Carnegie Mellon University

Handling Alleged Misconduct In Research

POLICY TITLE:  University Policy for Handling Alleged Misconduct in Research
DATE OF ISSUANCE: This policy was originally issued on February 23, 1990 as Organizational Announcement #320, Policy for Handling Alleged Misconduct in Research. The most recent revision was approved by the President's Council on February 12, 1997.
ACCOUNTABLE DEPARTMENT/UNIT: Office of the Vice President for Research. Questions on policy content should be directed to the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance, 412-268-4727.
ABSTRACT: Defines misconduct and details procedures for the investigation of allegations of misconduct of research.


Carnegie Mellon University is responsible for the integrity of research conducted at the university. As a community of scholars, in which truth and integrity are fundamental, the university must establish procedures for the investigation of allegations of misconduct of research with due care to protect the rights of those accused, those making the allegations, and the university. Furthermore, federal regulations require the university to have explicit procedures for addressing incidents in which there are allegations of misconduct in research.


This document outlines the procedures to be followed when misconduct in research is alleged at Carnegie Mellon. As defined by the National Science Foundation:[1]

"Misconduct means (1) fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, carrying out, or reporting results from research; (2) material failure to comply with Federal requirements for the protection of researchers, human subjects, or the public or for ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals; or (3) failure to meet other material legal requirements governing research."

To be deemed misconduct for the purposes of this policy, a "material failure to comply with Federal requirements" or a "failure to meet other material legal requirements" must be intentional or grossly negligent.

In conjunction with the procedures outlined in this policy, the provost is responsible for complying with applicable federal regulations, including notifying sponsoring agencies at the appropriate time.[2] and keeping those involved, Committees of Inquiry and Committees of Investigation, well informed with respect to the requirements of these agencies. If at any time it appears that the possibility exists that the alleged misconduct might involve a violation of any federal, state or local criminal statute, the university attorney must be consulted immediately to determine further action.


Questions about, or suspicions of, misconduct in research should be brought to the attention of the provost for confidential counseling and possible informal resolution.

Allegations of misconduct shall be presented to the provost in writing. Anonymous reports will not be accepted. The provost will acknowledge allegations in writing to the claimant.[3]

After a review of the allegation, the provost must decide within 15 days whether a Committee of Inquiry is needed and, if so, establish such a committee promptly. The claimant must be informed, in writing, of the provost's decision.

If a decision is made to establish a Committee of Inquiry, the respondent[3] must be informed in writing of the allegation, advised of the initiation of the inquiry process, and asked to provide information.

Committee of Inquiry

The provost shall appoint a three-member Committee of Inquiry. Committee members should be faculty or staff who, in the judgment of the provost, have the appropriate seniority and knowledge to assess the alleged misconduct and do not have a conflict of interest that would interfere with an objective review.

The provost shall charge, in writing, the Committee of Inquiry to conduct a discreet inquiry based on communication with the respondent and the claimant. The purpose of the inquiry is to determine if there is reason to believe that misconduct has occurred. The inquiry should be limited to activities necessary to determine whether to recommend a formal investigation.

The identities of the respondent and claimant will be kept confidential by members of the committee, if possible.

If a majority of the members of the committee of Inquiry recommend that a formal investigation be conducted, the provost must establish a Committee of Investigation. If only a minority of the members of the Committee of Inquiry recommend a formal investigation, the provost may either dismiss the allegation or establish a Committee of Investigation.

If the Committee of Inquiry determines that the allegations have been made in a capricious or malicious manner, they will report this to the provost for appropriate action.

The Committee of Inquiry has 30 days to conduct the inquiry. If the inquiry cannot be reasonably completed within 30 days, the Committee may request a 30-day extension from the provost.

If a decision is made to establish a Committee of Investigation, the respondent must be informed of the identity of the claimant, shown all of the documents and evidence that relate to the charges, and given 15 days to respond prior to initiating the investigation. Sponsoring agencies shall be informed if appropriate or mandated.

Committee of Investigation

The Committee of Investigation shall have five members, none of whom was a member of the Committee of Inquiry. The provost will appoint two members. The chairmen of the University Research Council, the Faculty Review Committee, and the faculty will each appoint one member.

The provost shall charge, in writing, the Committee of Investigation to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegation. The committee should have access to all persons and information needed to determine the extent to which misconduct has occurred. Otherwise, the investigation should be as confidential as possible.

The Committee of Investigation shall prepare a written report documenting the extent to which misconduct has occurred. This report will be given to the provost, the respondent, the claimant, the chairman of the University Research Council, the chairman of the Faculty Review Committee, the chairman of the faculty, the university ombudsman, and the president and, if any involved individual is a student, to the dean of Student Affairs.

Optionally, the Committee of Investigation may recommend to the provost a course of action based on their findings.

The Committee of Investigation has 120 days to complete the investigation. If the investigation cannot be reasonably completed within 120 days, the committee may request a 30-day extension from the provost.

Determination of Action and Appeal

The provost will transmit to the president of the university the reports of the Committee of Inquiry and the Committee of Investigation together with his recommendation for appropriate action.

When the provost's recommendation to the president calls for no action to be taken against an individual respondent and the president concurs, as well as when the president declines to accept a recommendation for action, the president shall, at that respondent's request, in writing, address to that respondent a letter identifying the allegations investigated and stating the reasons for the provost's recommendation and/or the president's decision, as appropriate. This letter shall be available for responsible use at the addressee's discretion. It shall not be included in the personnel file unless such inclusion is requested, in writing, by the addressee. The president's letter must be formulated, and used by the recipient, so as to preserve the confidentiality of the process, and shall in particular include only information already disclosed to the addressee.

For each individual respondent found responsible for misconduct, the president may impose (or request, in the case of a regular, research, or special faculty member) specific sanctions, including termination of employment for a faculty or staff member and expulsion of a student.

The imposition of sanctions is subject to the procedures for approval and/or appeal prescribed by the Appointment and Tenure Policy for a regular, research, or special faculty member; the Staff Grievance Procedure for a staff member (or the provisions of a written labor agreement for an employee in a bargaining unit); and the provisions of the section on Discipline in the Student Handbook for a student.

Following completion of the Committee of Investigation's work and the provost's recommendation, when an individual respondent is a faculty member, if the president decides to initiate against that faculty member the procedure for dismissal for cause or for the imposition of another sanction, the procedure is then subject to the Exceptions provision of the subsection Procedures of the section entitled Dismissal for Cause and Other Sanctions of the Appointment and Tenure Policy, thus precluding the Ad-Hoc Committee stage.

The provisions of the preceding paragraphs of this section are also applicable to appropriate action regarding each individual claimant found responsible for allegations made in a capricious or malicious manner.


[1] National Science Foundation. 45 CFR Part 689. "Misconduct in Science and Engineering Research," Federal Register. Vol. 52. No. 126. Wednesday, July 1, 1987, p. 24468.

[2] Currently, NSF requires notification when it is decided that a formal investigation will be undertaken; however, it should be borne in mind that guidelines in many agencies are currently under development, so it would be impossible to incorporate such guidelines in this policy.

[3] "Claimant" and "respondent" are the terms used by the Association of American Universities in their draft document, Framework for Institutional Policies and Procedures for Fraud in Research, August, 1988. We have chosen to use these terms in this document. The terms "claimant" and "respondent" in this policy stand for singular or plural, as the case may require, unless qualified as "individual claimant" or "individual respondent," respectively.