U.S. Geological Survey Manual
500.25- Scientific Integrity
OPR: Office of Human Resources
Instruction: New SM chapter issued to establish the USGS policy for Scientific Integrity.
1. Purpose. This chapter establishes USGS policy for ensuring scientific integrity in the conduct of scientific activities and procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating allegations of scientific misconduct by USGS employees and volunteers. Volunteers include all scientists working under Scientist Emeritus agreements.
2. Scope. This chapter applies to all USGS employees and volunteers.
3. Authority. Authority for this policy is the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President. References include:
A. Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, 65 Federal Register (FR) 76260-76264, December 6, 2000, (http://www.ostp.gov/cs/federal_policy_on_research_misconduct).
B. Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) 2635, (http://www.usoge.gov/pages/laws_regs_fedreg_stats/oge_regs/5cfr2635.html).
C. Department of Interior (DOI) Manual chapter on Discipline and Adverse Actions, 370 DM 752, (http://elips.doi.gov/app_DM/act_getfiles.cfm?relnum=3705).
A. General. The USGS is dedicated to preserving the integrity of scientific activities conducted by its employees and volunteers. The USGS will ensure that all employees and volunteers understand their obligation to abide by this policy, including the USGS Code of Scientific Conduct (section 7), and the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct. The USGS will take appropriate action to protect the public from the effects of inaccurate or misleading information produced through scientific activities, and for violations of this Survey Manual chapter or the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct.
B. Privacy and Confidentiality. The investigation of an allegation of scientific misconduct will be handled in a manner that protects, as much as possible, the rights, privacy, and professional credentials of any USGS employee or volunteer who makes an allegation of scientific misconduct or who is the subject of such allegation. Investigations will be conducted in a fair and timely manner and in accordance with the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct. The Federal Policy on Research Misconduct states that to the extent possible, consistent with a fair and thorough investigation and as allowed by law, knowledge about identity of subjects and informants is limited to those who need to know. Records maintained by the agency during the course of responding to an allegation of research misconduct are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to the extent permitted by law and regulation.
C. Protection from reprisal for reporting scientific misconduct. The USGS is committed to ensuring that employees and volunteers who have a reasonable belief that a violation of the USGS Code of Scientific Conduct and/or the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct has occurred and who report such violation in accordance with this Survey Manual chapter will not be subject to reprisal.
D. Potential disciplinary action against USGS employees. If scientific misconduct is found to have been committed by a USGS employee, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against the employee, up to and including removal of the employee from the Federal service. Disciplinary actions against USGS employees will be in accordance with Departmental Manual chapter 370 DM 752.
E. Potential administrative action against USGS volunteers. If scientific misconduct is found to have been committed by a USGS volunteer, appropriate action will be taken against the volunteer, up to and including termination of the volunteer agreement.
Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them. (Federal Policy on Research Misconduct)
Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. (Federal Policy on Research Misconduct)
Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. (Federal Policy on Research Misconduct)
Research record. The record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from scientific inquiry, and includes, but is not limited to, research proposals, laboratory records, both physical and electronic, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, and journal articles. (Federal Policy on Research Misconduct)
Scientific activities. Activities involving
inventorying, monitoring, experimentation, study, research, modeling, and
scientific assessment. Scientific activities are conducted in a manner
specified by standard protocols and procedures and include any of the physical,
biological, or social sciences as well as engineering and mathematics that
employ the scientific method. Inspections for regulatory compliance
and resulting records are not included because they are
covered by separate requirements.
Scientific assessment. Evaluation of a body of scientific or technical knowledge which typically synthesizes multiple factual inputs, data, models, assumptions, and/or implies best professional judgment to bridge uncertainties in the available information.
Scientific method. A method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.
Scientific misconduct. Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing scientific activities and their products.
Scientific product. The results of scientific activities including the synthesis, compilation, or translation of scientific information into formats used in the Department’s decision making process.
A. All USGS employees and volunteers must comply with this chapter and the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct.
B. Each Cost Center Chief must ensure that all:
(1) USGS employees and volunteers are provided copies of USGS and Federal policies concerning scientific misconduct; and
(2) Employees and volunteers who are covered by these policies comply with USGS and Federal requirements to maintain scientific integrity and do not engage in fabrication, falsification, plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing scientific activities and their products.
C. Any person with knowledge that an act of scientific misconduct may be planned, is imminent, or has occurred must report it to their supervisor or other appropriate manager or office, such as the Cost Center Chief, servicing human resources office, the USGS Ethics Office, or the DOI Office of Inspector General. In accordance with paragraph 8A(1) of this Chapter, allegations of scientific misconduct against USGS employees and volunteers must be submitted in writing to the servicing human resources office within 60 days of discovering the alleged misconduct.
7. USGS Code of Scientific Conduct
The USGS employees and volunteers who engage in scientific activities will abide by the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, 65 Federal Register (FR) 76260-76264, December 6, 2000, (http://www.ostp.gov/cs/federal_policy_on_research_misconduct) and the following Code of Scientific Conduct:
A. I will act in the interest of the advancement of science and contribute the best, highest quality scientific information for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior.
B. I will conduct, process data from, and communicate the results of scientific activities honestly, objectively, thoroughly, and expeditiously.
C. I will be responsible for the resources entrusted to me, including equipment, funds, my time, and my employees’ time. I will promptly and accurately collect, use, and report all financial resources under my control; and promptly, thoroughly, and accurately report all scientific work.
D. I will fully disclose all research methods used, available data, final reports, and publications consistent with applicable laws and policy.
E. I will respect, to the fullest extent permitted by law, confidential and proprietary information provided by communities, Indian tribes, and individuals whose interests and resources are studied or affected by scientific activities or the resulting information.
F. I will maintain scientific integrity and will not engage in fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing scientific activities and their products.
G. I will welcome constructive criticism of my scientific activities, will welcome and participate in appropriate peer reviews, and will critique others’ work respectfully and objectively. I will substantiate comments that I make with the same care with which I report my own work.
H. I will be diligent in creating, using, preserving, documenting, and maintaining collections and data.
I. I will adhere to established quality assurance and quality control programs.
J. I will follow the Department’s records retention policies and comply with Federal law and agreements related to use, security, and release of confidential and proprietary data.
K. I will adhere to appropriate standards for reporting the results of scientific activities and will respect the intellectual property rights of others.
L. I will, to the extent possible and practical, differentiate among facts, opinions, hypotheses, and professional judgment in reporting the results of scientific activities to others, including scientists, decision makers, and the public.
M. I will be responsible for the quality of any data I collect or any interpretations I make, and for the integrity of conclusions I draw in the course of my scientific activities.
N. I will place quality and objectivity of scientific activities and reporting of their results ahead of personal gain or allegiance to individuals or organizations.
8. Procedures. A flow chart of the process to be followed in cases of alleged scientific misconduct is contained in Figure 1, Flow Chart of Actions to be Taken in Cases of Alleged Scientific Misconduct.
A. Allegations of scientific misconduct.
(1) Allegations of scientific misconduct against USGS employees and volunteers must be submitted in writing to the servicing human resources office within 60 days of discovering the alleged misconduct. In cases of fraud, waste, and abuse that are referred to the DOI Office of the Inspector General, the ability to report misconduct is not time limited. Allegations shall contain the following information:
(a) The name, office location, and signature of the person or persons reporting the alleged scientific misconduct.
(b) The name and office location of the person or persons alleged to have committed the alleged scientific misconduct.
(c) A description of the allegation, with as much detail as possible about the nature of the scientific conduct and the circumstances.
(d) Date(s) the alleged scientific misconduct occurred or continues to occur.
(e) Documents and/or other relevant items (such as data, materials, etc.) pertaining to the alleged scientific misconduct.
B. Inquiry of allegation of scientific misconduct.
(1) Upon receipt of an allegation of scientific misconduct, the servicing human resources office will contact the immediate supervisor of the subject of the inquiry (henceforth referred to as the subject) to inform them that an allegation of scientific misconduct has been filed.
(2) The servicing human resources office will provide assistance to the supervisor in conducting an inquiry to determine if the allegation is covered under the provisions of this chapter and will provide consistency, oversight, and guidance throughout the entire process. The supervisor will ensure that all original research records and materials relevant to the allegation are immediately secured. Once the evidence is secure, the subject will be notified in writing (Appendix A, Notification of Preliminary Investigation) that an allegation of scientific misconduct has been filed against them. A supervisor should never act alone in determining the merit of an allegation, but must work with the servicing human resources office.
(3) If after review of the information gathered during the inquiry the supervisor determines that an investigation by the Scientific Misconduct Review Panel (SMRP) (Appendix B, Scientific Misconduct Review Panel) is not required, no further action will be taken against the subject. The supervisor will issue a memorandum to the subject explaining that no further action will be taken concerning this incident, and that the case will be closed (Appendix C, Sample Closure Memorandum). If the subject is a USGS employee, he/she may provide a copy of this memorandum to his/her servicing human resources office for placement on the left hand side (temporary side) of the Official Personnel Folder, where it will be retained for one year, in accordance with the USGS General Records Disposition Schedule 432-1-SI.
(4) If it is determined that an investigation is required, the supervisor will refer the matter to the Chairperson of the SMRP and will inform the subject that the allegation of scientific misconduct will be investigated by the SMRP. At this time, the appropriate Cost Center Chief will be verbally informed of the investigation.
(5) Allegations of scientific misconduct that involve alleged fraud, waste and abuse, or criminal law violations will be referred to the DOI Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
(6) Allegations of administrative, non-scientific misconduct against a USGS employee or volunteer will be handled through normal administrative processes, in accordance with DOI/USGS regulations and union contracts.
C. Investigation by Scientific Misconduct Review Panel (SMRP)
(1) The SMRP shall consist of a Chairperson, four additional scientists, and an alternate scientist. The alternate will serve on the panel when it is necessary for one of the panel members to recuse themselves because of a conflict of interest or if a panel member is prevented from participation for some other reason. The Director of the USGS, in consultation with the Discipline Chief Scientists, shall appoint the panel members. Panel members will serve a 4-year term and may serve for no more than two consecutive terms. To ensure panel continuity, half of the originally selected panel members will serve for 2-year terms and half of the originally selected panel members will serve for 4-year terms. Ad hoc panel members may serve as panel members in order to provide necessary technical assistance. They may be chosen from a specific discipline or a specific area of expertise that is not represented on the permanent panel. The Chairperson, with the concurrence of the Director, will select these panel members as needed. The Director may replace any panel member at any time.
(2) The subject of the investigation will be notified by the Chairperson of the Panel that the SMRP will be convened to conduct an investigation of the allegation of scientific misconduct. The subject will be advised of the investigation and his/her rights and responsibilities during this process. Subjects will be asked to sign the Employee/Volunteer Information and Acknowledgement Form (Employee form at Appendix D, Volunteer form at Appendix E) acknowledging he/she has been notified of the investigation, his/her rights and responsibilities in complying with the investigation, the consequences of not fully complying to the best of his/her abilities, and the opportunity to respond to the allegation and present testimony and evidence to the panel orally and/or in writing. The Chairperson of the Panel shall retain the original of the form and provide a copy of the signed document to the subject of the allegation.
(3) The Panel will conduct an investigation utilizing one or both of the following methods: (a) securing and reviewing documentary evidence, including all original experimental records, protocols, and data; (b) interviewing relevant persons, whether in person or by telephone, and, as necessary, securing written statements from the interested parties. The Panel will provide the subject of the investigation with the opportunity to respond to the allegation and present evidence and testimony to the SMRP.
(4) Three criteria are necessary to establish research misconduct (Federal Policy on Research Misconduct): (1) There is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; (2) the misconduct is committed intentionally or knowingly or recklessly; and (3) the allegation is proven by a preponderance of evidence. The Panel will arrive at a consensus decision, if possible. Consensus decision means that all panel members, including the Chairperson, agree with a decision. This is distinct from a majority-rule decision. In the consensus-based process, panel members work together to develop a finding with which all of the members of the panel can agree. The Chairperson will determine if consensus has been reached by asking all panel members if they agree with the finding. If consensus is reached, then the Panel shall write a report of their findings that contains a summary of the findings, the basis for determining whether or not scientific misconduct occurred, and an assessment of the seriousness and extent of any misconduct found that is in violation of the USGS Code of Scientific Conduct.
(5) The Panel will take the time necessary to address all of the relevant issues associated with the allegation in order to reach a consensus finding. If, after all efforts are exhausted, the Panel is still unable to reach consensus about whether or not misconduct has occurred, then a majority decision will be made. Panel members will write majority and minority reports to send to the subject’s immediate supervisor and the servicing personnel office.
(6) Within 30 calendar days of the completion of the report, the Chairperson of the Panel shall forward the report to the servicing human resources office and the subject’s immediate supervisor for appropriate action.
D. Administrative Action. After receiving the report, the servicing human resources office and the immediate supervisor will determine possible corrective action and, if necessary, appropriate disciplinary action/adverse action for the subject in accordance with DOI/USGS policies and /or union contracts, as applicable. Within 30 days of receipt of the report, the servicing human resources office specialist and the immediate supervisor will meet with the subject to discuss any pending disciplinary/adverse action. If disciplinary/adverse action is proposed, the subject will be provided with a written notice containing the following information: the specific nature of the offense, the type of disciplinary/adverse action being proposed, a right to answer (orally, in writing, or both), the material relied upon regarding the action, and the right to representation. Once a decision is made, a written decision and appropriate appeal rights will be provided to the subject.
If, based on the report issued by the SMRP, no administrative action will be initiated, the subject’s supervisor will notify the subject and Cost Center Chief in writing of the finding. A copy of this memo will be included in the record.
E. Appeal Rights for USGS Employees. For disciplinary actions up to and including a 14-day suspension, subjects have the right to appeal through the Administrative Grievance procedure or a Negotiated Grievance Procedure (NGP) if the subject is covered by a collective bargaining agreement. For suspensions of more than 14-days or removal from the Federal service, subjects have the right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board or through an applicable NGP.
F. Reconsideration Rights for Volunteers. Volunteers have the right to appeal findings of scientific misconduct and associated actions to the Director of the USGS.
G. Notification of person filing the allegation: At the conclusion of the process, the person who filed the allegation will be notified by the servicing human resources office that management has taken appropriate action and that the matter has been resolved.
H. Records. Servicing human resources offices will submit a report each calendar year to the Bureau Human Resources Officer. The report will list (1) the number of allegations of scientific misconduct filed against employees and against volunteers, (2) whether or not scientific misconduct was found and (3) the disciplinary or other action taken, if any. These reports will be retained in accordance with Section 407 of the U.S. Geological Survey General Records Disposition Schedule 432-1-S1 and the Privacy Act.
Data that serve to document any allegation or finding of scientific misconduct will be retained by the servicing human resource offices in accordance with Section 407 of the U.S. Geological Survey General Records Disposition Schedule 432-1-S1 and the Privacy Act.
Mark D. Myers Date
Director, U.S. Geological Survey
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