, and provide a copy to anyone who requests it.
  • The University will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate an allegation of scientific misconduct in research by its employees or other persons who are within its control. This shall apply to all individuals involved in scientific research regardless of funding source, but specifically all individuals who may be involved in research supported by the Public Health Service (PHS) or for which an application has been submitted.
  • During investigation of possible misconduct, and as provided in the following procedures, the University agrees to inform and cooperate with the appropriate federal agency or agencies.

The University also acknowledges that its failure to comply with these assurances and the requirements of the federal regulations may result in enforcement action against the University (i.e., loss of funding, and investigation conducted by the appropriate federal agency).

Procedures Establishing Specific Requirements for Inquiries, Investigations and Reporting

Section 1 - Inquiries into Possible Misconduct

A. Informal allegations or reports of possible scientific misconduct shall be directed initially to the person with immediate responsibility for the work of the individual against whom the allegations or reports have been made (i.e., dean, department, chair, project director, etc). The person receiving such an informal report or allegation is responsible for either resolving the matter informally, or encouraging the submission of a formal allegation or report. The researcher shall be informed of such allegations when they are received, whether the allegations are formal, informal or even anonymous.

B. Upon receipt of formal allegations or reports of scientific misconduct, the person with immediate responsibility for the work of the individual against whom the allegations or reports have been made shall immediately inform, in writing, the Provost/Vice Chancellor of such allegations.

C. The Provost/Vice Chancellor shall appoint an individual or individuals to conduct a prompt inquiry into the allegation or report of misconduct (see Section 1 - C.5).

1. The individual(s) conducting the inquiry shall prepare a written report for the Provost/Vice Chancellor describing the evidence reviewed and summarizing relevant interviews and conclusions of the inquiry.

2. The inquiry must be completed within 60 calendar days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period, a decision which shall be made by the Provost/Vice Chancellor. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, the reasons for exceeding the 60-day period shall be documented and included with the record.

3. The individual against whom the allegation was made shall be given a copy of the report of the inquiry by the Provost/Vice Chancellor, and shall have an opportunity to respond to the report within 10 calendar days of receipt. Any response must be in writing, and will become a part of the record of the inquiry.

4. To protect the privacy and reputation of all individuals involved, including the individual reporting possible misconduct in good faith and the individual against whom the report is made, information concerning the initial report, the inquiry and any resulting investigation shall be kept confidential and shall be released only to those who have a legitimate need to know about the matter.

5. Appropriate interim administrative actions shall be taken to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of Federal financial assistance are being carried out.

D. If the inquiry concludes the allegation of misconduct is unsubstantiated, and investigation is not warranted, the reasons and supporting documentation for this conclusion shall be reported to the Provost/Vice Chancellor, who shall be responsible for reviewing the conclusion of the inquiry. If the Provost/Vice Chancellor concurs in that an investigation is not warranted, his or her determination, and all other supporting documentation from the inquiry, shall be recorded and the record maintained confidentially in the Provost/Vice Chancellor's office for a period of three years after termination of the inquiry. All concerned parties shall receive written confirmation from the Provost/Vice Chancellor of the determination that further investigation is not warranted. "All concerned parties" shall include authorized DHHS personnel, upon request.

E. If the inquiry or the Provost/Vice Chancellor determines that an investigation is warranted, all concerned parties shall receive written notice of that determination and the matter shall be subject to further review as provided in Section 2 of these procedures.

Section 2 - Investigation of Reported Misconduct

A. If an investigation is determined to be warranted under Section 1 of these procedures, the Provost/Vice Chancellor shall inform the Chancellor. The Chancellor shall immediately appoint an investigation committee. The committee shall be composed of impartial faculty members (see Section 4 - C.6) possessing appropriate competence and research expertise for conduct of the investigation, and no faculty member having responsibility for the research under investigation, or having any other conflict with the university's interest in securing a fair and objective investigation, may serve on the investigating committee. If necessary, individuals possessing the requisite competence and research expertise who are not affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse may be asked to serve as consultants to the investigating committee.

B. The investigation must be initiated within 30 calendar days of the completion of the inquiry. Normal investigations will include examination of all documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data and proposals, publications, correspondence and memoranda of telephone calls. Interviews should be conducted of all individuals involved either in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made, as well as others who might have information regarding key aspects of the allegations. Summaries of interviews conducted shall be prepared and provided to the parties interviewed for their comment or revision. These summaries shall be made a part of the record of the investigation.

C. The individual making the allegation, the individual against whom the allegation is being made and all others having relevant information shall cooperate fully with the work of the investigating committee. All relevant documents and materials associated with the research under investigation shall be made available.

D. The investigation should ordinarily be completed within 120 calendar days of its initiation. This includes conducting the investigation, preparing the report of the findings, making the report available for comment by the subjects of the investigation and submitting the report to the Chancellor. If the investigating committee determines that it cannot complete the investigation within the 120-day period, it shall submit to the Chancellor a written request for an extension explaining the need for delay and providing an estimated date of completion. If the research under investigation is funded by an agency within the Public Health Service (PHS) or the National Science Foundation, Section 3 of these procedures shall be followed. A report of the investigation must be submitted to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) within 120 calendar days of the initiation of the investigation.

E. The report of the investigation should include a description of the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted, information obtained and the sources of such information, an accurate summary of the position of the individual under investigation, the findings of the committee, including the bases for its findings, and the committee's recommendation to the Chancellor concerning whether the evidence of scientific misconduct is sufficient to warrant discipline or dismissal under the applicable faculty or academic staff personnel rules (see Section 4 - C.7). All documentation substantiating the findings and recommendation of the investigating committee, together with all other information comprising the record of the investigation (including the report), shall be transmitted to the Chancellor upon completion of the investigation. This documentation shall be made available to the Director of ORI.

F. A copy of the investigating committee's report shall be provided to the individual being investigated. The Chancellor shall afford the individual under investigation an opportunity to discuss the matter prior to taking action under Section 3 of these procedures.

Section 3 - Reporting to Office of Research Integrity (ORI) where research is funded by an agency within PHS; or, Reporting to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) where research is funded by the NSF

A. A determination that an investigation should be initiated under Section 1.E. of these procedures must be reported in writing to the ORI Director or the OIG Director on or before the date the investigation begins. Notification should state the name of the individuals against whom the allegations of scientific misconduct have been made, the general nature of the allegations and the application or grant numbers involved.

B. During the course of the investigation, the granting agency should be apprised of any significant findings that might affect current or potential funding of the individual under investigation or that might require agency interpretation of funding regulations. Appropriate interim administrative actions shall be taken to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of the federal assistance are being carried out.

C. The ORI must be notified at any stage or an inquiry of investigation if the university determines that any of the following conditions exist:

1. There is an immediate health hazard involved;

2. There is an immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment.

3. There is an immediate need to protect the interest of the person making the allegations or of the individual who is the subject of the allegations as well as his or her co-investigators and associates, if any;

4. It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly;

5. There is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation. In that instance the university must inform ORI within 24 hours of obtaining that information.

D. If the University is unable to complete the investigation within the 120-day period, as described above, the Provost/Vice Chancellor must submit to ORI a written request for an extension and an explanation of the delay, including an interim progress report and an estimated date of completion of the investigation. If the request is granted, the institution must file periodic progress reports as requested by the ORI. If satisfactory progress is not made in the institution's investigation, the ORI may undertake an investigation of its own. If NSF-related investigations cannot be completed within 180 calendar days a similar request and explanation must be submitted to the OIG.

E. If the university plans to terminate an inquiry or investigation for any reason without completing all the relevant requirements, a report of such planned termination, including a description of the reasons for such termination, shall be made to ORI or OIG. The ORI or OIG will then decide whether further investigation should be undertaken.

F. Upon completion of the investigation, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will notify ORI or OIG of the outcome, in a report which shall include the information and documentation specified in Section 2.E. of these procedures.

Section 4 - Other Action Following Completion of Investigation

A. If the allegation of scientific misconduct is substantiated as a result of an investigation, the Provost/Vice Chancellor shall notify the agency sponsoring the research project of the result of the investigation. In such a case, the individual involved will be asked to withdraw all pending abstracts and papers emanating from the scientific misconduct. The Provost/Vice Chancellor will notify editors of journals and sponsoring agencies with which the individual has been affiliated if, based on the results of the investigation, it is believed that the validity of previous research by the individual under investigation is questionable.

B. Where scientific misconduct is substantiated, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will take appropriate action, which may include discipline or dismissal, with regard to the employment status of the individual or individuals involved. Applicable personnel rules, policies and procedures set forth in Chapters UWS 4, 6, 11, and 13, Wisconsin Administrative Code and related university policies shall govern discipline or dismissal actions resulting from an investigation of scientific misconduct.

C. Where allegations of scientific misconduct are not substantiated by the investigation, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse shall make diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputations of the persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct, and to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations.

1. Reference: Title 42, Subchapter D, Part 50, Subpart A, Sec. 50.101-50.105, Code of Federal Regulations; Federal Register, Vol 54, No. 151, Tuesday, August 8, 1989.

2. For purposes of this policy, "scientific misconduct" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are 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. Reference: 42 CFR Part 50, subsection 501.101. Additionally, National Science Foundation regulations define misconduct as retaliation of any kind against a person who reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct and who has not acted in bad faith. NSF-funded science education activity is included within this misconduct in science policy.

3. Reference: s. UWS 4 and s. UWS 11 Wis. Adm. Code for procedures for dismissal of faculty and academic staff respectively.

4. These procedures shall be implemented in a manner consistent with the protections afforded under section 230.80 et. seq. of the Wisconsin Statutes (the "Whistleblower law"). Retaliatory action is prohibited under section 230.83, Wis. Stats.

5. The individual or individuals appointed shall meet the same general criteria as outlined in the prior Section 2.A.

6. If the investigation involves the investigation of possible misconduct by a member of the academic staff, the Chancellor shall appoint academic staff to the investigating review panel (faculty may also serve on that panel).

7. Reference: s. UWS 4 and s. UWS 11, Wis. Adm. Code for procedures on dismissal of faculty and academic staff respectively.