Misconduct in Research

Statement of policy and procedure to be followed in the University for dealing with an allegation of misconduct in research against an officer, member of the unestablished staff or assistant staff of the University.

Allegations of misconduct in research are rare but the University takes them very seriously. Proven misconduct in research is regarded as serious or gross misconduct or, in the case of officers, as good cause under Schedule to Statute C-1,4 (a)–(c), and will normally merit dismissal. The University is committed to ensuring that allegations of misconduct in research are investigated with all possible thoroughness and vigour.

The policy and procedure set out in this statement will also be used to investigate and deal with allegations relating to misappropriation or misuse of research funds and equipment.

The central bodies have approved the following procedure for investigating such allegations.

Definition

Misconduct in this context means:
Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out or reporting results of research and deliberate, dangerous or negligent deviations from accepted practice in carrying out research. It includes failure to follow agreed protocol if this failure results in unreasonable risk or harm to humans, other sentient beings or the environment, and facilitating of misconduct in research by collusion in, or concealment of, such actions by others. It includes any plan or conspiracy or attempt to do any of these things.

Misconduct in this context does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation or judgement in evaluating research methods or results, or misconduct (including gross misconduct) unrelated to the research process.

Responsibility of all members of the University

All members of the University, and individuals permitted to work in University institutions, have a responsibility to report to the Head of the relevant institution any incident of misconduct, whether this has been witnessed, or is suspected. Every member of the University should understand, however, that any allegation which is found to be unproven and which has been frivolously or maliciously made may result in disciplinary action being taken against the member of staff who made the allegation.

If there is uncertainty about whether misconduct has occurred or is occurring, the individual who suspects that it is should discuss the matter with the Head of institution, who will decide whether or not the matter requires further investigation. (The term Head of institution includes Chairmen of the Boards of Faculties not organised into Departments.) All members of the University and persons working in institutions of the University should feel that they may have confidential discussions with the Head of the institution if they have a concern about possible misconduct (see below).

If the Head of the institution has co-authored published material with the person against whom the allegation has been made (hereafter referred to as the respondent), or is the supervisor of a research project in which the person is the employer, or is the supervisor, or has some other professional connection with the person's research, the Chairman of the relevant Council of the School should be approached and he or she shall mutatis mutandis act as the Head of the institution in the procedures to be followed. If the head of the institution is also the Chairman of the Council of the School, the Academic Secretary shall decide who shall act as Head of the institution in the procedures to be followed. The Registrary or his or her Deputy shall act in the case of the Head of a Council Institution. (Institutions which do not fall under the scope of a Council of the School shall be assigned to the Councils of the Schools or the Council, as appropriate, as they are under the discretionary awards scheme and Ordinances for University officers.)

In any case involving a University officer the matter must be investigated in conformity with the provisions of and procedures set out in the Statutes and Ordinances of the University.

Confidentiality

Allegations will be investigated in the strictest confidence. All those who are involved in the procedures for investigating an allegation, including witnesses, representatives and persons providing information, evidence and/or advice, have a duty to maintain strict confidentiality.

Advice

In the case of an officer, a member of the unestablished staff, or any other person working on University premises or on University research or research in which the University has an involvement, the Academic Secretary or the Registrary, depending on whether the member of staff is employed in an institution under the supervision of the General Board or Council and, in the case of a member of assistant staff, the Director of Human Resources, should be informed by the Head of the institution as soon as possible of any allegation made against a member of staff. Advice on how the matter should be taken forward should be sought in the first instance from the officers listed in the last paragraph of this statement. So far as possible, this initial advice should be sought without naming the persons involved in the case, at least until the Head of the institution has judged that the allegation is plausible and is not trivial. If names must be given to explain the case, they should be treated in strictest confidence.

Procedure

The procedures set out are to be used as guidance and are not contractual. In particular, the Academic Secretary on behalf of the General Board, the Registrary, on behalf of the Council, or, in the case of assistant staff, the Director of Human Resources, may decide to vary the procedures in any particular case. Where necessary there may have to be some breach of confidentiality of any previous discussions with the Head of the institution but this will be avoided wherever possible.

Allegation and Head of Institution's responsibility

When notified, whether informally or formally, of an allegation the Head of the institution shall look into the matter to decide whether there are grounds for believing that there may be or has been misconduct. In the case of University officers the relevant sections of Statute C concerning procedure are the Schedule to Statute C-111, 2, 3 and 5–8. The Head of institution shall decide as soon as possible after being notified of an allegation whether further steps should be taken. If it appears to the Head of the institution that the allegation is unjustified or trivial, he/she may dismiss the allegation summarily or decide not to proceed further. If the judgement of the Head of the institution is that the allegation is plausible or may have substance and is not trivial, he or she shall without delay

  1. inform the Academic Secretary, Registrary or Director of Human Resources as appropriate (see under “Advice” above),
  2. take all possible steps to sequester all relevant research or other records and materials,
  3. institute such other investigations or inquiries that appear to him/her to be necessary,
  4. inform the person against whom the allegation has been made (the respondent) and provide that person with copies of the materials that have been sequestered. It should be made clear to the respondent that this action is not to be regarded as a disciplinary step but is necessary for enabling the allegation to be investigated.

In notifying any individual of an allegation made against him or her, a decision must be taken as to whether or not it would be appropriate for the respondent to be suspended or excluded from all or part of the University premises. University Officers may be suspended only by the Vice-Chancellor in accordance with the Schedule to Statute C - III, 7. In the case of unestablished staff, the Academic Secretary, on behalf of the Board, the Registrary, on behalf of the Council, shall determine whether suspension would be appropriate in a particular case, and whether the circumstances justify suspension without pay. The Director of Human Resources shall determine whether suspension is appropriate in the case of a member of the assistant staff.

Preliminary Investigation

If the Head of the institution decides that the matter merits further investigation he or she should set up a small Committee to inquire into the allegation. The membership of the Committee shall consist of at least two University officers and shall not include the Head of Department. The members need not necessarily be members of the institution in which the misconduct is alleged to have taken place. They must have no conflict of interest in the case, be unbiased, and have the appropriate qualifications and experience in the relevant field to be able to evaluate the issues under investigation. The purpose of the preliminary investigation is to evaluate the facts of the allegation in order to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence amounting to a prima facie case of misconduct.

The respondent will be informed of the decision to set up an inquiry, and of the membership of the Committee. The Head of the institution may replace either or both of the members of the Committee of Inquiry if the respondent is able to show reasonable grounds in writing that either or both members are not appropriate or are likely to be biased.

The Committee will interview both the person making the allegation and the respondent, and any other persons who may be regarded as witnesses. (Any person being interviewed may be accompanied by another person).

The Committee will prepare a report within two working weeks of the first meeting setting out the evidence which has been evaluated, accounts of interviews, and a conclusion as to whether their opinion is that there is a prima facie case of misconduct. A copy of the report will be sent to the respondent. Respondent(s) will be invited to comment in writing with 28 days.

The Head of the institution shall then decide whether, for unestablished and assistant Staff, the matter should be dropped or a formal investigation set up, or, in the case of an Officer, whether the matter should be dealt with under the Schedule to Statute C - III, 2 or 3 or referred to the Vice-Chancellor (Schedule to Statute C - III, 5–8), and the matter will proceed accordingly. In either event, the Head of the institution shall inform the Academic Secretary or the Registrary, as the case may be, or the Director of Human Resources in the case of assistant staff, and shall write to the complainant and to the person against whom the complaint has been made to inform them of the outcome of the preliminary investigation.

Formal Investigation

In the case of a University officer the matter will proceed further under the Schedule to Statute C, III, 8 (d).

In the case of unestablished staff, the General Board or the Council, as appropriate, or in the case of Assistant Staff, the Personnel Committee, will set up a Committee, which will meet within two working weeks of its establishment, to undertake the formal investigation of the allegation. The Academic Secretary, on the instruction of the General Board, the Registrary, on the instruction of the Council, or the Director of Human Resources, in the case of a member of the assistant staff, will define in writing the charge to be investigated. The Committee will be charged with examining and evaluating all the relevant evidence with a view to determining whether an act of misconduct has been committed, the person(s) responsible and an assessment of the gravity of the misconduct.

The members of the Committee will be chosen by the General Board or the Council, or in the case of assistant staff, by the Personnel Committee, who shall also decide the appropriate number of members. No member shall be chosen if there appears to be apparent conflict of interest with the respondent or the case under investigation; all members must possess the necessary expertise to examine the evidence and conduct interviews of witnesses. The Board or the Council or Personnel Committee in the case of Assistant Staff may replace any member if the respondent can demonstrate good reasons why that person should not be a member of the Formal Investigation Committee.

The investigation will entail examination of all relevant documentation. The Committee shall interview all individuals involved in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made together with other individuals who may possess knowledge or information relevant to the allegation. Notes shall be made of these interviews and provided for the interviewees for corroboration of factual accuracy. (Any person being interviewed may be accompanied by another person).

The Committee shall prepare a final report within a week from the date the Committee finished its interviewing explaining how the investigation was conducted, the source and method of obtaining information relevant for the investigation, the conclusion(s) reached and the basis on which the conclusion(s) were reached.

The respondent(s) will be provided with a copy of the report and an opportunity to comment in writing on the report and its findings within 28 days. The written comments will be attached as an annex to the report.

Action in respect of:

University Officers

This is dealt with under the relevant section of Statute U, III.

Unestablished Staff and Assistant Staff

The report of the formal investigation shall be submitted to the Personnel Committee at its next meeting.

If the allegation is upheld, the Personnel Committee shall decide, in the light of the report and any further representations from the respondent or his/her representative, what steps should be taken in relation to the person concerned.

If the person holds an unestablished appointment, the Personnel Committee shall decide whether a formal oral or written warning is appropriate or whether the gravity of the offence warrants dismissal. If a warning is considered appropriate, then the Committee shall advise the Head of institution to issue the warning. If dismissal is appropriate, the Committee shall advise the Head of Department to dismiss the member of staff.

If the person is a member of the Assistant Staff of the University, the Personnel Committee will inform the Head of the institution of the action to be taken and the Head of the institution will inform the person in writing of the decision taken.

Information and advice

This may be obtained from the relevant HR Consultant/Officer for the institution concerned.