Reason for PolicyThe Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution finds intolerable any action or conduct on the part of its staff or personnel that comprises scientific misconduct. Specifically, "scientific misconduct" is ethically unacceptable behavior that undermines the integrity of research; that is, calls into question the validity of the research.
Reason for Policy
Without limiting the scope of the above definition of scientific misconduct, the Institution anticipates that in the context of research at the Institution, scientific misconduct would generally come within one of two main subdivisions:
Less significant instances of deception and intentional misrepresentation (i.e. those that do not call into question the validity of the research) also are totally unacceptable at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Complaints about such actions are covered under the Institution's Grievance Policy.
Reporting of Allegations
In situations where an individual prefers to place an anonymous report in confidence, they are encouraged to use the WHOI Ethics Hotline, hosted by a third party provider, EthicsPoint.
WHOI Ethics Hotline: 1-866-868-0920
The information provided through the WHOI Ethics Hotline noted above will be shared with the Institution’s EEO Officer/Title IX Coordinator by EthicsPoint on a completely confidential and anonymous basis. Unless the individual allows differently, personal contact information will not be shared. Means of communication between individuals filing a report and the Institution’s EEO Officer/Title IX Coordinator will be facilitated entirely through EthicsPoint.
Inquiry and Investigation
The purpose of the inquiry is to separate allegations deserving of further investigation from frivolous, unjustified or clearly mistaken allegations. If it is determined that an allegation falls within the definition of scientific misconduct, all original research records and materials relevant to the allegation will be secured immediately and the Director of Research shall initiate the Inquiry process by assigning responsibility for conducting the inquiry to an appropriate individual. Unless circumstances make such an assignment inappropriate, this responsibility will be assigned to the relevant Department Chair or Center Director. In order to maintain consistency of the process(es), provide appropriate guidance to those individuals charged with conducting the inquiry and any ensuing investigation, review reports for sufficiency, and interface with the Institution's legal counsel, the Director of Research shall designate an impartial, neutral third party (typically the Institution's EEO Officer/Title IX Coordinator) to facilitate the inquiry/investigation.
Upon completion of the inquiry, the Director of Research shall review the Inquiry report and the principals' comments, if any, and shall determine if a formal investigation is warranted. If the Director of Research concludes that the matter warrants further investigation, he or she will appoint a committee responsible for a formal investigation of the allegations. This committee normally will be selected from, but not necessarily limited to, the Senior Scientific staff of the Institution. The investigation committee will make findings and recommendations to the Director of Research concerning the validity of the accusations. The Director of Research shall then make a final determination or return the matter to the investigation committee for further review of any matter on which the Director if Research seeks further review or clarification. The final determination also shall include any specific actions to be taken at that time to discharge the responsibilities of the Director of Research as set forth at the end of this policy.Confidentiality and Privacy
In the inquiry, as well as in any following investigation, the Institution will take every reasonable effort to respect and protect confidentiality in order to prevent possible damage to the reputations of innocent individuals, and to avoid intrusion into individuals' privacy, consistent with conducting a proper inquiry and investigation. Every reasonable effort also will be made to protect the privacy of those who in good faith report apparent scientific misconduct. Furthermore, the presumption of the innocence of the accused will be respected unless and until a formal investigation determines otherwise.
In addition, reasonable effort should be made to provide the accused person or persons a prompt and thorough process with an opportunity to comment upon the allegations, the findings of the inquiry and/or any subsequent investigation. The process itself is outlined below.
General Requirements Regarding Inquiry and Investigation
In addition, because even the mere existence of allegations of scientific misconduct can be harmful to an individual's reputation regardless of the resolution of the process, all principals and others who become aware of the allegations are expected to maintain confidentiality about the matter both during and after the inquiry and investigation process, at least until and unless an investigation concludes that scientific misconduct occurred. However, this does not limit in any way the rights of the individual conducting the inquiry, the investigation committee, the Director of Research or the designees of any of them to take any and all reasonable steps during and after the inquiry and investigation process to discharge other responsibilities under this policy or otherwise to protect the interests of the Institution. Such persons should instead attempt to balance reasonable and legimate confidentiality interests against their responsibilities under the policy or other interests of the Institution. This also is not intended to discourage individuals from making reports in good faith to appropriate public authorities, although individuals are encouraged to address with the Institution any concerns they may have with the nature or results of any inquiry or investigation.
The inquiry and the investigation are not intended to be formal legal proceedings. Accordingly, the Institution does not consider it necessary for any party, including the Institution, to be represented by counsel during such proceedings. Therefore, counsel will not be permitted to attend the inquiry interviews or to respond to requests for information on behalf of their clients at any stage in the inquiry or investigation process. However, should the process advance to the investigation stage, if any of the parties wishes to have an attorney present during his/her own personal interview, this can be arranged in advance by contacting the individual designated to facilitate the investigation. It is understood that counsel may only be present at his/her client's investigation interview; can only be present to advise his/her client, not to respond to or object to the interview questions on behalf of the client; and will be present at the client's own expense. In the event that any of the parties have counsel present, the Institution may also choose to have counsel present.
In conducting the inquiry, the designated individual may utilize available resources both internal and external to the Institution, such as outside experts in the pertinent field of research, the EEO Officer/TItle IX Coordinator and/or the Institution's legal counsel. The individual shall complete the inquiry by writing a report to the Director of Research that states what evidence was reviewed, summarizes relevant interviews and includes the conclusions of the inquiry. The conclusions shall include a recommendation to the Director of Research regarding whether the matter warrants a formal investigation. In the event that the individual conducting the inquiry finds that any of the principals (i.e., the accuser(s) and accused) have abused the inquiry process (such as by raising allegations in bad faith, by failing to cooperate with the inquiry or by breaking confidentiality), observations concerning any such conduct shall be included in the report. This report will be reviewed for sufficiency by a designee of the Director of Research prior to being delivered to the Director of Research.
A copy of the report will be made available to the individual(s) against whom the allegation was made after the report is submitted to the Director of Research. In addition, those portions of the report relevant to the allegation of scientific misconduct will be made available to the person(s) who raised the allegation. Both individual(s) making the allegation and the person(s) against whom the allegation was made will have the opportunity (but not an obligation) to submit their comments on the inquiry report within ten calendar days of its delivery to the Director of Research (unless circumstances clearly warrant an extension of that period). Any such comments shall be made part of the record. The detailed documentation and report from the inquiry will be maintained for at least three years in a secure area, accessible only at the discretion of the Director of Research.
Director of Research Review of Inquiry Report
The formal investigation normally will be started within 30 calendar days of the completion of the inquiry and typically will include examination of documentation, including but not necessarily limited to relevant research data, notebooks and proposals; computer files; publications; correspondence; and memoranda of telephone calls or other electronic communications. The committee has the authority to retain any and all the relevant original documents and materials until completion of the investigation. Interviews normally should be conducted with all individuals either involved in making the allegation or against whom the allegation is made, as well as with other individuals who might have knowledge or information pertinent to the allegations. Summaries or complete records of these interviews will be prepared, either as written records or audio tapes of the interviews, and provided to the interviewed party for comment or revision and included as part of the investigatory file. Necessary and appropriate expertise to carry out a thorough investigation and to provide adequate documentation of the process will be sought, if necessary, from within and/or outside the Institution, including, but not limited to, outside experts in the pertinent field of research, the EEO Officer/Title IX Coordinator and the Institution's legal counsel.
The investigation will be completed, a written report of findings reviewed for sufficiency by the designee of the Director of Research and then presented to the Director of Research within 120 calendar days of its initiation unless circumstances clearly warrant a longer period. In that event, the Chair of the committee shall follow the same procedure as is applicable to an extension of the inquiry. Following delivery of the report to the Director of Research, copies of the investigation report also will be made available to the person(s) against whom the allegation was made, and those portions of the report relevant to the findings concerning the misconduct allegation will be made available to the person(s) who raised the allegation. Each of the principals may (but is not required to) submit written comments to the Director of Research within 30 calendar days of the presentation of the report to the Director of Research. Any such comments shall be made part of the record. The report of the committee and the investigatory file shall be maintained for at least three (3) years in a secure area, accessible only at the discretion of the Director of Research.
The investigation committee will make findings and recommendations to the Director of Research concerning the validity of the allegations. In assessing the evidence, the committee will find scientific misconduct only when the preponderance of evidence supports such a finding, that is, when the committee is convinced that it is more likely than not that scientific misconduct occurred based upon the quality, quantity and credibility of the evidence presented. In the event of a finding of scientific misconduct, it is the responsibility of the investigation committee to render an opinion regarding the severity of the scientific misconduct and to distinguish between more or less significant instances of misconduct, the differentiation being whether or not the misconduct calls into question the validity of the research. In cases other than those covered by the Public Health Service which makes no such distinction, should the findings of misconduct not call into question the validity of the research (i.e. characterized as a less significant instance of misconduct), thereby more appropriately falling under the Grievance Policy, this inquiry and investigatory process will substitute for the process dictated by the Grievance Policy and sanctions appropriate to that level of misconduct shall apply.
To the extent that allegations of scientific misconduct are not confirmed, the committee also shall make findings regarding whether anyone has knowingly made false charges of scientific misconduct or has knowingly given false statements to the investigation committee. In making such findings, the committee shall again apply the preponderance of evidence standard of proof.
Director of Research Review of the Investigation Report
Director of Research Responsibilities
* Reporting to Governmental Agencies
In matters involving allegations related to Public Health Service (PHS) funded research, the Institution shall: