Williams College Employee Handbook
Scientific Misconduct and Public Health Service Reporting Obligations
(see also Safety and Public Health)
Definition and Procedures
Scientific misconduct is defined by the U.S. Public Health Service as "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. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data."
All allegations of scientific misconduct should be brought to the attention of the Provost of the College who will receive such allegations impartially and without prejudice. The Provost will protect, to the maximum extent possible, the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent misconduct. The Provost will initiate a process which will consist of an initial inquiry, followed by an investigation if warranted.
The Provost, in consultation with the Dean of the Faculty, will undertake an initial inquiry of any allegation of scientific misconduct, make a determination and report within sixty calendar days unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. The Provost will secure the expertise necessary and appropriate for conducting an authoritative and thorough evaluation of the relevant evidence, taking precautions against real or apparent conflicts of interest. The Provost 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 calendar days to complete, the report shall contain documentation of the reasons for exceeding the sixty-day period. The subject(s) of the inquiry will be provided with a copy of the report. The subject(s) may comment on the allegations and findings of the inquiry and these comments shall be made part of the record. The affected individual(s) will be afforded confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible.
Should the Provost conclude that further investigation is not warranted, detailed documentation of the inquiry shall be maintained for three years to permit later assessment of that conclusion. This documentation will be provided to authorized HHS personnel upon request.
Should the inquiry determine that the allegations are not confirmed, the Provost and the Committee will seek diligently to restore the reputations of the persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct and to protect the positions and reputations of those persons, who in good faith, made allegations.
If findings from the inquiry provide sufficient basis for conducting an investigation, the Provost shall undertake further investigation within thirty calendar days after the completion of the inquiry.
The investigation shall be conducted by the Provost and the Dean of the Faculty and three members of the faculty chosen by the Provost and the Dean in consultation with the Steering Committee, taking precautions against real or apparent conflicts of interest. The investigation normally will include examination of all documentation and interviews whenever possible with all individuals who have or might have information about the allegation, including accusers and accused. (A complete summary of each interview will be prepared for comment or revision by the interviewed party and the summary shall be included in the investigatory file. Respondent(s) comments will be part of the investigation record.) The committee shall secure the expertise necessary and appropriate for conducting an authoritative and thorough evaluation of the relevant evidence. Thorough documentation substantiating investigation findings shall be prepared and maintained.
The affected individual(s) will be afforded confidential treatment to the maximum extent possible. Should the investigation determine that the allegations are not confirmed, the Provost and the Committee will seek diligently to restore the reputations of persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct and to protect the positions and reputations of those persons, who in good faith, made allegations.
Faculty and appropriate administrative staff will be informed on an annual basis of these policies and procedures and the importance of compliance.
Public Health Service Reporting Obligations
In the case of projects funded through the Public Health Service (PHS), certain reporting obligations obtain. The Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI) of the PHS must be notified at any stage of either 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. In addition, OSI must be notified within 24 hours after the institution receives any reasonable indication that a crime may have been committed. The Provost also shall notify OSI and explain the reasons for ending an inquiry early.
The decision by the Provost to proceed with an investigation shall be reported in writing to the OSI on or before the date of the start of the investigation; the notification must include the subject's name, the general nature of the allegations, and the PHS application or grant numbers involved.
The Provost shall inform the OSI of any inquiry or investigation developments including facts that may affect the government's disbursement or award of federal funds and shall take interim administrative measures, if necessary to protect federal funds. The Provost shall notify OSI and explain the reasons for ending an investigation early. The Provost shall also request an extension from OSI if the investigation cannot be completed within 120 calendar days, providing the OSI with an explanation for the delay, an interim progress report, and an estimated completion date.
The OSI shall be notified of the outcome of the investigation and provided with a detailed report covering investigation policies and procedures, sources of information, findings, the basis for findings, "the actual text or an accurate summary of the views of an individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct", and sanctions imposed by the institution. The institution shall make available the documentation substantiating the findings.