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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Misconduct code OK’d

    The third time was the charm yesterday as the Faculty Senate passed a revised code for investigating misconduct in research at its meeting, ending a two-month period of back-and-forth arguments largely focused on the question of anonymous complaints against faculty members.

    The revised policy and procedures document changes the way the UA investigates allegations of fraud in research activities by allowing the university to start investigations of faculty members based on information from people who do not identify themselves.

    Michael Cusanovich, a biochemistry and molecular biophysics professor who wrote the new code, said he based his revision of the four-year-old document on what he sees as a shift in federal requirements for this type of investigation.

    Yesterday was the third time he had brought his revisions before the body this semester.

    Marlys Witte, a professor of surgery, had said at previous meetings she was concerned about unfounded anonymous allegations against individuals that could be damaging to reputations, even if an investigation turns up nothing. She had also said she thought the university could be fairer to everyone involved in an investigation if it set a higher threshold for official complaints.

    “”All the conversation we had here with regards to confidentiality and anonymity has been disregarded,”” Witte said.

    Only two cases in the last 15 years had made it beyond preliminary hearings under the previous policy, Cusanovich said, but he did not expect the revised version to create an increase of those cases.

    Instead, Cusanovich said he added the section about anonymous complaints to be more in line with the policy of the Office of Research Integrity, which investigates all allegations against faculty members whether they are anonymous or not.

    Roy Spece, a professor in the James E. Rogers College of Law, had said at the last senate meeting that he disagreed with Cusanovich’s decision to follow the federal agency’s lead, since its own written regulations do not specifically say universities need to listen to anonymous complaints against faculty.

    John Ulreich, a professor of English, said he was worried about the prospect of the UA facing sanctions for possibly refusing to investigate legitimate cases of misconduct.

    “”If we don’t do this, the federal investigators will,”” Ulreich said.

    In addition, Cusanovich added five criteria for judging anonymous complaints, saying the policy requires specificity and credibility in anonymous reports to preserve a fair process.

    Besides Witte, another member of the Faculty Senate who voted against the revisions was Sylvan Green, a professor of public health who said he wanted more concrete language about protecting human participants in research projects in case of an investigation.

    Cusanovich did add a sentence about protecting these peoples’ privacy, but Green said he wanted the official policy to order the UA’s research integrity officer to “”strip”” records of human subjects before those documents reached the investigating committee “”unless there was compelling reason to submit that to the committee.””

    Roxanne Mountford, an associate professor of English, said those records are supposed to be kept secret and completely separate during research projects anyway, and so are in effect stripped before an investigation begins.

    Green stressed he is much more satisfied with this latest revision of the policy than he was with the one submitted at last month’s meeting, saying his goal was to make absolutely sure human subjects’ privacy would be protected.

    “”I’m just being fastidious,”” Green said.

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