Conducting the Assessment and Inquiry
Upon receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the RIO will assess the allegation to determine whether the allegation:
- Is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct might be identified
- Falls within the definition of research misconduct
The RIO will determine if the allegation falls within the jurisdiction of 42 CFR 93.102(b), 45 CFR 689, or other funding source guidelines.
During the assessment, the RIO need not interview the complainant, respondent, or any other witnesses, or gather any data beyond that submitted with the initial allegation, except as necessary to determine the above criteria.
A written summary of allegations meeting the above criteria and falling under this policy will be provided to the respondent. The full/original concern will be not be relayed verbatim due to the Institution’s necessity to protect individuals voicing such concerns in good faith.
The assessment period will be brief, preferably conducted within 2-3 weeks. Any allegation meeting the bulleted criteria above will necessitate an inquiry. In the event that the allegation is found to lack sufficient merit to warrant an inquiry, the RIO will notify both the respondent and complainant of this finding within one week of this determination.
If the RIO determines that an inquiry is not warranted, sufficiently detailed documentation of the determination and items considered will be maintained according to record retention procedures outlined in this procedure.
If the RIO determines that all criteria for an inquiry are met, he or she will initiate the inquiry process by appointing an inquiry committee. Each committee is selected on an ad hoc basis, and will include at least one member of the faculty senate. UH faculty selected for the committee will be tenured. The Deciding Official (DO)/DO’s designee and the Provost of the University will be notified of the initiation of the inquiry and will be provided the opportunity to comment on the specific membership of the inquiry committee.
The purpose of the inquiry is to conduct an initial review of the available evidence to determine whether to conduct an investigation. An inquiry does not require a full review of all the evidence related to the allegation.
The RIO/designee will prepare a written charge for the inquiry committee that:
- Sets forth the time for completion of the inquiry
- Describes the allegations and any related issues identified during the allegation assessment
- States that the purpose of the inquiry is to conduct an initial review of the evidence, including the testimony of the respondent, complainant, and key witnesses to determine whether an investigation is warranted, not to determine whether research misconduct definitely occurred or who was responsible
- States that an investigation is warranted if the committee determines:
- There is a reasonable basis for concluding that the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct, and
- The allegation may have substance, based on the committee’s review during the inquiry
- Informs the inquiry committee that they are responsible for preparing or directing the preparation of a written report of the inquiry that meets the requirements of this policy and applicable federal/funding agency requirements
The date of the RIO’s charge to the Chair of the inquiry committee will be considered the initiation of the inquiry.
At the time of or before beginning an inquiry, the RIO/designee must make a good faith effort to notify the respondent in writing, if the respondent is known. If the inquiry subsequently identifies additional respondents, they must be notified in writing.
At the committee's first meeting, the RIO/designee will:
- Review the charge with the committee
- Discuss the allegations, any related issues, and the appropriate procedures for conducting the inquiry
- Assist the committee with organizing plans for the inquiry, including how to access additional expertise as needed
- Seek disclosure of any unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with those involved with the inquiry
- Answer any questions raised by the committee
The RIO will be present or available throughout the inquiry to advise the committee as needed.
The inquiry committee will normally:
- Interview the complainant, the respondent, and key witnesses, as well as examine relevant research records and materials
- Evaluate the evidence, including the testimony obtained during the inquiry
After consultation with the RIO, the committee members will decide whether an investigation is warranted based on the criteria in this procedure and 42 CFR 93.307(d).
The scope of the inquiry is not required to, and does not normally include:
- Deciding whether misconduct definitely occurred
- Determining definitely who committed the research misconduct
- Conducting exhaustive interviews and analyses
However, if a legally-sufficient admission of research misconduct is made by the respondent, misconduct may be determined at the inquiry stage if all relevant issues are resolved. If PHS-funded, the institution shall promptly consult with ORI to determine the next steps that should be taken
Within 60 calendar days of initiation of the inquiry (notification of the committee chair by the RIO/designee), the following must be completed:
- The inquiry, including preparation of the final inquiry report
- The decision of the inquiry committee on whether an investigation is warranted
The RIO may extend the time for completion if circumstances clearly warrant a longer period.
- If the RIO approves an extension, the inquiry record must include documentation of the reasons for exceeding the 60-day period.
- If completion of an inquiry is delayed, but the institution wishes NSF deferral of independent inquiry to continue, NSF might require submission of periodic status reports
A written inquiry report must be prepared and provided to the RIO that includes the following information:
- The name and position of the respondent
- A description of the allegations of research misconduct
- PHS/NSF support, including for example:
- Grant numbers
- Grant applications
- Contracts and publications listing PHS support
- The basis for recommending or not recommending that the allegations warrant an investigation
The RIO/designee shall notify the respondent whether the inquiry found an investigation to be warranted. This notification will be made within the time constraints of the Inquiry process (see “Time for Completion of Inquiry” section, above), and ideally within one week. The notification will include a copy of:
- The draft inquiry report or relevant portions of the report
- The institution’s policies/procedures on research misconduct, with reference to applicable federal regulations based on the agency funding the research
The respondent is offered an opportunity to comment within 10 calendar days. Based on the comments from the respondent, the committee may revise the draft report as appropriate and prepare it in final form. Any comments that are submitted by the respondent will be attached to the final inquiry report.
The inquiry is completed when the committee determines, after opportunity for comment by the respondent and consultation with the RIO, whether or not an investigation is warranted.
The RIO will transmit the final inquiry report and the determination of the inquiry committee to the DO/DO’s designee and Provost at the time of or before the investigation is initiated.
Within 30 calendar days of the inquiry committee’s decision that an investigation is warranted, the RIO:
- Provides ORI or NSF OIG with the written decision and a copy of the final inquiry report
- Notifies additional institutional officials who need to know of the decision to investigate
- Upon request from ORI, must provide:
- Institutional policies and procedures under which the inquiry was conducted
- Research records and evidence reviewed, transcripts or recordings of any interviews, and copies of all relevant documents
- Charges to be considered in the investigation
- Inquiry reports are provided to funding agencies based on agency requirements and unless specifically requested by the funding agency, are limited to those cases in which the inquiry determines that an investigation is warranted. Inquiry reports for unfunded research are not reported externally.
If the inquiry committee decides that an investigation is not warranted, the RIO:
- Secures and maintains (for 7 years after the termination of the inquiry) sufficiently detailed documentation of the inquiry to permit a later assessment by ORI of the reasons why an investigation was not conducted
- Provides these documents upon request from ORI or other authorized HHS personnel