University of Colorado


Title: Misconduct in Research and Authorship
Source: President's Office
Prepared by: Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research
Approved by: David A. Groth
Application: All Campuses
Effective Date: December 31, 1998
Replaces: Policy Dated 12/15/89

Dividing Line


In order to fulfill its obligations and ensure the public trust, the University of Colorado as an institution must diligently prevent and inquire into research misconduct. The Laws of the Regents state that, "the faculty, under administrative supervision and in accordance with these Laws and the laws of the State of Colorado, shall have the principal responsibility for originating policy in the areas of: . . . academic ethics, including development of policies and procedures," Article 5.E.5(A)(1)(c). The following policy complies with current federal regulations regarding scientific research misconduct, for example those promulgated by the Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These policies and procedures, however, apply to University members on all campuses who are conducting research under different circumstances, regardless of whether or not it is in the field of science.

This policy to prevent, detect, and respond to misconduct in research and authorship has been developed through collaboration between the Educational Policy and University Standards Committee (EPUS) and the system administration. All individuals are primarily responsible for preserving the integrity of truthful research in their scholarly activities. However, this policy outlines the University's responsibility, as an institution-at-large, to:

(1) Promote exemplary ethical standards for research and scholarship;

(2) Initiate an inquiry into any suspected or alleged misconduct;

(3) Conduct a subsequent investigation, if warranted; and

(4) Take action necessary to ensure the integrity of all research, the rights and interests of research subjects and the public, and the observance of legal requirements or responsibilities.

This policy applies to all University of Colorado campuses. Because allegations of research misconduct differ in any number of ways and no single, detailed course of action is possible or desirable, this policy provides only a general framework to guide responses to allegations of research misconduct.


Under this policy "research misconduct" shall include but shall not be limited to:

(1) Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism and other forms of misappropriation of ideas, or additional practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted in the research community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research.

(2) Material failure to comply with federal and University requirements for the protection of researchers, human subjects, or the general public or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals.

(3) Failure to adhere to other material legal requirements governing the field of research.

(4) Failure to comply with established standards regarding author names on publications.

(5) Retaliation of any kind against a person who reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct and who has not acted in bad faith.

The definition of research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. Moreover, the definition contained in this policy is not intended to override or contradict provisions of other regulations or policies, in particular those policies governing human research subjects and animal welfare. A finding of a substantive violation of specific policies in these areas will also be considered misconduct under this policy.

The University will undertake reasonable efforts to protect those persons who make good faith allegations regarding research misconduct. Institutional actions engaged in pursuant to this policy shall be conducted in a way that preserves confidentiality to the maximum extent possible, unless this would be inconsistent with protecting public health and safety.


This policy covers all faculty, students, administrators, and staff on all of the University's campuses who are engaged in research, whether or not it is externally funded. "Faculty" shall include all members of the general, part-time, and research faculty, including administrators in these ranks; all faculty of the specialty track in the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy; and all persons holding specialty faculty titles as well as fellows and house staff of University Hospital. "Staff" shall include classified and unclassified employees of the University, as well as temporary and part-time employees.

The faculty are responsible for emphasizing the importance of ethical research conduct to staff and students who are under their supervision and for providing reasonable supervision to minimize the opportunities for research misconduct. The faculty are also responsible for establishing policies regarding author names on publications, making those policies well known to students and staff, and conforming to those policies in their own publications.

Any persons submitting a grant proposal in which they would be Principal Investigators must sign a statement verifying that they understand and will conform to this policy.


If misconduct in research is found to have occurred, responsible faculty, staff, students, or administrators may be faced with a range of appropriate sanctions, from warning to dismissal. Disciplinary action will be taken only in accordance with applicable University rules and procedures. The sanction(s) must correspond to the severity of the confirmed deviation. For example, misconduct that involves classified staff may necessitate resorting to procedures and sanctions established by the State Personnel System. Misconduct that involves students may result in disciplinary action taken in accordance with appropriate campus policies. Misconduct involving faculty may give rise to sanctions that require involvement of the University's Privilege and Tenure Committee.

Nothing in these policies will preclude concurrent disciplinary proceedings or inquiries by other appropriate committees or entities into an individual's research misconduct.

Federal granting agencies may also take action against either individuals or the University itself, if misconduct is established. These actions may include, but are not limited to, letters of reprimand, suspension of an active award, and/or debarment from future awards. The federal agencies may choose to proceed in their own investigation, or may decide to act upon the University's findings.

If an allegation of research misconduct is not confirmed, the University will make reasonable efforts to restore the reputation of the individual alleged to have engaged in the misconduct.


A. Standing Committees on Research Misconduct

Consistent with Article 5 of the Laws of the Regents, the faculty of each school or college shall establish a standing committee on research misconduct to carry out this policy. The faculty through its governing body may, if it chooses, combine its efforts with other schools or colleges to form one or more joint committees for the campus. Joint committees must include appropriate faculty representation from each of the schools or colleges for which they are responsible.

The size and composition of the committees shall be established by the appropriate faculty governing body of the school or college in consultation with the dean and the vice chancellor for academic affairs. The committee must include at least one staff representative and one student representative, designated by the appropriate staff and student governance groups. Members should serve staggered and multi-year terms to assure consistency and continuity of actions.

B. Responsibilities of the Standing Committees on Research Misconduct

Each standing committee shall:

1. Take appropriate action to maximize awareness of the need to avoid activities that might be misinterpreted as research misconduct, assure that each unit has well known standards for authorship, and otherwise enhance concern regarding ethics in research related activities.

2. Be well publicized on each campus and widely recognized as the group to whom suspected misconduct is to be reported.

3. Receive allegations of misconduct in research and authorship.

4. Ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between protecting the rights of the person accused of misconduct (the respondent) and protecting the person making the allegation (the complainant) from possible retaliation. The course of action must be suitable to the circumstances of each individual case.

5. Make every reasonable effort during an inquiry or investigation to keep confidential all information. Normally, only those persons directly involved in the inquiry and subsequent stages of investigation should be informed that a review is in progress and be advised of information that is uncovered during the course of the investigation.

6. Promptly report to the appropriate dean and vice chancellor any allegation that is judged to have been made without reasonable basis in fact and is considered to have been made with malicious intent.

7. Promptly notify the appropriate dean and vice chancellor, as well as the Office of Scientific Integrity, during an inquiry or investigation that any of the following conditions exist: (1) an immediate health hazard is involved; (2) there is an immediate need to protect Federal funds or equipment or University resources, reputation, or other interests; (3) there is an immediate need to protect the interests of the person(s) affected by the inquiry; (4) it is probable the alleged incident will be reported within the scientific community or publicly; or (5) there is a reasonable indication of possible criminal violation. In this instance, the University must inform the OSI within 24 hours of acquiring the information, and the OSI will then immediately notify the Office of the Inspector General.

8. Establish operating rules and procedures to carry out this policy, including the development of operating procedures for investigative committees that may be created.

9. Ensure that all persons adhere to established operating rules and procedures.

While conducting an inquiry or investigation, the University shall take appropriate interim measures to ensure the protection of Federal funds and that the purposes for which the federal financial assistance was designated is being carried out. Moreover, if the University plans to terminate an inquiry or investigation for any reason without completing all relevant federal requirements then a report of such planned termination, including a description of the reasons, shall be made to the Office of Research Integrity.

C. Inquiry - Response to Allegations of Misconduct

This section of the policy identifies the process to be followed after an allegation of research misconduct has been made. Upon receiving an allegation of misconduct, the standing committee shall conduct an information-gathering inquiry to determine whether a full investigation is warranted. The standing committee shall consist of individuals with the necessary and appropriate expertise to carry out a thorough and authoritative inquiry. The committee shall make reasonable efforts to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest on the part of those involved in the inquiry phase. The committee shall:

1. Immediately interview the person making the allegation (the complainant) and determine if further inquiry is warranted.

2. If further inquiry is warranted, notify the individual against whom the allegation is made (the respondent) in writing: a) that an inquiry is to be conducted; b) of the potential consequences if misconduct has occurred; and c) of the respondent's due process rights. Due process rights shall include an opportunity for the respondent(s) to comment on allegations and on the reported findings of the inquiry.

3. After notification to the respondent, conduct a thorough preliminary fact-finding inquiry and determine within 60 calendar days whether a full investigation is warranted. If the inquiry takes longer than 60 days to complete, then the final report documenting the inquiry process must include the reasons for this extension.

4. Prepare a written inquiry report detailing the fact-finding process that includes summaries of all interviews conducted, the evidence reviewed, and the conclusions of the inquiry.

5. Give to the respondent a copy of the inquiry report and allow him/her to make comments, and if such comments are made, include said comments in the record.

6. Promptly notify the complainant and respondent, in writing, if the allegation does not warrant a full investigation. The complainant and respondent shall be provided with a written report indicating the reasons for the decision.

7. Promptly notify the respondent if, at any time during the inquiry, a) research procedures should be modified immediately to minimize the possibility of future questions regarding misconduct; or b) the right of the respondent to procedural or substantive due process requires notification.

8. Promptly notify the respondent, in writing, if the allegation does appear to warrant a full investigation. The standing committee shall discuss the allegation with the respondent and review the decision regarding the need for a full investigation.

If the standing committee determines that a full investigation is not warranted, it must prepare and securely maintain for at least three years a detailed documentation of the inquiry. The documentation must be provided to authorized Department of Health and Human Services personnel upon request.

If, after discussion with the respondent, the standing committee determines that a full investigation is appropriate, the committee shall:

1. Notify the dean and vice chancellor that such an investigation is to be conducted and is to be conducted within 30 days of the completion of the inquiry.

2. In consultation with the respondent, the complainant, and the appropriate dean or vice chancellor, select an appropriate committee with the necessary expertise to conduct a full investigation. The investigative committee may include a representative who is not affiliated with any of the campuses or the University if it is deemed necessary to ensure an unbiased but thorough and competent investigation. Individuals sitting on the investigative committee may not have any real or apparent conflict of interest that may jeopardize objectivity in the investigation.

3. Negotiate with the investigative committee to establish a time schedule that will permit both an adequate investigation and one that can be completed within 120 calendar days of the investigation's initiation.

D. The Full Investigation and Responsibilities of the Investigative Committee

The investigative committee shall take precautions to keep all details of the investigation confidential. The investigative committee's responsibilities shall include but are not limited to the following:

1. Initiate a full investigation within 30 days of the completion of the inquiry, if findings from the inquiry provide a sufficient basis for conducting a full investigation.

2. If an investigation is to be initiated, inform the Office of Research Integrity that it will be commenced on or before the date the investigation actually begins.

3. Promptly and expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation of the allegation(s) and collect sufficient data, which may include but is not limited to research data, research proposals, publications, and correspondence, in order to make an informed judgment regarding the allegation(s). The investigative committee shall take reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality in gathering information and shall request confidentiality from any persons who are asked to present information to the committee.

4. Seek appropriate consultation from individuals within or external to the University of Colorado, as necessary.

5. Keep the chair of the standing committee informed of the progress of the investigation.

6. Notify the Office of Research Integrity about the following, if they occur at any time during the investigation: a) immediate health hazards; b) a need to protect Federal funds or equipment; c) immediate need to protect the interests of the individuals affected; or d) it is probable that the alleged incident will be publicly reported.

7. Notify the Office of Research Integrity if there is a reasonable indication of criminal violation(s). In this instance, the Office of Research Integrity must be notified within 24 hours of obtaining such information.

8. Complete the investigation within 120 calendar days from its initiation, determine whether the alleged misconduct occurred and promptly report its findings to the standing committee.

9. Include the following information in the final investigative report: a) whether the misconduct that occurred was deliberate or merely careless; b) whether the misconduct was an isolated event or part of a pattern; c) the seriousness of the misconduct; d) a description of policies and procedures used to conclude the investigation; e) how and from whom information was obtained relevant to the investigation; f) the findings and their basis; g) the actual text or a summary of the views of the individual(s) found to have engaged in misconduct; and h) a description of any sanctions.

10. Submit this report to the Office of Research Integrity upon its completion, no later than 120 days from initiation of the investigation. If unable to meet this time requirement, submit to the Office of Research Integrity a request for an extension. The extension request must include an explanation for the delay, an interim report on progress to date, an outline of what remains to be done, and an estimated date of completion.

11. Ensure a copy of the final report is available to the respondent and allow the respondent to make comments on the report, include said comments in the final report and send the final report to the Office of Research Integrity.

12. Prepare and maintain adequate documentation to substantiate the investigation's findings. This documentation must be made available to the Director of the Office of Research Integrity.

E. Action to be Taken on the Final Report

The standing committee shall:

1. Review the report of the investigative committee and request additional information or further investigation, if necessary.

2. Notify the respondent, the complainant, and the appropriate dean and vice chancellor of the outcome.

3. Make recommendations to the appropriate dean and vice chancellor regarding possible disciplinary action, policy changes, or any other action that might ensure, in the future, that similar misconduct does not occur. Recommendations for disciplinary action must be consistent with the rules of the University, the State Personnel System and the college or school. Disciplinary actions may be taken only in accordance with appropriate University procedures.

4. Make recommendations, if necessary, to the appropriate dean or vice chancellor regarding steps to be taken to prevent retaliation against the complainant.

5. Determine whether the respondent's reputation has been unjustly damaged by the investigation, and in cooperation with the appropriate dean, vice chancellor, and peers, make every reasonable effort to repair that damage.

F. Role of the Dean or Vice Chancellor

Using information supplied by the Standing Committee, it shall be the responsibility of the dean or vice chancellor to:

1. Notify the research sponsor, the campus chief academic officer, and any other appropriate governmental entities or persons: a) if any of the conditions specified in section B(7) of this policy are present; b) of the fact that a full investigation is being undertaken; c) of the course of the investigation; and (d) of the final disposition and report of the full investigation.

2. Secure withdrawal of pending abstracts and papers emanating from the research in question if, at the conclusion of the investigation, misconduct is found. Editors of journals in which abstracts and papers based on the research in question have already appeared should also be notified.

3. Ensure that all disciplinary actions are consistent with other University policies and the due process rights of the respondent.

4. Ensure that the complainant is protected from retaliation.

5. Ensure that all recommendations for changes in policy and procedures, and all other measures recommended to minimize future misconduct, are responded to in an appropriate administrative fashion.

6. Provide appropriate staff support and operating budget to enable this policy to be fully implemented.


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