Policies and Procedures in Cases of Alleged Misconduct in Science

Related content: Statement of Policy and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct

1. Definition of Scientific Misconduct
Scientific misconduct may consist of 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.

2. Receipt of Allegations or Evidence of Scientific Misconduct
To ensure impartiality in the receipt of allegations or evidence of scientific misconduct and impartiality in the initiation of immediate inquiry into them, all allegations will be addressed to and initially reviewed by the provost and dean of the faculty, the chief academic officer of Amherst College. 

3. Initiation of Inquiry
Upon receipt and initial review of an allegation of scientific misconduct, the provost and dean of the faculty will convene that standing committee of the college known as the Faculty Executive Committee, consisting of five members of the faculty, elected at large by the faculty. The provost and dean of the faculty and the committee will conduct the initial inquiry.

4. Process of Inquiry
The Faculty Executive Committee will review the allegations and/or evidence and will, within sixty days of accepting its charge, complete its initial inquiry, unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. The committee will prepare a written report stating what evidence was reviewed, summarizing relevant interviews, and presenting the inquiry's conclusions. If an inquiry takes longer than sixty days to complete, the report will also contain documentation of the reasons for exceeding the sixty-day period.

The provost and dean of the faculty will provide the subject of the inquiry with a copy of the report. If the subject comments on the report, the comments will be made part of the record.

The provost and dean of the faculty and all persons involved in conducting the inquiry will protect, to the maximum extent possible, the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent misconduct.

They will also effort the affected individual(s) confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible and will permit the subject to comment on the allegations and findings of the inquiry.

5. Records of Inquiry
The provst and dean of the faculty will maintain for three years sufficiently detailed documentation of inquiries to permit later assessment of the conclusion that an investigation was not warranted, providing those records to the government on request.

6. Initiation of Investigation
If, after an inquiry, it is determined that an investigation is warranted, the provost and dean of the faculty will notify the Office of Research Integrity in writing before the date the investigation begins. The notification will include the subject's name, the general nature of the allegation, and the PHS application or grant numbers involved. The investigation will be initiated within thirty days of the completion of an inquiry that provides sufficient evidence that an investigation is warranted.

7. Process of Investigation
The investigation will be conducted by an ad hoc committee composed of members of the Amherst College faculty. The members of the committee will be named by the Faculty Executive Committee. When appropriate, persons will particular expertise in the area(s) under investigation will be included on the ad hoc investigating committee. The investigation will pursue all significant issues and will include examination of all available documentation, including relevant research data and proposals, publication, correspondence, and memoranda of telephone calls. The investigation will include interviews with individuals who have or might have information about the allegation and/or evidence. Each interview will be completely summarized in writing, and reviewed and commented upon by the person interviewed. A complete record of documentation will be maintained, substantiating the findings of the investigation. If the investigation cannot be completed within 120 days from its initiation, the provost and dean of the faculty will request from the Office of Research Integrity an extension, including with the request an explanation for the delay, an interim progress report and an estimated completion date.

8. Outcome of Investigation
If the ad hoc committee charged with conducting an investigation concludes that there is substantial evidence to support an allegation or evidence of scientific misconduct, they will submit their report together with any recommendations for the imposition of sanctions to the president of the college who will act upon the report and its recommendations. The President will communicate his or her decision to the individual(s) found to have engaged in scientific misconduct and will require of said individual(s) a written statement of their views, including their views of the sanctions imposed upon them.

The provost and dean of the faculty will notify the Office of Research Integrity of the outcome of the investigation and will submit a detailed report of the policies and procedures of the investigation, sources of information, findings and the basis for findings, the response of the individual(s) charged, and a description of any sanctions taken. The provost and dean of the faculty will prepare and maintain documentation to substantiate an investigation's findings and will make this documentation available to the director of the Office of Research Integrity.

The provost and dean of the faculty will also, if necessary, take interim administrative measurer to protect federal funds.

9. Notification of the Office of Research Integrity
In addition to notifications of the Office of Research Integrity as provided for in Sections 6, 7 and 8 above, the provost and dean of the faculty will also promptly advise ORI of any developments during the course of the investigation which disclose facts that may affect current or potential DHHS funding for individual(s) under investigation or that the PHS needs to know to ensure appropriate use of federal funds and otherwise protect the public interest. Furthermore, if there is any plan to end an inquiry or an investigation early, the provost and dean of the faculty will notify ORI, explaining the reasons for the decision.

The ORI will also be informed at any stage of an inquiry or investigation of any immediate health hazard, need to protect federal funds or equipment, or need to protect the interests of persons involved in the inquiry or investigation (including those who have made or who are the subject of allegations, their associates, and investigators), or if it is probable that the alleged misconduct is about to be reported publicly.

ORI will also be informed within twenty-four hours after receiving any reasonable indication that a crime may have been committed.

10. Protection of Individuals
The college will take precautions against real or apparent conflicts of interest among persons involved in an inquiry or investigation. It will undertake diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputations of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct when allegations are not confirmed, and also undertake diligent efforts to protect the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations.

11. Dissemination of Policy
The provost and dean of the faculty will distribute annually to all faculty and research associates at Amherst College who are engaged in scientific research a copy of this statement of policies and procedures with a letter emphasizing the importance of compliance with them.
Adopted 1990, revised 1995.