Research Integrity at Northern Illinois University

Section I. Item 2.

Research Integrity at Northern Illinois University - Table of Contents


Research at Northern Illinois University has traditionally and routinely been performed at a high level of quality and scholarly integrity. Faculty, students, staff, and administrators accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in their investigations. They respect and defend free and open inquiry by associates and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues. They practice intellectual honesty, acknowledge academic debt and scholarly assistance, and take pride in their work. They are careful to acknowledge fully and generously the published and unpublished contributions of others. They give appropriate professional recognition, including authorship credit when warranted, to the intellectual and technical contributions of students and junior associates. The University has a responsibility to provide an intellectual climate in which open inquiry can flourish. This includes the freedom to pursue research on any intellectual path. Adherence to these standards protects the integrity of the scholarly enterprise, provides a positive climate to which future generations of scholars are exposed, promotes public appreciation of intellectual pursuit, and enhances public trust in the University and its stewardship of both public and private funds.

Possible Misconduct in Research

 The integrity of the research endeavor ultimately depends on the ethics of the individual researcher and rigorous professional review. Allegations of research misconduct can have serious consequences. Persons alleging misconduct should maintain a sense of proportion, avoid being overzealous, realize that colleagues are fallible, and recognize that research approaches vary widely and are subject to different interpretations across disciplines. Conversely, serious intentional violations of professional standards undermine the integrity of the scholarly enterprise. The responsibility to investigate an allegation of research misconduct is best exercised by the profession and the University rather than federal or state agencies, legislative bodies, or the press.

Researchers protect themselves against potential charges of research misconduct by comporting themselves with integrity and by maintaining clear and complete records of their research endeavors. Research records, which ordinarily should be kept for at least five years after completion of a research project, should include dated items such as raw data, interview files, computer runs, permission to use other people's material, and records of how the research design was developed and modified during the course of the research.

In the event of a case of alleged misconduct, all persons involved in the proceedings are expected to cooperate fully and to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. They have an obligation to strive for fairness and objectivity, with ample respect for the case needed in reviewing allegations of misconduct and the personal and professional harm that can result from unfounded accusations. They should focus on the substance of the issues and not allow personal conflicts between colleagues to obscure or override the facts. All parties are to be treated justly and fairly and with due respect to their reputations and future professional opportunities. The proceedings should be conducted as expeditiously as possible, to arrive at the resolution of charges in a timely fashion.

The key to defining research misconduct is intent. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion. Free and open inquiry allows for honest differences in methodology and in the interpretation of or judgments about data. Research misconduct, therefore, consists of the intentional commission of one or more of the following:

  1. Falsification of data, including fabrication of data, and selective reporting of data with intent to deceive.
    1. Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
    2. 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. Falsification also extends to situations or cases where claims of scholarly/creative work have been made without any evidence or documentation.
  2. Improper assignment of authorship, such as excluding others or claiming the work of another person as one's own, presenting substantially the same material as an original article in more than one publication, including individuals as authors who have not made a definite contribution to the work published, and submitting multi-authored publications without the concurrence of all authors.
  3. Claiming another person's research as one's own. This includes plagiarism (the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit), appropriation of ideas from grant proposals or articles received for peer review, or from student papers, and in general using another's intellectual property without obtaining the required permission. It does not include the use of material generally known and thought to be public knowledge.
  4. Manipulation of experiments or of statistical or analytical procedures such that the published results differ significantly from those that would normally result from the application of the methods reported by the investigator. This does not refer to judgments of the quality of research designs, which is the responsibility of funding agencies and peer review. Neither a faulty design nor an unorthodox design is by itself evidence of research misconduct.
  5. Misappropriation of research funds, e.g., expenditure of funds for purposes not appropriately related to the research or in ways explicitly prohibited by the funding agency.

Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

The review process for cases of alleged misconduct consists of four phases: informal review, referral to appropriate university officer, inquiry, and investigation. Procedures for each phase are described below. Also described are procedures for reporting to the funding agency, where applicable, and taking interim administrative action when serious circumstances call for immediate precautions. There are also provisions for appealing a determination of research misconduct. If any administrative officer referred to herein has a conflict of interest in a case, then the next higher administrative officer or that person's designee will assume the responsibilities indicated.

I. Informal Review

Researchers have the responsibility both to report apparent occurrences of misconduct and to take steps to correct the resultant research record. To the greatest extent possible, the person alleging the misconduct (hereafter referred to as the complainant) should bring the concern directly to the researcher whose conduct is questioned (hereafter referred to as the respondent). In many cases a person may not be able to determine whether the problem he or she perceives with a research project constitutes deliberate misconduct or is the result of inadvertent error. The respondent may be unaware of error and grateful to be alerted to this possibility. Exercise of this collegial responsibility could enable the respondent to take appropriate corrective action and improve future performance. The complainant may not have interpreted the situation accurately and may thus be incorrect in believing that misconduct has occurred. Direct discussion provides the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.

If the complainant believes that the respondent's explanation is inappropriate or inadequate, the concerns should then be brought to a department chair, center director, college dean, or other appropriate administrator. If the complainant believes that direct communication with the respondent is not feasible, the complainant should approach the administrator directly.

The administrator may (a) discuss the allegation with the parties involved and attempt to resolve it or (b) refer the concern to the department personnel committee or other appropriate unit-level committee. If referral is made, the respondent should be notified of the action, the nature of the allegation, and the identity of the complainant, unless there are compelling reasons for protecting the complainant's anonymity.

If the administrator and the committee, if involved, are satisfied that no basis for the allegation exists, the administrator verbally notifies both parties and no written record shall be maintained. If the administrator or committee judges that the allegation warrants further action, or the complainant feels that further inquiry is warranted, the matter is referred to the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School (hereafter referred to as the Vice President for Research). Both the complainant and the respondent shall be notified of this referral. If the administrator and the committee, if involved, do not reach a decision within 20 working days of receipt of the complaint, the complainant may refer the complaint to the Vice President for Research.

II. Referral to Vice President for Research

 Promptly after receiving an allegation of research misconduct, defined as a disclosure of possible research misconduct through any means of communication, the Vice President for Research shall meet with the complainant in confidence. The Vice President for Research shall assess the allegation to determine if: (1) it meets the definition of research misconduct in 42 CFR Section 93.103; and, (2) the allegation is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified. The Vice President for Research shall inform the parties involved of the federal regulations regarding sequestering and protecting research data and evidence pertinent to the allegation of research misconduct. If the allegation does not fall within the scope of this document, the complainant will be referred to whatever institutional processes may be appropriate to the particular case (e.g., faculty or staff grievance procedures).

If the allegation is made against a student, the Vice President for Research will consult with the University Judicial Officer to determine whether the allegation should be pursued through these policies and procedures or those of the Student Judicial Code. If the Vice President for Research determines that the allegation comes under the jurisdiction of the research integrity policies and procedures, he or she will discuss the inquiry and investigation procedures with the complainant.

No allegation of research misconduct will be received or inquiry instituted where the alleged misconduct took place more than six years to the day before the allegation was made. Exceptions to the six-year limitation include the following instances:

(a) Subsequent use exception. The respondent continues or renews any incident of alleged research misconduct that occurred before the six-year limitation through the citation, republication or other use for the potential benefit of the respondent of the research record that is alleged to have been fabricated, falsified, or plagiarized.

  • Health or safety of the public exception. If ORI or the institution, following consultation with ORI, determines that the alleged misconduct, if it occurred, would possibly have a substantial adverse effect on the health or safety of the public.
  • "Grandfather" exception. If HHS or an institution received the allegation of research misconduct before the effective date of this part.

Allegations will require substantive evidence such as the following:

  1. For allegations of falsification of data, sufficient documentary evidence of the probability that such misconduct has taken place.
  2. For allegations of plagiarism, clear documentary evidence, including specific references to the work, pages, and lines being plagiarized.
  3. For allegations of claiming another's research as one's own, copies of the work containing the alleged misappropriations and of the work or works from which the material was improperly taken.
  4. For allegations of manipulation of experimental or statistical results, a written analysis which clearly shows the discrepancies between the data collected and the report published and argues that such discrepancies can only be explained as intentional misconduct.
  5. For allegations of misappropriation of funds, original or photocopied records such as those showing that research money was spent for unapproved or inappropriate items, or that labor was not hired in accordance with grant terms or other applicable regulations.

Based upon an initial information assessment of the case, the Vice President for Research will advise the complainant whether there appear to be grounds for a committee inquiry. If he or she concludes that grounds exist to pursue the matter to the inquiry stage, the case will be referred to a Research Standards Inquiry Committee.

No anonymous or confidential allegation will be pursued unless (a) this is required by a funding contract previously signed by the respondent, or unless (b) there is sufficient written factual documentation in hand so that the Vice President for Research may become the complainant of record.

Even if the respondent leaves the University before the case is resolved, the University will continue the examination of the allegations and reach a conclusion. Furthermore, the University will cooperate with other institutions' processes to resolve questions of misconduct.

If the Vice President for Research concludes that adequate grounds for inquiry do not exist, the case will be brought to a Research Standards Inquiry Committee only if the complainant formally requests this and agrees to be identified to all parties involved in the inquiry.

III. Inquiry

A. Composition of Research Standards Inquiry Committee

In order to address allegations of research misconduct, the University will establish for each case a Research Standards Inquiry Committee (hereafter called the Inquiry Committee). In the event that the allegation of research misconduct is against a ranked faculty member, the Inquiry Committee will consist of three tenured faculty members, including a designated committee chair, as voting members and the Vice President for Research, ex-officio and non-voting. In the event that the allegation of research misconduct is against a member of the Supportive Professional Staff, a member of the Operating Staff, or a student, the Inquiry Committee will consist of two tenured faculty members, one of whom will chair the committee, one member of the group to which the respondent belongs, and the Vice President for Research, ex-officio and non-voting.

The Inquiry Committee and its chair will be appointed by the Executive Vice President and Provost (hereafter referred to as the Provost). Faculty members of the Inquiry Committee will be appointed in consultation with the Vice President for Research and the faculty assistant chair of the Graduate Council. Members from the Supportive Professional Staff, Operating Staff, or the student body will be appointed in consultation with the Vice President for Research and the appropriate Councils or officers.

All reasonable steps will be taken to ensure an impartial and unbiased research misconduct proceeding to the maximum extent practicable. Those individuals conducting the inquiry or investigation shall be selected on the basis of scientific expertise that is pertinent to the matter and, prior to selection, they shall be screened for any unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with the respondent, complainant, potential witnesses, or others involved in the matter. Any such conflict which a reasonable person would consider to demonstrate potential bias shall disqualify the individual from selection. The composition of the Inquiry Committee can be challenged for cause by the respondent or by the complainant; the Provost will decide the validity of a challenge for cause. The Inquiry Committee must ensure that it has access to the expertise necessary to judge the allegations being made; therefore, it may call upon on- or off-campus consultants as necessary to assist in reviewing a case.

The Inquiry Committee will interpret the University's policy and procedures on research misconduct and will initiate and carry out inquiries. Inquiry Committee logistics will be coordinated and Inquiry Committee records will be maintained by the Vice President for Research.

B. Purpose of the Inquiry

When an allegation or complaint involving the possibility of misconduct is brought before it, the Inquiry Committee will initiate an inquiry. In the inquiry, factual information is gathered and expeditiously reviewed to determine if an investigation of the charge is warranted. An inquiry is not a formal hearing, nor is it to conclude that misconduct has occurred; it is intended to separate allegations deserving of more detailed examination from frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken allegations. It is to determine whether an investigation is to be conducted. There shall be no implication that an allegation is valid prior to a conclusion to that effect in accordance with the procedures specified herein.

C. Inquiry Process

An inquiry begins when the Provost appoints the Inquiry Committee and notifies the respondent of the charges and the process that will follow. Notification will be made in writing and copies will be securely maintained and held confidential in the office of the Vice President for Research. The Inquiry Committee will be formed and will convene as soon as possible.

Inquiries should be resolved expeditiously. The inquiry should be completed and the final written report of the findings submitted to the Provost within 60 calendar days of the initiation of the inquiry, or within a shorter time period if so specified by a funding agency. If the Inquiry Committee anticipates that the established deadline cannot be met, it will submit to the Provost a report citing the reasons for the delay and describing progress to date; it will also inform the respondent and other involved individuals. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, the final report will include documentation of the reasons for exceeding 60 days.

To the greatest extent possible, the inquiry proceedings will be kept confidential in order to protect the rights of all parties involved. All meetings of the Inquiry Committee will be closed. The Faculty Personnel Adviser and the University Ombudsperson may be consulted by any party at any point during or subsequent to the inquiry process. Any party may consult legal counsel, but such counsel is not permitted at hearings at the inquiry stage. However, any person interviewed by the Inquiry Committee may be accompanied by an academic adviser or observer of his or her choice.

The respondent is obligated to cooperate in providing the material necessary to conduct the inquiry and will be so informed by the Inquiry Committee when the inquiry is initiated. Uncooperative behavior may result in immediate implementation of a formal investigation and appropriate institutional sanctions. The respondent will be given an opportunity to comment on the allegations during the inquiry and to respond to a draft copy of the inquiry findings. If he or she comments on that report, the comments will be made part of the final inquiry record. The respondent may address the Inquiry Committee, if he or she desires. The respondent must have full and timely access to all evidence presented against him or her.

D. Protection of Respondent and Complainant

The University will, to the greatest extent possible, protect the respondent and the complainant against capricious actions. Unsupported allegations not brought in good faith will lead to grievance proceedings or disciplinary action against the complainant. Acts of retaliation for good faith allegations will similarly lead to grievance proceedings or disciplinary action.

The University will make every effort to restore the reputations of persons alleged to have engaged in research misconduct when allegations are not confirmed. It will also protect the positions and reputations of any complainant who made allegations in good faith, witness, or committee member and to counter potential or actual retaliation against those complainants, witnesses and committee members.

E. Inquiry Findings

 The completion of an inquiry is marked by a conclusion of whether or not an investigation is warranted, and by submission of the written report of the inquiry findings to the Provost. The inquiry report shall contain the following information: (1) The name and position of the respondent(s); (2) A description of the allegations of research misconduct; (3) If applicable, grant and funding information; (4) The basis for recommending that the alleged actions warrant an investigation; and (5) Any comments on the report by the respondent or the complainant. The respondent and the complainant will be informed by the Inquiry Committee whether or not the allegations will result in an investigation.

The report and all other inquiry records will be retained in a confidential and secure file in the office of the Vice President for Research for at least five years after the completion of the inquiry. This file will not become a part of the respondent's confidential personnel record at the University unless a subsequent investigation results in a final determination of research misconduct, but it will be consulted by the Vice President for Research to protect a potential respondent against multiple jeopardy. Some federal agencies require that such a file be maintained for their reference if it pertains to any of their awardees.

The Provost will make a written determination of whether an investigation is warranted. If an allegation is found to be unsupported but has been submitted in good faith, no further formal action, other than informing all parties involved in the inquiry, will be taken. The records and findings of the inquiry, including the identity of the respondent, will be held confidential to protect the parties involved.

In the case of allegations found to warrant an investigation, the investigation shall begin within 30 calendar days of that determination and, for PHS supported research, on or before the date on which the investigation begins, send the inquiry report and the written determination to the ORI. In addition, the Vice President for Research will notify the director(s) of any funding agencies sponsoring the research in question that require notification that an investigation will be conducted. The Inquiry Committee will confidentially notify the complainant, the respondent, and the respondent's department chair, college dean, and director, as appropriate, of the impending investigation.

F. Reporting to the Funding Agency

 The University will notify the funding agency at any stage of the inquiry or investigation if it is ascertained that any of the following conditions exist:

  1. Health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects.
  2. There is an immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment.
  3. It is determined that violations have occurred that are so egregious that research activities should be suspended.
  4. There is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person making the allegations or of the individual who is the subject of the allegations and his or her co-investigators and associates, if any.
  5. There is a strong likelihood that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly.
  6. The university believes the research community or public should be informed.
  7. There is a reasonable indication of violations of civil or criminal law.

In the case of Public Health Service (PHS) grants, if the inquiry provides a reasonable indication of criminal violation, the Inquiry Committee is to ask the Vice President for Research to notify the PHS Office of Research Integrity within 24 hours of obtaining that information.

Any inquiry-related communication with a funding agency will also be sent, in confidence, to the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects*.

*Footnote: After the University has notified a funding agency that an investigation is warranted, or that any of the conditions listed in Section F (above) exist, the agency may take interim action to protect the rights of involved parties, or to protect the welfare of human or animal subjects of research. Such action may include minor restrictions, requests for assurances, deferral of a continuation grant application, and suspension of the grant.

G. Interim Protective Actions

At any time during a research misconduct proceeding, interim protective actions will be taken by the University in order to protect public health, funds and equipment, and the integrity of the research process. Interim action does not imply a finding but is a precautionary measure necessitated by serious circumstances. The Provost may take such action when justified by the need to protect the health and safety of researchers, research participants, or the interests of students, colleagues, and the general public. Such actions will vary according to the circumstances of each case, but examples of actions that may be necessary include delaying the publication of research results, providing for closer supervision of one or more researchers, requiring approvals for actions relating to the research that did not previously require approval, auditing pertinent records, or taking steps to contact other institutions that may be affected by any allegation of research misconduct, and may include action specified by a funding agency. Interim protective action should be taken in full awareness of how it might affect both the respondent and ongoing research within the University.

IV. Investigation

 A. Composition of Research Standards Investigation Committee

 If it is determined that a full investigation is required, two additional persons will be added to the Inquiry Committee to form the Research Standards Investigation Committee (hereafter referred to as the Investigation Committee). If the allegation of research misconduct is against a ranked faculty member, two tenured faculty will be added. If the allegation of research misconduct is against a member of the Supportive Professional Staff, Operating Staff, or student, one tenured faculty member and one member of the appropriate group will be added. The additional members for the Investigation Committee are selected in the same fashion as members are selected for the Inquiry Committee.

B. Purpose of Investigation

The investigation broadens the scope of the inquiry and is the formal examination and evaluation of all pertinent facts to determine whether research misconduct has occurred. The investigation should look carefully at the substance of the charges and examine all relevant evidence.

C. Investigation Process

If warranted, an investigation will be initiated within 30 days of such a finding by the Inquiry Committee. Investigations should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. An investigation ordinarily should be completed within 120 calendar days of its initiation, or as dictated by funding agencies' limitations (including submission of the final report). All meetings of the Investigation Committee will be closed. The investigation proceedings will be kept confidential to the greatest extent possible.

The respondent(s) will be notified sufficiently in advance of the scheduling of his/her interview in the investigation so that the respondent may prepare for the interview and arrange for the attendance of legal counsel, if the respondent wishes.

An agency sponsoring a research project in which misconduct is alleged or suspected will be notified by the Vice President for Research in writing as soon as the decision has been made to undertake an investigation, and no later than on the date the investigation begins. Agency guidelines for such situations should be followed. A funding agency may reserve the right to be involved in an investigation, or to conduct an independent investigation prior to, during, or after the university investigation if the allegations are against one of its awardees.

In the case of Public Health Service grants, the Office of Research Integrity shall be provided with the written finding by the Provost and a copy of the inquiry report containing the information required by 42 CFR Section 93.309(a). Upon a request from ORI, the university shall promptly send them: (1) a copy of our institutional policies and procedures under which the inquiry was conducted; (2) the research records and evidence reviewed, transcripts or recordings or any interviews, and copies of all relevant documents; and (3) the charges for the investigation to consider.

Procedures in conducting the investigation should be in compliance with any agency guidelines that must be followed if the research is supported by external funding. The investigation will consist of a combination of activities, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Review and copying of data, proposals, correspondence, and other pertinent documents at the University, at the granting agency, or elsewhere.
  2. Review of published materials and of manuscripts submitted or in preparation.
  3. Inspection of laboratory or other facilities and materials (including data records and notebooks).
  4. Interviewing of parties with an involvement in or knowledge about the case, including both the complainant and the respondent. Transcripts of the interviews may be recorded stenographically or electronically. Complete summaries of these interviews should be prepared, provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision, and included as part of the documentary record of the investigation.
  5. 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.

The following specific steps will be taken to obtain, secure, and maintain the research records and evidence pertinent to the research misconduct proceeding:

(1) Either before or when the respondent is notified of the allegation, reasonable and practical steps will be promptly taken to obtain custody of all research records and evidence needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding, inventory those materials, and sequester them in a secure manner, except in those cases 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.

(2) Where appropriate, the respondent will be given copies of, or reasonable, supervised access to the research records.

(3) All reasonable and practical efforts will be undertaken to take custody of additional research records and evidence discovered during the course of the research misconduct proceeding, including at the inquiry and investigation stages, or if new allegations arise, subject to the exception for scientific instruments in (1) above.

(4) All records of the research misconduct proceeding, as defined in 42 CFR Section 93.317(a), will be maintained for 7 years after completion of the proceeding. For PHS supported research, records will be maintained for 7 years after completion of the proceeding, or any ORI or HHS proceeding under Subparts D and E of 42 CFR Part 93, whichever is later, unless custody of the records and evidence has been transferred to HHS, or ORI has advised us that the university no longer need to retain the records.

D. Obligations and Rights of Parties in an Investigation

 All involved University parties are obligated to cooperate with the proceedings by providing information relating to the case. All relevant documentary information must be provided to the respondent in a timely manner to facilitate the preparation of a response. The respondent shall be provided the opportunity during the investigation to address the charges and evidence in detail and may address the Investigation Committee in person if he or she desires. The complainant, if known, shall also have the opportunity to review the evidence to ensure completeness to ensure, for example, that no key documents are missing. Parties in an investigation may be accompanied by or represented by legal counsel, and each person being interviewed by the Investigation Committee may be accompanied by an academic adviser or observer of his or her choice.

In the course of an investigation, information may emerge that indicates the alleged research misconduct may go beyond the initial complaint. The Investigation Committee may then expand its investigation, but only after the respondent is informed in writing what this additional information is and what new directions the investigation is likely to take. The respondent will be provided the opportunity to review the new information and to address any expanded charges the Investigation Committee feels are warranted by the new evidence. In the event the new information involves other individuals, they should be provided the opportunity to review and respond to the new evidence.

E. Interim Reports

The Investigation Committee is to notify the Provost of any major developments that could warrant interim action or that must be reported to a funding agency. In the latter case, such developments include disclosure of facts that may affect current or potential funding for the individual(s) under investigation or that the funding agency needs to know to ensure appropriate use of federal funds or otherwise protect the public interest. Significant developments during the investigation will be reported in writing by the Vice President for Research to the funding agency as necessary in accordance with agency guidelines. Documentation of the proceedings in order to substantiate the investigation findings must be prepared and will be made available to the appropriate funding agency as required.

After conducting its review, the Investigation Committee will prepare a draft report of its findings, provide a copy to the respondent and complainant for comment, and incorporate the respondent's and complainant's comments, if any, in the final report. This report must (1) Describe the nature of the allegations of research misconduct; (2) Describe and document sources of funding, including, for example, any grant numbers, grant applications, and contracts; (3) Describe the specific allegations of research misconduct considered in the investigation; (4) describe the policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted; (5) Identify and summarize the research records and evidence reviewed, and identify any evidence taken into custody, but not reviewed. The report should also describe any relevant records and evidence not taken into custody and explain why. (6) Provide a finding as to whether research misconduct did or did not occur for each separate allegation of research misconduct identified during the investigation, and if misconduct was found, (i) identify it as falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism and whether it was intentional, knowing, or in reckless disregard, (ii) summarize the facts and the analysis supporting the conclusion and consider the merits of any reasonable explanation by the respondent and any evidence that rebuts the respondent's explanations, (iii) identify any specific PHS support; (iv) identify any publications that need correction or retraction; (v) identify the person(s) responsible for the misconduct, and (vi) list any current support or known applications or proposals for support that the respondent(s) has pending with non-PHS Federal agencies; and (7) Include and consider any comments made by the respondent and complainant on the draft investigation report.

The nature of some cases may render the deadline difficult to meet. If the Investigation Committee determines that the full process cannot be completed in 120 days, then an interim report is to be submitted to the Provost before 120 days have expired with a request for an extension including an explanation of why an extension is necessary.

If the investigation cannot be completed in 120 calendar days and the research under scrutiny was supported by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), then the Vice President for Research will submit to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) a written request for an extension, including the interim report from the Investigation Committee on its progress to date and an estimate of the date of completion of the report. Any request for extension must balance the need for a thorough and rigorous examination of the facts and the interests of the respondent and the funding agency in a timely resolution of the matter. If the request is granted, the University will file periodic progress reports as requested by the ORI. Non-PHS funding agencies may have other guidelines or regulations to be followed. Any investigation-related communication with a funding agency will also be sent, in confidence, to the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects.

F. Investigation Findings

The findings of an investigation are either:

1. No research misconduct was committed (including a notation, if warranted, that the allegation was malicious or frivolous).

2. Research misconduct was committed.

A finding of research misconduct requires that:

(a) There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and

(b) The misconduct be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly; and

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

In the course of an investigation, serious unintentional research errors may surface. In such instances, the Investigation Committee will advise the respondent on appropriate corrective action. It may also include in its final report specific recommendations for corrective action, such as notifying editors of journals in which the respondent's research was published or to which manuscripts were sent, and collaborators on such research.

The finding of the Investigation Committee will be forwarded to the Provost for review. If the Provost concurs with the decision of the Investigation Committee, the determination is final. If the Provost has questions about the finding, he or she will, within 10 working days of receiving it, request the Investigation Committee to reconsider its decision, providing with the request a statement of reasons for reconsideration. After a reconsideration by the Investigation Committee, its determination regarding research misconduct is final.

G. Submission of Final Report

The Investigation Committee then will submit the final report to the Provost. The respondent also will receive the final report of the investigation. When there is more than one respondent, each will receive all those parts of the report that are pertinent to his or her role in the case. If the identity of the complainant is known, he or she will be provided with those portions of the final report that address his or her role and opinions in the investigation.

The investigation is complete when the Provost has confidentially submitted the final report, with a description of any sanctions to be imposed by the University, to known complainant(s), the respondent(s), each respondent's department chair and college dean, or the respondent's unit and divisional directors, the Vice President for Research, and the funding agency, if any. A copy of the report and all documentation relevant to substantiating the investigation's findings will be kept in a secure and confidential file in the Office of the Vice President for Research. If there is a final determination of misconduct, the report will become part of the respondent's confidential personnel file.

A funding agency may claim the right to examine this investigation file if it involves an investigation of any of its awardees. The University shall maintain and provide to ORI upon request all relevant research records and records of our research misconduct proceeding, including results of all interviews and the transcripts or recordings of such interviews.

H. Appeal Process

If the Investigation Committee's determination is against the respondent, the respondent may, within 30 calendar days of the distribution of that determination, file a written appeal with the President of the University. A time extension, where there is appropriate justification, may be requested of the President. Either the findings, or the sanctions, or both, may be appealed. An appeal must be restricted to the body of evidence already presented, and the grounds for appeal must be limited to failure to follow appropriate procedures in the investigation, arbitrary and capricious decision-making, or sanctions not in keeping with the findings. The decision of the President is the final University determination. New evidence or newly discovered conflict of interest may warrant a new investigation, in which case the President or Provost may direct that the original committee or a modified committee conduct a new inquiry.

No university sanctions, other than interim protective action as described in Section III G above will be imposed before the appeal has been concluded; nor will findings be considered final until any appeal of the findings has been concluded.

Sanctions imposed by external agencies may be appealed through the procedures established by those agencies.

V. Resolution of Investigation

The Provost will expeditiously take action on all recommendations or refer them to another appropriate office (e.g., department chair, director, dean, university judicial office, Civil Service personnel office) for action.

A. Finding of No Research Misconduct

All persons and agencies informed of the investigation must be notified promptly of the finding of no misconduct. Notification will be made by the Vice President for Research.

The Vice President for Research will work with appropriate persons to counter any adverse publicity experienced by the respondent during the inquiry or investigation.

Particular efforts will be made to redress damage to the respondent's reputation and status as a competent researcher.

If the unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct are found to have been maliciously motivated, appropriate grievance procedures or disciplinary action will be initiated against the complainant. If the allegations, however incorrect, are found to have been made in good faith, no disciplinary measures will be taken and diligent efforts will be made to prevent retaliatory action against the complainant.

Any findings-related communication with a funding agency will also be sent, in confidence, to the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects.

B. Finding of Research Misconduct

 All persons and agencies or organizations informed of the investigation must be notified promptly of a finding of research misconduct. Notification will be made by the Vice President for Research.

In its final report, the Investigation Committee will recommend to the Provost specific sanctions to be imposed on the respondent(s). Sanctions may include, but are not limited to: removal from the research project, a reprimand, financial restitution, and termination of association with the University.

If there is a finding of misconduct, the University will notify the institution with which the respondent is currently affiliated. Other Investigation Committee recommendations to the Provost may include, if appropriate, actions such as notifying editors of journals in which the research in question was published or to which manuscripts were sent; other institutions with which the respondent has been affiliated; collaborators on such research; and professional societies, licensing boards, or criminal authorities.

The University response to a finding of research misconduct, including sanctions against the researcher, will reflect the severity of the misconduct and will be in compliance with the provisions of the University Constitution and Bylaws and other relevant documents.

If termination of faculty employment is to be considered, the due process provision of Section 7.3 of the University Bylaws will apply. If termination of a member of the Supportive Professional Staff is to be considered, due process procedures specified in Item I-12-1 of the Academic Policies and Procedures Manual will apply. If dismissal of a member of the Operating Staff is to be considered, the procedures in the State Universities Civil Service System statute and rules will apply. If dismissal of a student is to be considered, the Student Judicial Code appeal procedures will be followed. Sanctions or other actions may also be taken by the awarding funding agency.

For PHS supported research, the University shall promptly provide to ORI after the investigation: (1) A copy of the investigation report, all attachments, and any appeals; (2) A statement of whether the institution found research misconduct and, if so, who committed it; (3) A statement of whether the institution accepts the findings in the investigation report; and (4) A description of any pending or completed administrative actions against the respondent.

The University will cooperate with and assist ORI and HHS, as needed, to carry out any administrative actions HHS may impose as a result of a final finding of research misconduct by HHS.

The University shall cooperate fully and on a continuing basis with ORI during its oversight reviews of this institution and its research misconduct proceedings and during the process under which the respondent may contest ORI findings of research misconduct and proposed HHS administrative actions. This includes providing, as necessary to develop a complete record of relevant evidence, all witnesses, research records, and other evidence under our control or custody, or in the possession of, or accessible to, all persons that are subject to our authority.

The University shall report to ORI any proposed settlements, admissions of research misconduct, or institutional findings of misconduct that arise at any stage of a misconduct proceeding, including the allegation and inquiry stages.


Much of this document is based upon the "Framework for Institutional Policies and Procedures to Deal with Fraud in Research," developed in November, 1988, by staff from the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), with input from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Bar Association (ABA), and National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists.

Other sources include "Statement on Professional Ethics (American Association of University Professors, 1987), "Honor in Science" (Sigma Xi, 1986), "The Maintenance of High Ethical Standards in the Conduct of Research" (American Association of American Medical Colleges, 1982), and "Report of the Association of American Universities' Committee on the Integrity of Research" (Association of American Universities, 1982).

This policy and procedures document conforms to the August 8, 1989, U.S. Public Health Service regulations, "Responsibilities of Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing with and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science" and the July 1, 1987, regulations issued by the National Science Foundation, "Misconduct in Science and Engineering Research." It was shaped to address the concerns of Northern Illinois University by the Graduate Council's Research and Artistry Committee, the Graduate Council, the University Council, and other interested faculty, students, staff, and administrators. It will be reviewed periodically and revised as needed. The Provost, through the Vice President for Research and through the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects, will disseminate the information contained herein, as appropriate, to members of the University community.

Approved by Graduate Council, April 29, 1991
(Endorsed by University Council, May 1, 1991)
(Editorial modifications, April 4, 1994; June 5, 1997; September 16, 2003)
Approved by Responsible Conduct of Scholarship Committee, December 8, 2006
Approved by Graduate Council, February 5, 2007
Approved by University Council May 2, 2007