Policy Number: 324

Policy Suffix:

I. General Policy Statement

As an institution of higher education, Rice University expects all its members to maintain the highest standards of conduct in pursuing research, scholarship, and creative activities. Research misconduct includes any act that violates the standards of integrity in the conduct of scholarly and scientific research and communication. Any form of research fraud or misconduct is contrary to the University’s principles, undermines the confidence that the public and research participants have in the integrity of the University, and adversely affects the reputation of all individuals in the Rice community. For these reasons, Rice University considers Research Misconduct, as defined below, a betrayal of fundamental scientific and research principles, and will deal promptly with all instances of alleged Research Misconduct.

This policy reaffirms the commitment of Rice University to the highest principles of integrity in all its research, scholarly, and creative activities, identifies general types of research misconduct, and establishes procedures for dealing with alleged research misconduct and for complying with the policies of sponsoring entities. Although this policy is based on the Public Health Service (PHS) regulations, the research misconduct regulations for the relevant sponsoring entity should be consulted. While designed to comply with federal regulations, the principles and procedures in this policy apply to all cases of research misconduct at Rice, whether or not they involve federal sponsors and including research funded solely from institutional funds.

The maintenance of high ethical standards is central to effective research undertaken in the pursuit of knowledge. Research integrity demands the valid collection and accurate reporting of data. To uphold this integrity, Rice University respects the ideas and rights of others and rejects the unauthorized use of others’ data or scholarship. Rice University, its faculty, staff, and students embrace these principles of intellectual integrity, whether or not the research, creative or scholarly activity is funded by federal sources.

II. Definitions

The federal definition of research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Additionally, Rice University considers serious deviations from the practices of the relevant research community to be research misconduct. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.

Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results so that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Serious deviation from accepted practices includes, but is not limited to:

  • abusing confidentiality, including the use of ideas and preliminary data gained from:
    • access to privileged information through the opportunity for editorial review of manuscripts submitted to journals; and
    • peer review of proposals being considered for funding by agency panels or by internal committees, such as the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), or the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).
  • stealing, destroying or damaging the research property of others with the intent to alter the research record; and
  • directly encouraging or knowingly allowing others to engage in fabrication, falsification or plagiarism.

Additional defined terms:

A. Allegation means a written or oral disclosure of possible research misconduct made to a university official, including department chairs, deans, research integrity officer, Executive Vice President for Research, or provost. The Complainant may have confidential discussions with a university official regarding potential allegations before making an official complaint. Written allegations are preferred as they minimize ambiguities when the allegations are presented to the Respondent.

B. Burden of Proof means the obligation to prove one’s assertion. The Respondent is presumed innocent until the University proves research misconduct by the preponderance of the evidence. The University has the burden of proof for making a finding of research misconduct.

In accordance with the federal regulations 42 CFR § 93.106 (b) Evidentiary Standards, if the University has proved research misconduct occurred based on the preponderance of the evidence, the Respondent has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, all affirmative defenses such as honest error or differences of opinion.

In determining whether the institution has carried out the burden of proof, the provost shall give due consideration to admissible, credible evidence presented by the parties.

C. Committee Member means any individual serving on the Investigative Committee.

D. Complainant means a person who makes an allegation of research misconduct.

E. Conflict of Interest means unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest involving the Complainant, Respondent, proposed or actual committee members, or witnesses that may compromise, or appear to compromise, an individual’s decisions.

F. Evidence means any document, tangible item, or testimony offered or obtained during a research misconduct proceeding that tends to prove or disprove the validity of an allegation.

G. Good Faith as applied to a Complainant or witness means having a belief in the truth of one's allegation or testimony that a reasonable person in the Complainant's or witness' position could have, based on the information known to the Complainant or witness at the time. An allegation or cooperation with a research misconduct proceeding is not in good faith if made with knowing or reckless disregard for information that would negate the allegation or testimony.

Good faith as applied to a committee member means cooperating with the research misconduct proceeding by carrying out the duties assigned impartially for the purpose of helping the University meet its responsibilities under this policy. A committee member does not act in good faith if their acts or omissions on the committee are dishonest or influenced by personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with those involved in the research misconduct proceeding.

H. Inquiry means preliminary information gathering and preliminary fact finding that meet the criteria and follow the procedures set forth in Section IV.I.3 of this Policy and applicable federal regulations and external sponsor requirements.

I. Intentional means that it is the person's conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct and/or cause the result.

J Investigation means the formal development and examination of a factual record leading to (1) a recommendation not to make a finding of research misconduct, or (2) a recommendation for a finding of research misconduct.

K. Knowingly means that a person acted with knowledge of the facts or circumstances and/or is aware that there is a high probability that their conduct will cause a specific result.

L. Preponderance of the evidence means proof by information that, compared with that opposing it, leads to the conclusion that the fact at issue is more probably true than not.

M. Recklessly means that a person consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow, and such disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.

N. Research refers to any systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and reporting, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. The term encompasses scholarship and creative activities, basic research, applied research, and research training activities in all of Rice’s Schools, Institutes, Centers, and Programs.

O. Research Integrity Officer (RIO) is the person appointed by the provost who has primary responsibility for implementing this Policy. If the RIO is a separate role from the Executive Vice President for Research, the RIO will report to the Executive Vice President for Research. The RIO’s responsibilities include 1) receiving allegations, 2) conducting assessments of allegations, 3) ensuring that potential evidence of research misconduct is collected and sequestered in a timely manner, 4) ensuring that regulatory requirements and timelines are met, 5) ensuring that decisions made under this Policy are appropriately documented, 6) maintaining confidentiality during the pendency of assessments, Inquiries and Investigations, and 7) completing all regulatory recordkeeping and reporting obligations set forth in this Policy and applicable federal regulations.

P. Research Misconduct Finding means that there was (i) a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (ii) the research misconduct was committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and (iii) the allegation was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

Q. Research Misconduct Proceeding means any action related to alleged research misconduct, including, but not limited, to allegation assessments, Inquiries, Investigations, and administrative appeals.

R. Research Record means any data, document, computer file, information storage media, or any other written or non-written, electronic or hard-copy account or object that reasonably may be expected to provide evidence or information regarding the proposed, performed, reviewed, or reported research that constitutes the subject of an allegation of research misconduct. A research record may include, but is not limited to, grant or contract applications, whether funded or unfunded; grant or contract progress and other reports; laboratory notebooks (physical and electronic); printed or electronic communications; videos; photographs; films; slides; biologic materials; computer files and printouts; manuscripts and publications; equipment use logs; laboratory procurement records; animal facility records; human and animal subject protocols; consent forms; abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, and any documents and materials collected or provided by a Respondent in the course of a research misconduct proceeding.

S. Respondent means the person(s) against whom an allegation of research misconduct is directed or who is the subject of a research misconduct proceeding.

T. Retaliation means an adverse action taken against a Complainant, Respondent, witness, or committee member by the University or one of its employees or affiliates in response to:

  1. A good faith allegation of research misconduct; or
  2. Good faith cooperation with a research misconduct proceeding.

Retaliation can also mean actions taken by a Complainant, Respondent, witness, or committee member against other participants in this process. Additional information regarding retaliation can be found in Policy 813 Whistleblower Protection and Non-Retaliation Policy.

III. Elaboration of Policy

A. Ensuring a Fair Research Misconduct Proceeding
Rice will take all reasonable steps to ensure an impartial and unbiased research misconduct proceeding to the maximum extent practicable. Those conducting the Inquiry or Investigation shall be selected on the basis of expertise that is pertinent to the matter. Prior to selection, the provost will screen individuals for any identifiable bias and unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with the Respondent, Complainant, potential witnesses, or others involved in the matter. Any such bias or conflict that a reasonable person would consider to unfairly influence the research misconduct proceeding will disqualify the individual from selection. If, pursuant to this paragraph, the provost is unable to serve, the President shall designate an appointee who is free of bias or conflict of interest to fulfill the roles ordinarily assumed by the provost in this process.

B. Confidentiality
Rice will strive to respect the confidentiality of Respondents and Complainants and will not disclose any of their identities, except: (1) to those who need to know in order to carry out a thorough, competent, objective, and fair research misconduct proceeding; (2) where applicable, to the federal Office of Research Integrity or the appropriate sponsor as it conducts its research misconduct proceeding; (3) to those to whom disclosure is deemed necessary to remedy any findings of research misconduct or any other violations of law or University policy; (4) to acknowledge that an investigation has been undertaken when the alleged misconduct is in the public domain, and (5) to disclose findings of research misconduct, when it is in the best interest of the University and/or the greater academic community, after a final determination is made and all appeals processes have been exhausted. Those that breach these confidentiality standards may be subject to sanctions. To the extent possible, the RIO shall use best efforts to, except as otherwise prescribed by law, limit the disclosure of any records or evidence from which research subjects might be identified to those who need to know in order to carry out a research misconduct proceeding.

C. Applicability
This policy applies to any individual who at the time of the alleged misconduct was employed, paid by, under contract with, under control of, or otherwise affiliated with Rice University. This may include individuals no longer employed by or attending the University at the time of the invocation of the policy, or who leave employment or academic programs during procedures arising from this policy, since the University may be legally obligated to determine whether the individual committed misconduct while at the University, and in the event of a finding of misconduct, there may be a responsibility to the community to consider retraction of publications or rescinding of degrees.

D. Additional Allegations of Misconduct
The Respondent shall be notified if additional allegations are identified during the research misconduct proceedings.

E. Violations of Other Rice University Policies
If violations of other Rice policies are alleged or identified during the prosecution of a case, the RIO will confer with the appropriate University official responsible for such policy, to jointly determine whether the allegations should be referred for review by another entity or be pursued as part of the research misconduct case.

F. Destruction or Absence of Records
The destruction, absence of, or Respondent’s failure to provide research records adequately documenting the questioned research is evidence of research misconduct where the University establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly had research records and destroyed them or had them destroyed, had the opportunity to maintain the records but did not do so, or maintained the records and failed to produce them in a timely manner and that the Respondent’s conduct constitutes a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community.

G. Restoring Reputations

  1. Respondents. Rice, in coordination with the Respondent, will undertake reasonable, practical, and appropriate efforts to protect and restore the reputation of any person alleged to have engaged in research misconduct, but against whom no finding of research misconduct was made.
  2. Complainants, Witnesses, and Committee Members. Rice will undertake reasonable and practical efforts to protect and restore the position and reputation of any Complainant, witness, or committee member and to counter potential or actual retaliation against those persons resulting from participation in a research misconduct proceeding.

H. Interim Protective Actions
At any time during a research misconduct proceeding, Rice will take appropriate interim actions to protect public health, research funds and equipment, and the integrity of the research process. The necessary actions will vary according to the circumstances of each case, but examples of actions that may be necessary include delaying the publication of research results, providing closer supervision of one or more researchers, requiring approvals for actions relating to the research that did not previously require approval, auditing pertinent records, or taking steps to contact other institutions that may be affected by an allegation of research misconduct.

I. Research Misconduct Proceedings
The primary responsibility for maintaining high standards of conduct lies with the individual researcher. Nevertheless, because research misconduct is a very serious offense, the University must also take appropriate steps to prevent its occurrence. This policy outlines the procedures to be followed in all Inquiries and Investigations of potential misconduct. Enforcement of research standards will include some or all of the steps identified below. These steps are presented in the order in which they ordinarily take place.

1. Allegations. Any report of alleged misconduct must be presented to the RIO. Promptly after receiving an allegation of research misconduct, the RIO will review the allegations and determine whether they meet the definition of research misconduct and whether they are sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified. If these criteria are met, the RIO will determine whether the complaint should progress to the Inquiry phase. If the misconduct allegation concerns students only and no external-sponsor funds were involved, and if the RIO determines that the alleged misconduct is academic, rather than scholarly or related to research, then the RIO will refer the matter to the degree program in which the student was enrolled, the Associate Dean for Student Judicial Programs, the Dean of Undergraduates, or Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. If, however, the RIO elects to view the matter as research misconduct, then the process described in this policy takes priority over any other academic or disciplinary process.

2. Maintenance and Custody of Research Records and Evidence. Rice will take the following specific steps to obtain, secure, and maintain the research records and evidence pertinent to the research misconduct proceeding:

  1. Rice will promptly take all reasonable and practical steps to obtain custody of all research records and evidence needed to conduct the research misconduct proceeding, inventory those materials, and sequester them in a secure manner. The need for additional sequestration of records may arise for any number of reasons, including the institution’s decision to investigate additional allegations not considered during the Inquiry stage or identification of records during the Inquiry process that had not been previously secured.
  2. In those situations where research records or evidence are not stored on Rice- accessible equipment, such as on personal devices or cloud storage, the Respondent will make those research records or evidence available for sequestration.
  3. In those situations where the research records or evidence encompass scientific instruments shared by multiple users, custody may be limited to copies of the data or evidence on such instruments, providing that those copies are substantially equivalent to the evidentiary value of the instruments.
  4. Where appropriate, Rice will give the Respondent copies of, or reasonable supervised access to, the research records.
  5. The RIO will maintain all records of the research misconduct proceeding, as defined in 42 CFR Section 93.317(a), for 7 years after completion of the proceeding or of any Office of Research Integrity (ORI) or PHS proceeding under Subparts D and E of 42 CFR Part 93, whichever is later, unless Rice has transferred custody of the records and evidence to PHS, or ORI has advised Rice that it no longer needs to retain the records.

3. Inquiry. If the RIO determines that the allegations should progress under this policy, the RIO will initiate and conduct a confidential Inquiry (an initial review) of the evidence. This Inquiry will be completed within 60 calendar days after the RIO initiates the Inquiry unless circumstances warrant a longer period and approval is obtained from the provost. In concluding this Inquiry, the RIO will assess the validity of the allegations and prepare an Inquiry report outlining their findings and recommendations.

The Inquiry report will contain the following information:

  1. The name and position of the Respondent(s).
  2. A description of the allegations of research misconduct.
  3. Sources of funding for the research involved, including, for example, grant numbers, grant applications, contracts, and publications listings.
  4. The basis for recommending that the alleged actions warrant or do not warrant an Investigation.
  5. Any comments about the Inquiry by the Respondent.

The Respondent(s) will be given a reasonable amount of time within the 60-day period to review the draft report and provide comments. The Respondents’ comments will be incorporated or appended to the final report. The final report will be submitted to the provost, who will review the report and make a written determination of whether an Investigation is warranted. If the provost determines that supporting information is not reasonably sufficient to substantiate the allegations, the matter will be closed.

  1. Inquiries Conducted by Federal Agencies. From time to time, Federal agencies receive allegations of research misconduct where the Respondent is a Rice University researcher(s). The agency may conduct an Inquiry and based on its findings, instruct the institution to proceed to an Investigation. Under these circumstances, the RIO will review the agency’s Inquiry report and assess whether Rice will rely on the agency’s Inquiry report or if Rice will conduct its own Inquiry as outlined in this policy.
  2. Inquiry Notices to the Respondent. During the research misconduct proceedings, Rice will provide the following notifications to all identified Respondents:
    1. Initiation of Inquiry. Rice will typically provide the Respondent(s) written notification of the Inquiry before or at the time of the sequestration of data. However, in some cases, the RIO may determine that data needs to be sequestered prior to the notification of the Respondent(s) to ensure the integrity of data. Under these circumstances, the RIO will request prior approval from the provost to sequester the data and the Respondent(s) will be notified as soon as the RIO has determined that the security of data is no longer at risk. If the Inquiry subsequently identifies additional Respondents, they shall be promptly notified in writing.
    2. Comment on Draft Inquiry Report. Rice will provide the Respondent(s) an opportunity to respond to allegations at the Inquiry stage and to provide timely comments on the draft Inquiry report so that any comments can be attached to the report.
    3. Results of the Inquiry. Rice will notify the Respondent(s) of the results of the Inquiry and include copies of the Inquiry report and institutional policies and procedures for the handling of research misconduct allegations.

4. Investigation. If the provost (or their designee) determines that the allegations have sufficient substance, they will direct that a detailed Investigation be conducted.

  1. Timeline of Investigation. The Investigation will begin within 30 calendar days of the provost’s determination. On or before the date on which the Investigation begins, the Inquiry report and the provost’s written determination will be sent to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the case of PHS funding, or to the appropriate research integrity representative of other federal, state, municipal, industry or foundation sponsors if funded by other sources.

    Rice will use its best efforts to complete the Investigation within 120 calendar days of the date on which it began; this will include conducting the Investigation, preparing a draft report of findings, providing the draft report to the Respondent(s) for comment, submitting the final report to the provost for a final determination, and sending the final report to ORI or the appropriate sponsor office listed above.

    If the Investigation Committee believes that it will need additional time to complete its work, it shall communicate its request for additional time, including the amount of additional time it believes necessary and the justification for the extension, to the RIO, who will consider and act on the request, including communicating with any federal agencies whose concurrence may be required for an extension. The 120-day time period applies to the Investigation and not to separate disciplinary hearings under other University policies.
  2. Creation of Investigative Committee. Prior to appointing the Investigation Committee, the provost will take reasonable steps to identify committee members that are impartial and unbiased to the maximum extent practicable, including persons with appropriate expertise who do not have unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with those materially involved with the Investigation. The provost will confer with the Convenor of Appeals and Grievances of the Faculty Senate about potential Committee members. The Committee may consist entirely of Rice faculty, or the provost may appoint one or more individuals from outside the University who may bring particular expertise to the Investigation. A Rice faculty member shall chair the Committee. The RIO, or the RIO’s designee, shall serve as a non-voting, ex officio member of the Investigative Committee to provide procedural guidance, logistical support and advise the Committee as requested.
  3. Avoidance of Identifiable Bias and Conflict of Interest. In the event that the provost has a potential conflict, the President shall designate an appointee who is free of bias or conflict of interest to fulfill the roles ordinarily assumed by the provost in this process. When the provost has determined the membership of the Committee, they shall provide notice to the Respondent(s) as well as to the RIO. The Respondent(s) and the RIO shall then have seven calendar days in which to object to any proposed members of the Committee on the grounds that they may have an identifiable bias or unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflict of interest with those involved in the Inquiry or Investigation. Any objections shall be based on objective, relevant, and demonstrable evidence. The provost will review the objections, and if there is actual bias or conflict of interest or an appearance of bias or conflict of interest, the provost must replace the conflicted proposed Committee member(s) to eliminate even the appearance of bias or conflict of interest. If the provost so substitutes one or more of the Committee members, the Respondent(s) and RIO shall be notified of the substitution and will have three calendar days to raise any objections of identifiable bias or conflict of interest on the part of the newly added members. The provost’s decision on the membership of the Committee shall be final.
  4. Function of the Committee. The Committee shall develop a factual record relating to the allegations and shall examine that record to make findings and recommendations to the provost about whether research misconduct occurred, and if so, by whom and the level of seriousness, including whether any publications may need correction or retraction. The Committee's findings and recommendations may include a recommendation to the provost for other appropriate actions, including disciplinary or administrative actions. The RIO will, in most cases, provide staff support to the Investigation Committee. In doing its work, the Committee will:
    1. Use diligent efforts to ensure that the Investigation is thorough and sufficiently documented and includes examination of all research records and evidence relevant to reaching a decision on the merits of the allegations;
    2. Interview each Respondent, Complainant, and any other available person who has been reasonably identified as having information regarding any relevant aspects of the Investigation, including witnesses identified by the Respondent;
    3. Pursue diligently all significant issues and leads discovered that are determined relevant to the Investigation, including any evidence of additional instances of possible research misconduct or other violations of Rice policies, and continue the Investigation to completion; and
    4. Otherwise comply with the requirements for conducting an Investigation found in applicable federal regulations (currently found at 42 CFR Section 93.310).
  5. Conducting the Investigation.
    1. After being appointed, the Committee shall meet in executive session to review the charges of research misconduct, the Inquiry report and its recommendations and the decision of the provost, and shall discuss how best to proceed. The Committee may confer with the RIO and the Office of General Counsel for guidance and advice.
    2. The Committee shall take reasonable steps to ensure an impartial and unbiased Investigation to the maximum extent practicable, including participation of persons with appropriate expertise who do not have unresolved personal, professional, or financial conflicts of interest with those materially involved with the Inquiry or Investigation.
    3. The RIO shall provide the Committee with the evidence that was compiled and reviewed during the Inquiry. The RIO, or their designee, shall attend each meeting of the Committee and shall provide logistic and staff support for the Committee as it conducts the Investigation and shall assist the Committee in any way the Committee deems necessary or appropriate. The Committee will discuss with the RIO the means by which appropriate custody and control of the necessary records is obtained and preserved so that needed records are properly secured and sequestered while also being available to the Committee for its work. Should the Committee wish to consult with legal counsel during its work, the Office of General Counsel will provide an attorney for the Committee.
    4. The Committee shall use its best efforts to interview each Complainant, Respondent and any other available person the Committee deems to have material information relating to any relevant aspects of the Investigation, including witnesses identified by a Respondent or the RIO that the Committee believes may have such material information. The final decision on which witnesses to interview shall rest with the Committee. The Committee, either collectively or by individual members, may interview any person singly or with others in any format it believes will aid it in compiling a full and fair record and in reaching its determinations, at its sole discretion. The Committee shall have the ability to recall witnesses if it believes it useful in concluding the Investigation. Should a Complainant, Respondent or other person be accompanied by legal counsel during an interview or any other part of the investigatory proceedings, the counsel for the individual shall only be present to provide advice to their client and shall not participate in the interview or proceedings. Should an individual be accompanied by legal counsel, the Committee will also have its university legal counsel present to advise the Committee.
    5. When the Committee conducts any interviews, it shall have each such interview recorded and transcribed, and it shall provide each interviewee with a reasonable opportunity to review and correct the transcript of their interview.
    6. The Committee shall use diligent efforts to ensure that the Investigation is thorough and sufficiently documented and includes examination of all research records and other evidence relevant to making findings and recommendations on the merits of the allegations. The Committee shall also diligently pursue all significant issues and leads discovered during the Investigation that the Committee determines are relevant to the Investigation, including any evidence of additional instances of possible research misconduct or other violations of Rice policies, and continue the Investigation to completion.
    7. If during the Investigation, the Committee discovers evidence of violation of other Rice policies, they should be brought to the attention of the RIO. The RIO will determine, in consultation with the relevant policy owner, if the policy violation will be pursued by the Committee. If the RIO authorizes the Committee to further investigate those allegations, the Respondent shall be notified, and the Committee shall investigate those violations and present its findings to the provost.
    8. The investigatory process is intended to be confidential, so the Committee shall take reasonable and appropriate steps to protect the confidentiality of its proceedings, the participants, and the evidence gathered, but such steps shall not impair the ability of the Committee to compile whatever information and evidence the Committee believes necessary to fully and fairly reach its findings and recommendations.
  6. Investigation Notices to the Respondent.
    1. Initiation of Investigation. Within a reasonable time after Rice’s written determination that an Investigation is warranted, but not later than 30 calendar days after that determination, Rice shall notify the Respondent(s) in writing of the allegations to be investigated. Rice shall give Respondent(s) written notice of any new allegations within a reasonable time after deciding to pursue allegations not addressed in the Inquiry or in the initial notice of the Investigation. The initial notice of the Investigation will identify the proposed members of the Investigation Committee. The Respondent has the right to request certain Committee members be replaced as outlined in section IV.I.4.c. above.
    2. Scheduling of Interviews. Rice shall notify the Respondent sufficiently in advance of the scheduling of their interview in the Investigation so that the Respondent may prepare for the interview and arrange for the attendance of legal counsel if the Respondent wishes.
    3. Comment on Draft Investigation Report. Rice shall give the Respondent(s) a copy of the draft Investigation report, and concurrently, a copy of, or supervised access to, the evidence on which the report is based. The Committee shall provide the Respondent no more than 30 calendar days from the date on which they received the draft report to provide comments. Rice shall ensure that these comments are included and considered in the final Investigation report.
    4. Results of the Investigation. Rice shall provide a copy of the final Investigation report and notify the Respondent(s) of the provost’s decision regarding the report.
  7. Evidentiary Standards.
    1. The Committee's findings shall be based on the preponderance of the evidence, which means that the weight of the evidence on a particular matter leads to the conclusion that the matter in question is more likely true than not. In order for the Committee to find that research misconduct occurred, the Committee must conclude that the preponderance of the evidence establishes proof of misconduct.
    2. In accordance with the federal regulations 42 CFR § 93.106 (b) Evidentiary Standards, a Respondent has the burden of producing and demonstrating, by a preponderance of the evidence, all affirmative defenses raised.
    3. The Committee is not bound by formal rules of evidence, and may admit and consider evidence, including hearsay, for whatever probative value the Committee believes the evidence merits. The Committee should consider the credibility of Respondent(s), witnesses, and other evidence in reaching its determinations. The Committee, in reaching its findings and recommendations, shall give due consideration to credible, material, and relevant evidence of honest error or difference of academic opinion presented by a Respondent.
  8. Investigation Report.
    1. The Committee shall prepare a draft report of its findings and recommendations after it concludes the Investigation, in the format described in (iv) below. After the Committee completes the draft report, it shall provide a copy to the RIO and the Respondent(s) for review and comment. The Committee shall provide the Respondent(s) either with a copy of the evidence upon which the draft report is based or an opportunity to review the evidence under supervised access. The Committee shall allow the Respondent(s) no more than 30 calendar days within which to submit comments to the Committee on the draft report.
    2. The Committee may provide a copy of the draft report or relevant portions of the draft report to all or some of the Complainants for review and comment. The Committee shall allow any such Complainants no more than 30 calendar days within which to submit comments to the Committee on the draft report or relevant portions of it.
    3. The Committee shall review and consider any comments it receives to the draft report when finalizing the report, and attach the comments received to the final Investigation report.
    4. The Investigation report must be in writing and include the following:
      1. Allegations: Description of the nature of the allegations of research misconduct and the specific allegations of research misconduct considered in the Investigation, and the institutional charge shall be included in the report.
      2. Research Support: Description of and documentation of any governmental or privately sponsored research support for the research in question, including, for example, the federal or state agency supporting the research, the grant numbers, grant applications, contracts, and publications listing such support.
      3. Policies and Procedures: Reference to and inclusion of the Rice policies and procedures under which the Investigation was conducted.
      4. Research Records and Evidence: Identification and summary of the research records and evidence reviewed, as well as any evidence taken into custody by the Committee but not reviewed.
      5. Statement of Findings: For each separate allegation of research misconduct identified during the Investigation, a finding of whether research misconduct did or did not occur, and if such misconduct did occur: (1) a description of the misconduct and whether any such misconduct was intentional, knowing, or reckless, (2) a summary of the facts and the analysis of the facts that supports the conclusion, including a consideration of any reasonable explanation by the Respondent, (3) the person or persons responsible for the misconduct, (4) the severity of the misconduct, (5) the strength of the evidence supporting the finding (6) the specific sponsored research support related to that allegation and finding, (7) whether any publications need correction or retraction, and (8) any current support or known applications or proposals for research support from governmental or private sources that the Respondent has pending.
      6. Comments: Inclusion and consideration of any comments made on the draft report by the Respondents and Complainants.
      7. Recommendations: If there is a finding that research misconduct has occurred, the Committee shall recommend appropriate sanctions based on its understanding of the case.
      8. If authorized by the RIO, the Committee shall also make recommendations as a result of the Investigation or a finding that other violations of University policies may have occurred. These shall be reported to the provost in the format prescribed for research misconduct allegations.
    5. Review and Decision by the Provost
      After the investigative Committee provides its final report, the provost, at their discretion, may (i) ask any or all of the Respondents for their final written comments; (ii) seek clarification on various matters from the Committee; and/or (iii) refer the matter back to the Committee for additional investigation if they deem it necessary or appropriate. Afterwards, the provost shall conclude the Investigation by formally receiving the report. The provost will then render their decision in a letter or memorandum that notes agreement or disagreement with the Committee's findings and recommendations and determines whether further administrative or disciplinary action on the part of the University is appropriate. The provost’s decision is final. The provost will send a copy of the decision to the RIO, the Respondent(s), and the Committee members; they may also communicate the relevant results to any Complainants. If further administrative or disciplinary action is appropriate, the provost will send a copy of the final report and their decision to the President, the relevant dean(s), vice provost(s), Institute director, and/or vice president(s) so that further action may be initiated.
    6. Report Transmittal to Federal Sponsor(s)
      The RIO will (i) provide to the federal Office of Research Integrity or appropriate sponsor a copy of the Investigation report including any attachments and any appeals, (ii) state whether the Investigation found research misconduct (and if so, who committed it), (iii) state whether the University agrees with the Investigation's findings, and (iv) describe any pending or completed administrative actions taken against the Respondent(s).
    7. Correcting the Research Record
      Following a determination by the provost of whether research misconduct occurred, the RIO will determine whether information discovered during the Investigation, as indicated in the Investigation Committee report, may impact the published research record. If the research record needs correcting, the RIO will communicate with the Respondent and directly contact journal editors to provide appropriate information necessary for correcting the research record. In some situations, this may result in a corrigendum or retraction.
    8. Disciplinary Action
      At the conclusion of an Investigation in which it is determined that research misconduct occurred, the University shall take the following disciplinary actions.
      1. Findings Against a Faculty Member. If the research misconduct process concludes that research misconduct occurred, the provost agrees with the findings of the Investigation report, and the Respondent is a faculty member, the provost shall impose sanctions proportionate to the severity of the violation. The provost may recommend to the President the initiation of proceedings under Rice Policy 201, Section 8 for the most severe violations. In the case of such a recommendation, the provost will forward the recommendation and the entire Investigation report to the President. The President will determine whether to initiate proceedings under Policy 201 to consider dismissal or a severe sanction against the accused faculty member. The procedures to be followed will be those provided consistent with Policy 201 and Policy 201A. The process may go directly to the third stage: Hearing Panel.

        If the President concludes that the alleged misconduct, if true, would justify only a minor sanction, the President may refer the matter to the faculty member's dean or Institute director for appropriate action. Refer to Rice Policy 201, Section 8 for additional explanations.
      2. Findings Against a Staff Member. If the research misconduct process concludes that the allegations have substance, the provost agrees with the findings of the Investigation report, and the Respondent is a staff member, the RIO will notify the Executive Vice President for Operations, Finance, & Support and the staff member’s supervisor. The RIO, the Executive Vice President for Operations, Finance, & Support, and the supervisor will cooperate in undertaking appropriate action.
      3. Findings Against a Student. If the research misconduct process concludes that the allegations have substance, the provost agrees with the findings of the Investigation report, and the Respondent is a student, the RIO will notify the Dean of Undergraduates, Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and/or the dean of the most relevant School, as appropriate. The RIO and the appropriate dean shall cooperate in undertaking appropriate action under the applicable procedures within the dean’s purview.

        The RIO shall also report the disciplinary actions taken as may be required by law.
    9. Notifying of Special Circumstances
      At any time during a research misconduct proceeding, Rice will immediately notify ORI or the appropriate sponsor if Rice has reason to believe that any of the following conditions exist:
      1. Health or safety of the public is at risk, including an immediate need to protect human or animal subjects.
      2. PHS or other sponsor resources or interests are threatened.
      3. Research activities should be suspended.
      4. There is a reasonable indication of violations of civil or criminal law.
      5. Federal action is required to protect the interests of those involved in the research misconduct proceeding.
      6. There is reason to believe that the research misconduct proceeding may be made public prematurely so that PHS or the sponsoring office may take appropriate steps to safeguard evidence and protect the rights of those involved.
    10. Cooperation with ORI
      Rice will cooperate with and assist ORI or the appropriate sponsor, as needed, to carry out any administrative actions that the sponsoring agency may impose as a result of a final finding of research misconduct.

      Rice will cooperate fully and on a continuing basis with ORI or the appropriate sponsor during its oversight reviews of Rice and its research misconduct proceedings and during the process under which the Respondent may contest ORI findings of research misconduct and proposed government administrative actions. This includes providing, as necessary, the development of a complete record of relevant evidence, access to all witnesses within Rice’s authority, research records, and other evidence under Rice’s control or custody, or in the possession of, or accessible to, all persons that are subject to Rice’s authority.

      Rice will report to ORI or the appropriate sponsor any proposed settlements, admissions of research misconduct, or institutional findings of misconduct that arise at any stage of a misconduct proceeding, including the allegations and Inquiry stages.

IV. Cross Reference to Related Policies

A. Policy 201 Faculty Appointments, Promotions and Tenure
B. Policy 201A Faculty Senate Procedures for Investigating Accusations Warranting Severe Sanctions, including dismissal, Against Faculty Members
C. Policy 216 Conflicts of Interest in Research and Scholarship
D. Policy 217 Conflicts of Commitment and Outside Activities for Faculty
E. Policy 218 Disclosure and Management of Outside Activities and Outside Interests
F. Policy 308 Research Data Management
G. Policy 314 Care and Humane Treatment of Animals Used in Research, Testing, Education and Training
H. Policy 326 Human Research Protection Policy
I. Policy 333 Patent and Software Policies
J. Policy 334 Copyright Policy
K. Policy 813 Whistleblower Protection and Non Retaliation Policy

V. Responsible Official and Key Offices

Responsible Official: Executive Vice President for Research
Other Key Offices: Office of General Counsel


David W. Leebron, President

Policy History


April 4, 2022
May 20, 2012
August 2, 2011
April 27, 2000
October 15, 1999
February 23, 1990
March 17, 1989

Clerical Changes

January 18, 2023

January 31, 2023

April 11, 2023

August 15, 2023

March 4, 2024