What is CUNY's new Research Misconduct Policy?

Effective July 2007, the policy, which follows federal guidelines for research misconduct, applies to all research conducted by University faculty, staff and/or post doctoral associates.

The aim of the policy is to foster responsible research conduct and to deal promptly with allegations of research misconduct. To read the policy, go to the CUNY website.

What is the college's responsibility in following this policy?

The college president designates a Research Integrity Officer (RIO).

The RIO is responsible for receiving allegations of research misconduct, making a preliminary evaluation and recommending to the president whether an inquiry is warranted.

Why should the BMCC community be informed of this policy?

BMCC community members should rest assured that the criteria for a charge of misconduct is highly specific.

Members of the BMCC community should understand, however, that they have a way of protecting their research if it is used improperly by others.

Community members will have an avenue to help protect the integrity of the College and the University from potential harm done by research misconduct.

Does this policy have anything to do with BMCC students?

At a time when 75% of high school students and 53 % of undergraduates admit to cheating, and when 30% of researchers admit to "questionable practices," a focus on research integrity can help to foster responsible professional practice for the next generation.

Among the 11 million undergraduates who attend community colleges (50 % of all undergrads), many will eventually work in research and development fields. (Only 10 percent of those working in science and engineering fields hold doctorates.) These workers often make up the "front line" of scientific research.*
*NSF Presentation, BMCC Ethics in Research Conference, January 18, 2008

What is considered research misconduct?

Under the new policy, research misconduct is defined ONLY as:
Fabrication
Falsification
Plagiarism

Fabrication, falsification and plagiarism as defined by CUNY:

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
Falsification is manipulating materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results.
Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving them appropriate credit.

An intentional or reckless "significant departure"�...

The misconduct that is covered by the policy must be seen as a "significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community."
To be covered, misconduct must be shown to be committed intentionally or recklessly and must be proven by a preponderance of evidence.

What is NOT covered by the new policy?

The policy does NOT apply to honest mistakes, differences of opinion, negligence, or authorship disputes.
The policy does not apply to student classroom work.

Procedures and Safeguards

All actions of the RIO and any others involved are taken in strictest confidence.
The RIO and others must be determined to have no personal, professional or financial conflicts with any of the parties.
When or before notifying a subject, the RIO takes reasonable steps to take custody of records and evidence and to sequester them in a secure manner.

An inquiry is deemed to be warranted if...

Allegations fall within the CUNY policy definition of research misconduct.
Evidence can be identified to show the allegations to be credible and specific

When the president orders an inquiry...

The college president appoints two tenured faculty members to be on the inquiry staff along with the RIO. Usually faculty members appointed are in the same field as the subject.
Faculty members need not be from the same college as the subject.

Inquiry staff: initial review

The inquiry staff reviews evidence to determine if an investigation is warranted.
The determination will be based on whether the allegations fall within the definition of misconduct and whether there appears to be substance to the allegations.

Inquiry staff: preliminary report

The inquiry staff will submit a report including a recommendation by the majority of the inquiry staff as to whether an investigation is warranted.
The report should be completed in forty-five days.
The report goes to the president, University dean for research , and, if appropriate, president of the Research Foundation.
The college president will determine whether an Investigation is warranted.

If no investigation is warranted:

The matter is deemed closed and the proceedings will be kept confidential.
The subject will be notified of the decision in writing.
The policy stipulates that "all reasonable and practical" efforts will be taken, if "requested and appropriate" to protect or restore the reputation of the subject.

If an investigation is deemed to be warranted: The inquiry staff will prepare a final report.

The final inquiry report will include: the name and position of the subject, a description of the allegations, the sponsor of the research if any, and the basis for recommending an investigation.
The subject will be notified in writing. Notifications will include a copy of the final inquiry report and a copy of the CUNY research misconduct policy.
The RIO may notify the person(s) making the allegation and provide relevant portions of the Final Inquiry Report for comment.

Investigation

Upon receiving the final inquiry report and the college president's decision that an investigation is warranted, the University dean for research will appoint a committee to carry out a full investigation. The committee will make a finding as to whether or not research misconduct has taken place. If misconduct is found, the finding goes to the chancellor who will decide whether to accept the investigation committee's recommendations. If the chancellor finds that misconduct has taken place, the University may conduct a disciplinary proceeding. If appropriate, federal and other sponsors will be notified.

Rights of subjects:

When being interviewed by the inquiry staff or appearing before the investigation committee, the subject of a research misconduct allegation may be accompanied by an advisor, who may be a union representative, or by legal counsel. However, counsel may not actively participate in the proceedings.

Retaliation against those making allegations...

The CUNY policy stipulates that allegations brought in good faith "may not be the basis of any retaliation against the individual making them, even if the allegations are not substantiated by inquiry or investigation."
All "reasonable and practical efforts" are to be undertaken to protect and restore the reputation of individuals making allegations as well as that of any other witness or person involved.

 

BMCC's Research Integrity Officer
Diane Simmons
Department of English
Tel: 212-220-8296
Email: dsimmons@bmcc.cuny.edu

 
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