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6,515: Ethical Standards in the Conduct of Research

Revised: April 2014

Scholars and researchers bear the primary responsibility for the monitoring and rigorous evaluation of procedures and results of research and other scholarly activities under their supervision. All members of the university community adhere to the university's strict standards of integrity of academic scholarship and research and must feel ethically obligated to report (in accordance with the procedures set forth in this policy) any fraudulent acts when they are known or are suspected to have occurred. Scholarly misconduct can neither be condoned nor tolerated at UNR.

A. Rights and Responsibilities of Scholars and Researchers:

  1. Within the framework of the existing policies of the system and the University, including review guidelines, scholars and researchers are free to:
    1. Choose the subject of research or scholarly activity;
    2. Seek the resources necessary to conduct such activity, and to exercise control over those resources;
    3. Initiate and conduct such activity;
    4. Disseminate the results of such activity in an appropriate manner.
  2. With the freedom to conduct and manage scholarly activities and research comes the academic responsibility for:
    1. Maintaining professional integrity within and external to the University;
    2. Honoring professional obligations to the University and, when relevant, to external benefactors and funding entities.

B. Ethical Standards of Performance in Research and Scholarship:

Researchers and scholars shall seek to uphold the following general ethical standards in the performance of their activities:

  1. Project directors must comply with all internal and external requirements for protecting the public, human subjects and project personnel, and for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals.
  2. To promote and preserve a university climate for creativity and productivity with high ethical standards, scholars and researchers must not fall below accepted professional standards in proposing their activities, carrying them out, and reporting their results. Primary data must be scrupulously collected and retained.
  3. All participants in scholarly/research activity must avoid both intentional and negligent behavior which may result in violation of the law; dishonesty or fraud; fabrication, falsification, or misrepresentation of data; or plagiarism.
  4. Cooperative efforts require mutual attention to the integrity of the scholarly processes involved. Joint authorship entails joint responsibility; each author claiming shared credit must be aware of the risk of shared discredit.
  5. Senior scholars and researchers must avoid exploitation of junior colleagues and students. Claims of credit and co-authorship should reflect actual involvement, responsibility, and effort.
  6. Project directors must be free to manage their sponsored funding to the maximum extent allowed by the funding agency and the rules of the university yet, they must be knowledgeable of and responsive to the demands and requirements of financial responsibility and accountability.
  7. Present or proposed activities or relationships which may present a conflict of interest, affect the objectivity of research or scholarship, give the appearance of being motivated by private financial gain, or involve unacceptable commitments for a scholar/researcher, must be disclosed and approved at the appropriate administrative levels prior to a commitment to or initiation of such activities or relationships.
  8. As part of its efforts to promote research integrity, the University provides training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) that covers the following nine instructional areas:
    1. Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership
    2. Conflict of Interest and Commitment
    3. c.Human Subjects
    4. d.Animal Welfare
    5. Research Misconduct
    6. Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship
    7. Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities
    8. Peer Review
    9. Collaborative Science

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) require training in the RCR for certain types of grants.

The NSF requirements apply to all undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research. The University will verify that those students (undergraduates and graduates) and postdoctoral researchers who receive NSF funds (support from salary and/or stipends to conduct research on NSF grants) will obtain RCR training.

NIH policy requires that all trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research. Research faculty will participate in RCR instruction in ways that will foster their role as a mentor.

C. Definitions:

  1. For the purposes of this policy, the operant definition of "misconduct," "scholarly misconduct," or "scientific misconduct" shall be consistent with the prohibited activities as set forth in Chapter 6 of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Code and with supplementary definitions which specifically address the requirements of federal agencies. A finding of research misconduct requires that:
    1. There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community for maintaining the integrity of the research record; and
    2. The research misconduct by committed intentionally, knowingly, or reckless disregard of accepted practices; and
    3. The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence.
  2. Section 6.2.1 of the NSHE Code cites grounds for instituting disciplinary action against "all members of the faculty of the System" Specific to this policy is the prohibition against "acts of academic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, falsifying research data or results, or assisting others to do the same."
  3. Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences of opinion. (Federal Register Vol. 64, No. 198 October 14, 1999)
  4. Further definitions of acts associated with misconduct in science are to be found in the 1982 Association of American Universities policy statement. These definitions are:
    1. Falsification of data - ranging from fabrication of data to deceptively selective reporting, and including the purposeful omission of conflicting data with the intent to falsify results.
    2. Plagiarism - representation of another’s work as one's own.
    3. Misappropriation of other's ideas - the unauthorized use of privileged information (such as violation of confidentiality in peer review), however obtained.
  5. Except as stated under Ethical Standards in Section B.1, this policy does not cover other transgressions such as:
    1. Material failure to comply with requirements for protection of researchers, human subjects, or the public or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals;
    2. Intentional misuse of public funds;
    3. Failure to meet other material legal requirements governing research.

Allegations and instances of misconduct in these areas are covered by the policies and practices of the applicable committees and/or organizational units responsible for oversight and control.

D. Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Misconduct or Violations of Ethical Standards in Research and Scholarship:

Allegations of misconduct shall be dealt with in strict accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of the NSHE Code. Allegations of misconduct in science that involve research or other projects sponsored by applicable federal regulatory agencies are specifically addressed in section E.

The following procedural statements incorporate the appropriate sections of the NSHE Code in delineating the university's administrative process for the reporting of allegations of scholarly misconduct; for the fair, swift, and accurate consideration of such allegations; and for initiating the actions recommended after the consideration of allegations is complete. These statements further incorporate the practices and procedures required under the compliance rules issued by the applicable federal regulatory and federal funding agencies.

  1. Confidentiality: The maintenance of confidentiality is the guiding principle for this process, to protect both those who make the allegations and those against whom the allegations are made. As few people as are reasonable shall be involved in the process, and all records dealing with an allegation, its review, and its disposition shall be treated in accordance with Section 6.14 and 6.15 of the NSHE Code.
  2. Reporting of Allegations: Reports of allegations of scientific misconduct must be filed with the Vice President for Research and Innovation (as the designated university administrative officer in accordance with NSHE Code 6.7.1). Allegations must be in writing and must contain the elements of information as required in NSHE Code 6.8.1.
  3. Inquiry: The inquiry is the initial step after an allegation is made. It is an informal process intended to assess the probable validity of the allegation. It is performed by the Vice President for Research and Innovation to whom the allegation was made and in accordance with the provisions of the NSHE Code 6.8.2. He/she may seek the advice and assistance of the Director, Research Integrity Office (RIO). RIO will ensure that all reporting requirements are met. RIO will be responsible for maintaining files of all documents and evidence and for the confidentiality and security of the files.
  4. Investigation: If on the basis of the preliminary findings the Vice President for Research and Innovation feels a formal investigation should be initiated, the following steps shall be undertaken:
    1. The Vice President for Research and Innovation recommends to the President that a general or special hearing be held in accordance with the NSHE Code 6.8.2(d). The President then decides whether to proceed with the recommended hearing in accordance with the NSHE Code 6.8.2(e) & (f).
    2. If the decision is made to proceed with a general or special hearing, the Vice President for Research and Innovation shall convene the hearing in accordance with the NSHE Code section 6.9. The Vice President for Research and Innovation shall also notify the Office of Sponsored Projects of the pending action, so that any required notifications to funding agencies may be accomplished.
    3. In the case of a general hearing, a general hearing officer shall be appointed as specified in the NSHE Code 6.10. In the case of a special hearing, the hearing officer and committee shall be appointed as specified in the NSHE Code 6.11. For hearings dealing with allegations of misconduct in science, the following special considerations shall be made concerning the selection of the hearing committee.
      1. Care must be taken to ensure that there are no real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of the committee members.
      2. In the case of a special hearing, the special hearing committee should include persons having sufficient acquaintance with research and scholarship in the discipline in question so that the allegation may be properly assessed.
    4. All procedures concerning inquiry, findings, disposition, and appeal shall be in strict accordance with the appropriate provisions of Chapter 6 of the NSHE Code.
  5. Appeal: If the Vice President for Research and Innovation determines during the inquiry process that evidence of scientific misconduct is insufficient and recommends to the president that a formal investigation is not warranted, the individual who made the allegation may appeal this decision to the President. Appeals from the decision of the president shall be made in accordance with Section 6.13 of the NSHE Code.

E. Special Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Misconduct in Science Relating to Research or Other Projects Sponsored by Applicable Federal Agencies:

The following procedures apply to allegations of scientific misconduct made against UNR faculty investigators, associates, and other personnel in connection with work on a research or other sponsored project supported by applicable federal regulatory or funding agency.

UNR shall comply with the established administrative process for reviewing, investigating, and reporting allegations of misconduct in science as set forth in Chapter 6 of the NSHE Code. UNR also shall supplement and modify practices and procedures within its authority in order to meet any special requirements set forth in the compliance rules of funding agencies. The following are summaries of special requirements of 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart A - Responsibility of PHS Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing with and Reporting Possible Misconduct in Science.

  1. Institutional Assurance: UNR shall submit annually to the PHS Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI) and HHS Office of Research Integrity (RIO):
    1. An assurance of compliance;
    2. Such aggregate information on allegations, inquiries, and investigations as may be prescribed;
    3. A copy of this policy, if requested.
  2. Role of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation: It is essential that the Vice President for Research and Innovation be informed immediately upon disclosure of allegations of scientific misconduct if these allegations in any way involve project activities sponsored by applicable federal regulatory or funding agency. The Vice President for Research and Innovation must initiate an inquiry and determine whether an investigation is warranted. All allegations and subsequent administrative acts must be adequately documented and maintained for a period of three years. The Vice President for Research and Innovation shall also be responsible for coordinating and submitting all notifications and reports required under 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart A.
  3. Specific Requirements for Inquiries, Investigations, and Reporting: In following its established procedures, UNR shall ensure that the following specific requirements are met:
    1. Immediate inquiry into an allegation or other evidence of possible misconduct and completion of the inquiry within 60 calendar days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (1)]
    2. Protecting, to the maximum extent possible, the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent misconduct. [42 CFR 50.103 (d)(2)]
    3. Affording the affected individual(s) confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible, a prompt and thorough investigation, and an opportunity to comment on allegations and findings of the inquiry and/or the investigation. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (3)].
    4. Notification of applicable federal regulatory agency when, on the basis of the initial inquiry, it is determined that an investigation is warranted. [42 CFR 40.103.(d) (4)]
    5. Notification of applicable federal regulatory agency within 24 hours of obtaining any reasonable indication of possible criminal violations. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (5)]
    6. Maintaining for a period of at least 3 years sufficiently detailed information of inquiries to permit a later assessment of the reasons for determining that an investigation was not warranted [42 CFR 50.103 (d) (6)].
    7. Undertaking an investigation within 30 days of the completion of the inquiry, if findings from that inquiry provide sufficient basis for conducting an investigation. [42 CFR 50.103 (d) (7)]
    8. Securing the necessary and appropriate expertise to carry out a thorough and authoritative evaluation of the relevant evidence in an inquiry or investigation. [42 CFR 50.103 (d) (8)]
    9. Taking precautions against real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of those involved in the inquiry or investigation. [42 CFR 50.103(d)(9)]
    10. Preparing and maintaining the documentation to substantiate the investigation's findings. [42 CFR50.103(d) (10)]
    11. Taking interim administrative actions, as appropriate, to protect federal funds and ensure that the purposes of the federal financial assistance are carried out. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (11)]
    12. Keeping the applicable federal regulatory agency apprised of any developments during the course of the investigation which disclose facts that may affect current or potential funding or that the agency needs to know to ensure appropriate use of federal funds an otherwise protect the public interest. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (12)]
    13. Undertaking diligent efforts, as appropriate, to restore the reputations of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct when allegations are not confirmed, and also undertaking diligent efforts to safeguard the positions and reputations of those persons who, in good faith, make allegations as well as informants. [42 CFR 50.103(d) (13)]
    14. Imposing appropriate sanctions on individuals when an allegation of misconduct has been substantiated. [42 CFR 50.103 (d) (14)]
    15. Notifying the applicable federal regulatory agency of the final outcome of the investigation. [42 CFR 50.103 (d) (15)]
  4. Requirements for Reporting:
    1. A decision to initiate an investigation must be reported in writing to the director of applicable federal regulatory agency, on or before the date the investigation begins. [42 CFR 50.104(a)(1)]
    2. An investigation should ordinarily be completed within 120 days of its initiation. [42 CFR 50.104(a)(2)]
    3. If an inquiry or investigation is to be terminated for any reason without completing all relevant requirements under 50.103(d), a report of such planned termination, including a description of the reasons for such termination, shall be made to applicable federal regulatory agency, which will then decide whether further investigation should be undertaken. [42 CFR 50.104(a) (3)]
    4. The final report submitted to the applicable federal regulatory agency must describe: [42 CFR 50.104(a) (4)]
      1. The policies and procedures under which the investigation was conducted;
      2. How and from whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation;
      3. The findings and the basis for the findings;
      4. Include the actual text or an accurate summary of the views of any individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct, as well as a description of any sanctions taken by the institution.
    5. If it is determined that it will not be possible to complete the investigation in 120 days, a written request for extension must be submitted to applicable federal regulatory agency. The request must include an explanation for the delay that includes an interim report on the progress to date and an estimate for the date of completion of the report and other necessary steps. [42 CFR 50.104(a) (5)]
    6. Applicable federal regulatory agency will review the final report to determine whether the investigation has been performed in a timely manner and with sufficient objectivity, thoroughness, and competence. Applicable federal regulatory agency may then request clarification or additional information and, if necessary, perform its own investigation. [42 CFR 50.104(a) (6)]
    7. In addition to sanctions the university may decide to impose, the Department of Health and Human Services may also impose sanctions of its own upon investigators or the university based upon authorities it possesses or may possess. [42 CFR 50.104(a) (7)]
    8. Prompt notification to the applicable federal regulatory agency must be made if it is ascertained at any stage of the inquiry or investigation that any of the following conditions exist: [42 CFR 50.104(b)]
      1. There is an immediate health hazard involved;
      2. There in an immediate need to protect federal funds or equipment;
      3. There is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) making the allegations or of the individual(s) who is the subject of the allegations as well as his/her co-investigators and associates, if any;
      4. It is probable that the alleged incident is going to be reported publicly;
      5. There is reasonable indication of possible criminal violation (see reporting requirement under [42 CFR 50.103(d)(5)]).

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