University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Presidential Orders

Executive Order

No. 61

Policy for Addressing Allegations of Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct

1.  Introduction

One of the primary missions of the University is the creation and dissemination of knowledge. The University creates an environment in which research flourishes, and depends on individuals to exercise their integrity in carrying out their scientific and scholarly activities. Senior faculty, principal investigators, and others in positions of responsibility for the conduct of research are expected to exercise reasonable supervision of those under their direction to ensure the integrity of the research being conducted.

Despite the scholarly community's best intentions, departures from accepted standards of integrity and honesty may occur, and the University must be prepared, through the adoption of policies and procedures, to pursue and resolve situations in which scientific and scholarly misconduct arise. The University assumes primary responsibility for investigating and resolving allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct by its faculty, staff, and students. This responsibility holds regardless of whether the activity involved was funded by external agencies, including federal and state sources, or by private grants or contracts, or as unfunded scholarly endeavors. Assumption of this primary responsibility is consistent with federal regulations, though in such cases federal reporting requirements also pertain.

Because of the importance of issues of scholarly or scientific misconduct to the operations of the University and because significant expertise is required to address such issues, the University has established an Office of Scholarly Integrity (OSI) within the Office of the Provost. The OSI shall be responsible for coordinating, in consultation and cooperation with the deans of the schools and colleges, inquiries and investigations in accord with this policy. The OSI shall be responsible for compliance with reporting requirements established by the various federal and other funding agencies in matters of scientific or scholarly misconduct. The OSI shall also be responsible for maintenance of all records resulting from inquiries and investigations of such allegations.

2.  Definitions

Respondent—An individual, faculty, staff, or student, against whom an allegation of scientific or scholarly misconduct has been made.

Research Misconduct—Research misconduct is 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 finding of research misconduct requires that:

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

  • The misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and

  • The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence.

Research misconduct is a form of scientific and scholarly misconduct identified as an inappropriate activity in the Faculty Code, Chapter 25, Section 25-51.

Research—Research is a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge and includes all basic, applied, and demonstration research in all fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. This includes, but is not limited to, research in economics, education, linguistics, medicine, psychology, social sciences, statistics, and research involving human subjects and animals.

Fabrication—Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.

Falsification—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.

Plagiarism—Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.

Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct*Scientific and scholarly misconduct includes the following forms of inappropriate activities:

  • Intentional misrepresentation of credentials;
  • Falsification of data;
  • Plagiarism;
  • Abuse of confidentiality; and
  • Deliberate violation of regulations applicable to research.

(As per the Faculty Code, Chapter 25, Section 25-51.)

*The definition of scientific and scholarly misconduct as used herein is intended to include all federal and state regulations defining and establishing protocols for responding to scientific, scholarly, and research misconduct as currently adopted or as modified in the future.

3.  Reporting and Confidentiality

It is difficult to balance the need to preserve the confidentiality of those persons bringing allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct with the interests of persons to have knowledge of their accusers. Too little protection for those bringing allegations discourages legitimate reporting, and too secretive a process endangers the researcher against whom allegations are made.

It must be recognized that a researcher's reputation is paramount to his or her career, and that serious consideration must be given before anyone takes action to impair that reputation. Just as care must be taken to ensure that those filing legitimate allegations in good faith are protected from reprisals, the University will not tolerate actions of this nature that are taken without foundation and/or with malicious intent. To ensure both the opportunity to make reports and the internal protection of those reporting, the identity of the person filing the allegation of misconduct shall be kept confidential during the inquiry stage of this procedure, unless that person consents to the release of his or her name. Similarly, those accused of such acts are entitled to have all proceedings handled in confidence. The University will not tolerate retaliation against those filing reports under this policy. Individuals may choose to utilize the processes of the state of Washington "Whistleblower" law (Chapter 42.40 RCW) and secure the statutory protections thereunder, independent of or in conjunction with these procedures.

4.  Receipt of Allegations and Inquiry

Allegations of scientific or scholarly misconduct are to be made in writing and submitted to the Office of Scholarly Integrity (OSI). The OSI shall inform the dean of the school or college of the allegation. In the event that the person making the allegation considers the personnel of the OSI to have a conflict of interest, the allegation may be reported directly to the Vice Provost.

Upon receipt of a written allegation, the OSI, in consultation with the dean of the school or college, shall initiate an inquiry into the allegation. The OSI shall first discuss the matter with the party raising the issue. Thereafter, the OSI shall inform the respondent that an allegation of misconduct has been made, provide that person a copy of the written allegation, and explain in detail the process for addressing allegations of scientific or scholarly misconduct. The respondent shall be given an opportunity to respond within a reasonable period of time, as specified by the OSI. The OSI may seek such advice as is necessary to evaluate whether any validity to the allegation exists.

The OSI may obtain the assistance of the University Complaints Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO) in determining the validity of the allegation. Dependent on the nature of the discipline and the accusation made, it may be necessary for the original databooks or other laboratory materials to be examined and retained to ensure the accuracy of the original record. The OSI and UCIRO, acting under the direction of the OSI, are specifically charged and authorized to take temporary custody of all relevant records from the files and laboratories of the respondent when they deem it necessary and appropriate to safeguard the records. Faculty, staff, and students are required to release to the OSI and UCIRO all original databooks, records, laboratory notes, and/or other materials that are determined to be necessary. The OSI and UCIRO shall be responsible for the safe keeping of the records in their custody. In so far as such custody may disrupt the laboratory or research of investigators, the OSI shall make copies for use by the investigators or provide alternative facilities. Access to this material may occur during the inquiry and investigation, upon decision of the OSI and UCIRO.

The OSI, in consultation with UCIRO and the dean, shall determine, on the basis of the inquiry, within 30 days of receipt of the allegation, whether to initiate an investigation. This timeline may be extended by the OSI as it deems necessary and reasonable, and the reasons for the extension shall be documented. If no reasonable basis exists to initiate an investigation, the OSI shall provide a copy of the written inquiry report, setting forth the evidence reviewed, summaries of relevant interviews and the OSI's conclusion, to the party making the allegation, the respondent, and the dean of the appropriate school or college. When an inquiry finds an allegation of scientific misconduct is not confirmed, the University will undertake diligent efforts to restore any damage to the reputation of researchers. The OSI shall maintain the record of the inquiry, for at least three years, apart from the faculty or staff member's personnel file, or the student's graduate record. Should any party be dissatisfied with the closure of the matter by the OSI, he or she may request, within 30 days of notice by OSI of the closure of the matter, that the Vice Provost review the matter. If the Vice Provost concurs in the finding of the OSI, the matter will be closed. If the Vice Provost does not concur, the OSI shall be instructed to initiate an investigation.

5.  Investigation

If, as a result of the inquiry, the OSI determines that the alleged violation is of sufficient seriousness to warrant an investigation, the dean of the school or college, shall appoint, within 30 days of the conclusion of the inquiry, an ad hoc advisory committee of at least three scholars who are not directly involved in the matter being considered, are not associated with the respondent, and are not reasonably perceived as having a conflict of interest. If the allegation is against a faculty member or member of the professional staff, at least one member of the advisory committee shall possess sufficiently specialized expertise in the same field as that of the respondent and at least one member of the advisory committee shall be a scholar from outside the University, provided, however, that a person having only an affiliate appointment at the University shall not be precluded from serving as an outside member of the advisory committee. If the allegation is against a student or classified staff member, all these committee members may be from within the University, but one committee member shall be from outside the school or college. The advisory committee shall operate in executive session and be supported by the OSI.

The responsibility of the advisory committee is to examine all pertinent information, review all records, and take such testimony as necessary. The committee shall provide the respondent an opportunity to respond to the allegation and information collected. At his or her expense, the respondent when meeting with the committee may be accompanied and advised by an assistant or legal counsel of his or her choice. However, because this is an investigation of alleged scientific or scholarly misconduct, the respondent, whether faculty, staff, or student, is expected personally to participate fully in the process.

The committee shall provide to the dean of the school or college, with a copy to the respondent and to the OSI, a written report, including policies and procedures followed, how and from whom information was obtained, a summary of position of the respondent, findings of fact, a preliminary determination, and any recommendations based on those facts, within 90 calendar days of its appointment. This timeline may be extended by the committee, in consultation with the OSI, as it deems necessary and reasonable. The respondent will have ten days to respond to the committee report and findings.

After receipt of the report of the advisory committee and the response of the respondent, the dean, in consultation with the OSI, shall make his or her decision.

  A. If the dean determines that no scholarly or scientific misconduct has occurred, the matter should be closed, and he or she shall take the following actions:

    1) Notify the person who filed the allegation and the respondent of the decision.

    2) Consult with the respondent to determine what actions, if any, should be taken to ensure the respondent's reputation is secured, and implement those actions, including issuing statements of exoneration, if required.

    3) Inform the OSI who is responsible to notify the Office of Research Integrity and the appropriate federal or other funding agencies of the outcome of the investigation.

  B. If the dean determines that scientific or scholarly misconduct has occurred and that further action is warranted, he or she shall take the following actions:

    1) If the action is against a faculty member, in accordance with the Faculty Code Chapter 25, Section 25-71, Subsection E, and Chapter 28, deliver to the appropriate academic administrator a written report stating that reasonable cause exists to adjudicate charges of wrongdoing brought against the faculty member, with enough of the underlying facts to provide the reasons for this conclusion.

    2) If the action is against a professional or classified staff member, deliver a statement of the basis for the decision and notice of appropriate disciplinary or dismissal action in accordance with the applicable professional staff or classified staff rules.

    3) If the action is against a student, deliver a statement of the basis for the decision and notice of appropriate disciplinary or dismissal action in accordance with the University Student Conduct Code (Chapter 478-120 WAC).

  In all situations, the dean of the school or college shall notify the OSI of the decision and actions taken and provide the OSI a complete record of the investigation, which record shall be maintained for at least three years.

6.  Notification of Funding Agencies

The following notifications shall be made by the Office of Scholarly Integrity (OSI), in consultation with the dean of the school or college, to the appropriate federal or other granting agencies:

  A. Allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct when an inquiry into the allegation results in sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation;

  B. A copy of the written investigation report, the response (if any) by the respondent, and the dean's decision; and

  C. The final adjudication or disciplinary determination and corrective actions.

Additional notification is required if it is determined that public health or safety is at risk, agency 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 investigation, the inquiry or investigation may be made public prematurely so that appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved, or the research community or public should be informed. The OSI is authorized to take such actions, in consultation with the appropriate University official, as are necessary or prudent to protect the University and the funds of the granting agency, prevent potential or immediate health hazards, or to prevent or report any possible criminal violation during the period of inquiry, investigation, or resulting adjudication, if any. In addition, the OSI may require that other actions be taken, such as notifying editors or publishers if the work has been submitted for publication or been published, to ensure the integrity of the scholarly process.

June 14, 1989; October 2, 1990; April 14, 1994; September 24, 1996; May 14, 2003.

For related information, see:

  • Chapter 478-120 WAC, "Student Conduct Code for the University of Washington"
  • Chapter 478-124 WAC, "General Conduct Code for the University of Washington"
  • Executive Order No. 58, "Student Academic Grievance Procedures"
  • Faculty Code, Chapter 28, "Adjudicative Proceedings for the Resolution of Differences"
  • Administrative Policy Statement 46.3, "Resolution of Complaints Against University Employees"
  • Administrative Policy Statement 47.1, "Summary of the State Employee Whistleblower Act"
  • Administrative Policy Statement 47.10, "Policy on Financial Irregularities and Other Related Illegal Acts"