Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research

The Council’s Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research were established to guide evaluations of and investigations into allegations of staff misconduct in research.  These Procedures are applicable to staff only, and do not apply to student misconduct, which is dealt with in accordance with the procedures of the Disciplinary Committee under the Statutes.

Research projects which are in receipt of funding from outside bodies (e.g. the Research Grants Council) are also subject to the requirements of the policies on research integrity, if any, of such funding bodies.
 

1. Preamble

2. Scope

3. Misconduct in Research

4. Protection of Interested Parties

5. Receipt and Handling of Complaints

6. Evaluation to Determine Whether a Credible Case Exists

7. Decision and Action upon Receipt of the Evaluation Findings

8. Investigation into Alleged Research Misconduct

9. The Investigation Report

10. Decision and Action upon Completion of the Investigation

11. Appeal

12. Cessation of Employment

13. Complaints Against the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) or the President & Vice-Chancellor

 


1. Preamble

1.1   The Policy on Research Integrity, contained in a separate document, aims to ensure a research environment that minimizes the incidence of misconduct in research.  The Policy seeks to emphasise the principles of research integrity which the University upholds.  It also sets out good research practices that all members of the University should adhere to as well as various forms of misconduct in research, with a view to preventing its occurrence.  These Procedures are designed to deal with instances of suspected or alleged misconduct in research, so that resolutions can be brought about more swiftly without becoming unduly legalistic, while affording fair treatment to the complainant and the person accused of misconduct.
1.2   The outcome of an investigation into an allegation of misconduct in research may lead to dismissal of the allegation (paragraphs 7.2 and 10.2), to various sanctions and actions (paragraph 10.7), and/or, in the cases of University officers and teachers, to the procedures for dismissal for “Good Cause” being invoked.
1.3   These Procedures shall not impede anyone seeking advice from any member of the University.  These Procedures shall not prevent normal routes of academic interaction and discussion with, for example, senior members of the professoriate who may be regarded as having a duty to give advice to colleagues.
1.4   The President & Vice-Chancellor shall be responsible for interpreting these Procedures on behalf of the Senate.  Faculty Deans as well as Heads and Directors of academic units shall be responsible for drawing the attention of teaching and research staff to these Procedures.


2. Scope

2.1   These Procedures shall apply to all staff performing teaching and/or research functions, irrespective of whether they are serving on a full- or part-time, substantive, fixed term or temporary contract of employment.  These Procedures shall be followed when an allegation of misconduct in research is brought against a member/members of staff by another member/other members of staff, or by a student/students.  In this respect, any reference to complainant or respondent shall, in appropriate cases, include complainants or respondents.
2.2   Allegations which are made by parties outside the University, including academic journals or the press, shall be dealt with directly by the President & Vice-Chancellor, who shall, in his discretion, determine if the procedures outlined below or any parts thereof should be invoked, and if necessary, with modifications, or shall otherwise dispose of the complaint in an appropriate manner.


3. Misconduct in Research

    “Misconduct in research”, “research misconduct” or “misconduct” (as appropriate) is taken here to mean one or more unethical practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research.  It can take many forms, including plagiarism, self-plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of data, unethical collection of data and unauthorized use of data, improper ascription of authorship, non-disclosure of potential conflict of interest, non-compliance with regulations and specific contractual terms, deviations from good research practices through gross or persistent negligence, and wilful concealment or facilitation of others’ research misconduct, as described under section 3 of the Policy on Research Integrity.  The above list of misconduct is not exhaustive.


4. Protection of Interested Parties

4.1   Allegations of misconduct in research require very careful handling.  When an allegation is made, the protection of all interested parties is essential.
4.2   Interested parties may include:
    (a) the person bringing the allegation – there being a possibility of victimization that would seriously affect his/her career or studies;
    (b) the staff member (i.e. the respondent) against whom a complaint is made;
    (c) students and staff working with the respondent;
    (d) journals in which allegedly fraudulent papers have been or are about to be published;
    (e) funding bodies which have contributed to the research; and
    (f) in some cases, the public – for example if a medical drug is involved.
4.3   Protection of the complainant and the person accused demands strict confidentiality and expeditious action.  On the other hand, the protection of certain parties may involve some necessary disclosure of information.  Such judgments should be made by the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research).


5. Receipt and Handling of Complaints

5.1   If an allegation of research misconduct is made against a staff member (i.e. the respondent), the complainant shall refer the matter in the first instance to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research).  If the complainant has sent the allegation to another staff member or party of the University, the recipient shall refer the matter to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) expeditiously.  This paragraph shall not prevent the complainant and the recipient of the allegation from seeking clarification or removing misunderstanding in order to ascertain whether these Procedures should actually be invoked.
5.2   Allegations of misconduct in research shall be made in writing with the identity of the complainant properly disclosed.  The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall dismiss any complaint which is anonymous unless there is prima facie evidence which warrants an evaluation under these Procedures.  The complainant may request that his/her identity not be revealed to the person being complained against (‘the respondent’).  The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) may accede to the request if there are good reasons for so doing.
5.3   Upon receipt of the complaint, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall inform the President & Vice-Chancellor as soon as practicable, and shall consult the President & Vice-Chancellor where necessary.
5.4   Where there are multiple allegations made against the same respondent or the same group of respondents, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall decide whether these allegations shall be dealt with individually or in combination, pursuant to procedures as set out in the following paragraphs.


6. Evaluation to Determine Whether a Credible Case Exists

6.1   The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall normally invite the Dean of the Faculty of which the respondent is a member to carry out an evaluation in consultation with one or more experts.  The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall also inform the respondent of the receipt and general nature (but not necessarily the details) of the complaint, and the decision to carry out the evaluation.
6.2   The purpose of the evaluation is not to decide whether research misconduct has occurred.  Instead, it is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of possible research misconduct to warrant an investigation under these Procedures or there are circumstances to warrant an attempt to bring about a satisfactory resolution in an informal manner.  The Dean and experts consulted shall carry out the evaluation by examining the documentary evidence available and may require the respondent to produce any materials which are deemed relevant to the Dean’s deliberations.  The Dean may also require that the materials be kept secure.  The evaluation need not include interviews with the complainant, the respondent or any other parties.
6.3   The Dean shall, on a strictly confidential basis, submit findings to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) on whether (a) there is no substance in the allegation of research misconduct, and/or the complaint is trivial or frivolous; (b) there is sufficient evidence of possible research misconduct which warrants further investigation under these Procedures; or (c) there are circumstances to warrant an attempt to bring about a satisfactory resolution in an informal manner.
6.4   If the Dean makes any recommendations to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) about the case pursuant to the evaluation, these recommendations do not form part of the evaluation findings.
6.5   The Dean shall normally complete the evaluation within 40 calendar days after his/her being appointed to carry out an evaluation, and submit the findings to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) unless the latter approves an extension, for good reasons.  If an extension is granted, the reason for the extension shall be recorded.
6.6   The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall appoint a senior professoriate member of the grade of Associate Professor or above (or the equivalent) in place of the Dean to carry out the evaluation if, as set out in paragraphs 6.1 – 6.5:
    (a) the complaint of research misconduct is made against a staff member who is not a member of any Faculty;
    (b) the Dean is the respondent; or
    (c) the Dean is not the respondent but is perceived to have actual or potential conflict of interest in the case.


7. Decision and Action upon Receipt of the Evaluation Findings

7.1   Upon receipt of the evaluation findings and any recommendations, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall bring the same to the attention of the President & Vice-Chancellor, and make recommendations to the President & Vice-Chancellor accordingly.
    Where no credible case is seen to exist
7.2   The complaint shall be dismissed if no substance in the allegations of misconduct is found, and/or if the complaint is found to be trivial or frivolous.
7.3   If it is found that the complainant who is a staff member or a student maliciously and without reasonable cause makes the complaint, the President & Vice-Chancellor may take appropriate actions againstthe complainant, including issuing a written reprimand to the staff, removing the staff member from particular duties or initiating a charge against a student before the Disciplinary Committee appointed under paragraph 2 of Statute XXX.
7.4   Within 14 calendar days after the President & Vice-Chancellor has taken a decision pursuant to paragraph 7.2 or 7.3, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall inform the complainant, the respondent, and the Dean of the Faculty or Head/Director of the unit concerned of the dismissal of the case or any actions to be taken.
    Where further investigation is warranted
7.5   If there is sufficient evidence of research misconduct which warrants further investigation, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall recommend to the President & Vice-Chancellor (a) a full investigation; or (b) disposal of the case by other appropriate methods, including deferring the investigation and referring the case to outside bodies, e.g. law enforcement agencies.
7.6   If the President & Vice-Chancellor decides to refer the complaint for a full investigation, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall appoint an Investigation Committee pursuant to paragraphs 8.1 – 8.2 and state the scope of inquiry upon which the Investigation Committee will discharge its duties to examine and report.  The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall also inform the complainant, the respondent, the Dean of the Faculty or Head/Director of the unit concerned of the investigation within 7 calendar days after the appointment of the Investigation Committee.
    Where the case is to be resolved in an informal manner
7.7   If it is found that there are circumstances to warrant an attempt to bring about a satisfactory resolution in an informal manner, the President & Vice-Chancellor may, in his discretion, decide how the case should be resolved.  The President & Vice-Chancellor may address the matter through the University’s education and training mechanisms, including taking steps to establish a programme of training or supervision in conjunction with the respondent (and his/her relevant senior colleagues), which may contain measures to address the needs of staff members and students working with the respondent.


8. Investigation into Alleged Research Misconduct

8.1   The role and responsibilities of the Investigation Committee are to examine the evidence in depth, and specifically, whether misconduct has been committed by whom, and to what extent.  The investigation shall be conducted expeditiously, and strict confidentiality must be maintained.
8.2   The Investigation Committee shall be appointed by the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and shall normally consist of three individuals who have no actual or potential conflict of interest in the case, and who collectively have the necessary expertise to evaluate the evidence and issues relating to the allegations.  Such individuals may be from within or outside the University.  The Investigation Committee shall have power to co-opt members and to invite additional experts to help in the investigation.  The Investigation Committee shall not include any persons who have conducted evaluation of the same caseto avoid double jeopardy.  The Registrar shall appoint a secretary who has notbeen involved in the case before.
8.3   The Investigation Committee shall write to inform the respondent, the complainant, and other parties as required of the nature of the complaint and offer them an opportunity to respond in writing.
8.4   The Investigation Committee shall decide the way and manner to conduct the investigation.  The Investigation Committee may require the parties concerned to produce any materials which it considers to be relevant to the investigation.  It may require the materials to be kept secure.  The Investigation Committee shall normally request the respondent to appear in person before it.  It may also request any other parties to appear before it and assist with its investigation.
8.5   The complainant and respondent may bring a friend or an advisor when appearing before the Investigation Committee.  The friend or advisor may be internal or external to the University and may, with the permission of the Investigation Committee, address the Investigation Committee on the investigation.
8.6   All submissions and documents relating to the investigation are strictly confidential and must not be disclosed to unrelated parties without the written permission of the Investigation Committee.  Both the complainant and respondent shall not communicate directly with any individual members of the Investigation Committee to discuss the case or to ask for explanation or elaboration during the entire investigation process and after the completion of the investigation.  Communications with the Investigation Committee shall always be made through the Secretary or Chairman of the Committee.
8.7   The Investigation Committee shall normally complete the investigation within 120 calendar days from the date of the first meeting of the Investigation Committee, inclusive of preparing a draft report for comments pursuant to paragraph 9.2, and report its findings and conclusions to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) unless the latter approves an extension, for good reasons.  If an extension is granted, the reason for the extension shall be recorded.
8.8   If, at any stage of these Procedures (including sections 8 to 10), there are doubts on the integrity of other research publications and/or activities of the respondent and it may be necessary to investigate into the respondent’s past research publications and/or activities other than the subject matter of the investigation, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) may enlarge the scope of inquiry of the Investigation Committee, or appoint one or more relevant experts to look into these new matters, or take any other appropriate actions.


9. The Investigation Report

9.1   The Investigation Report shall set out the policies and procedures adopted for the investigation, and how and from whom information relevant to the investigation has been obtained.  It shall also state the findings and explain the basis for the findings.
9.2   The Investigation Committee shall, on a strictly confidential basis, provide the respondent and the complainant with a copy of its draft investigation report for comments on factual information therein.  The parties concerned shall, within 14 calendar days of their receipt of the draft report, provide comments, if any, on factual information to the Investigation Committee.  All the parties concerned must treat the draft report as strictly confidential.  The Investigation Committee, taking into account such comments, may revise the report in the manner as provided for in paragraph 9.3.
9.3   The Investigation Committee shall revise its draft investigation report in relation to matters of procedures and factual accuracy, as well as its conclusions, after considering the comments of the parties made pursuant to paragraph 9.2.  The Investigation Committee shall then submit the final investigation report to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research).
9.4   The Investigation Committee may also make recommendations to the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) which may include sanctions to be imposed and actions to be taken pursuant to its findings against the respondent and/or generally.  The recommendations do not necessarily form part of the draft report, nor of the final report.


10. Decision and Action on Completion of the Investigation

10.1   The Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall bring the final investigation report and any recommendations of the Investigation Committee to the attention of the President & Vice-Chancellor, and make recommendations tothe President & Vice-Chancellor accordingly.  The President & Vice-Chancellor and the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) may seek further information/clarifications from the Investigation Committee and any other parties in respect of the final investigation report and any recommendations.
    Where research misconduct is not established

10.2

  Where research misconduct is not established, the complaint shall be dismissed.  In dismissing the complaint, the President & Vice-Chancellor may take any remedial actions to redress any damage caused to the respondent or any other person as a result of the unsubstantiated complaint. 
10.3   The President & Vice-Chancellor may nevertheless take actions through the University’s education and training mechanisms, including taking steps to establish a programme of training or supervision in conjunction with the respondent (and his/her relevant senior colleague(s)) that may contain measures to address the needs of staff members and students working with the respondent.
10.4   If it is found that a staff member or a student who has maliciously and without reasonable cause made the complaint, the President & Vice-Chancellor may take appropriate actions against the complainant, including issuing a written reprimand to the staff member, removing the staff member from particular duties or initiating a charge against a student before the Disciplinary Committee appointed under paragraph 2 of Statute XXX.
10.5   Within 14 calendar days after the President & Vice-Chancellor has taken a decision pursuant to paragraph 10.2 or 10.3, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall inform the complainant, the respondent, and the Dean of the Faculty or Head/Director of the unit concerned of the dismissal of the case or any action to be taken.
    Where research misconduct is established
10.6   Where research misconduct is established, the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) shall invite the respondent to make any submission on mitigation in writing for consideration by the President & Vice-Chancellor.  After having taken into account the proposed or implemented mitigation, the President & Vice-Chancellor shall decide on any sanctions to be imposed and/or actions to be taken.
10.7   The sanctions that may be imposed and actions that may be taken by the President & Vice-Chancellor on any staff member, tenured or contract, shall include the following, and such sanctions and/or actions shall be recorded in the personnel record of staff member held at the University pertaining to discharging the functions of the University:
    (a) written reprimand;
    (b) special monitoring of future work;
    (c) removal from a particular project;
    (d) removal from particular duties;
    (e) withdrawal of University support for research funding;
    (f) suspension from future grant application for a period to be determined;
    (g) initiating procedure for dismissal; and
    (h) other appropriate measures.
10.8   The President & Vice-Chancellor shall take into consideration any substantiated allegations of previous research misconduct of the respondent in imposing any sanctions and/or taking any actions.  Repeat offending will result in more severe sanctions and/or actions.
10.9   In the event that it is necessary to initiate the procedure for dismissal for “Good Cause” in respect of University officers or teachers, the President & Vice-Chancellor should initiate the process as soon as practicable in accordance with the Procedures for the Termination of the Appointment of a Teacher for “Good Cause” and other applicable procedures.
10.10   As a finding of research misconduct may have adverse impact on other people, the President & Vice-Chancellor shall consider taking any necessary remedial measures, including notifying all those people working with the respondent or the journal/editor/publisher publishing the relevant work of the respondent, or any sponsoring agencies.  If the research misconduct may affect any funding bodies from which a grant was received by the University to support the respondentwhen the misconduct occurred or to which the respondent is currently applying for a grant, the University shall notify such funding bodies of the relevant findings and actions.  In some cases, it may be necessary to provide appropriate redress to people who were not involved in the misconduct but have been affected.


11. Appeal

    The respondent may appeal to the Council on the ground of serious procedural irregularities against (a) any findings in the investigation report of the Investigation Committee; and (b) any sanctions imposed and/or any actions taken by the President & Vice-Chancellor under paragraph 10.7.  A written appeal setting out the alleged serious procedural irregularities and the prejudice caused thereby shall be lodged with the Registrar within 14 calendar days from the date of the President & Vice-Chancellor’s notification to the respondent of the findings,any sanctions imposed and/or actions taken.


12. Cessation of Employment

    The President & Vice-Chancellor may decide that an investigation should be conducted or continued even after cessation of employment of the respondent with the University, and may take any remedial action that is considered necessary to protect the University, the public or any other parties, including provision of the relevant investigation findings to those affected by the misconduct, e.g. co-researchers, collaborators, journal/editor/publisher publishing the relevant work of the respondent, or external funding bodies.


13. Complaints Against the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) or the President & Vice-Chancellor

13.1   If an allegation of research misconduct is made against the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), the complainant shall refer the matter in the first instance to the President & Vice-Chancellor.  The procedures as set out from paragraph 4.3 onwards shall apply with appropriate modifications by substituting the Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) by the President & Vice-Chancellor.  The President & Vice-Chancellor shall decide any other modifications of the procedures as necessary.
13.2   In the event that an allegation of research misconduct is made against the President & Vice-Chancellor, the procedures as set out from paragraph 1.4 onwards shall apply with appropriate modifications by substituting the President & Vice-Chancellor by the Chairman of the Council.  The Chairman of the Council shall decide any other modifications of the procedures as necessary.

 

Note: This version of the Procedures was approved by the Council at its meeting of February 28, 2017 for implementation with immediate effect.