NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICE O F INVESTIGATIONS CLOSEOUT MEMORANDUM 11 Case Number: A04050027 11 Page 1of 1 I n connection with another case in our office'l we discovered copying in one of this subject's2 proposals.3 During our inquiry, we found copying in two additional proposals on which the subject was PI.4 We referred the investigation to the university that submitted the three proposals. The university concluded the subject was responsible for the copied text in the three proposals. We agreed with the university and recommended NSF make a finding of research misconduct against the subject for plagiarism. NSF agreed and took the additional recommended action of requiring the subject to certify for 3 years t h a t any proposals submitted by the subject contain no plagiarized material. Accordingly, this case is closed. This memorandum, the Deputy Director's adjudication, and our Report of Investigation constitute the closeout for this case. 1 (redacted). 2 (redacted). 3 (redacted). 4 (redacted). NSF OIG Form 2 (11102) NATIONALSCIENCE FOUNDATION 4201 Wl LSON BOULEVARD ARI-INGTON, VIRGINIA 22230 OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR CERTIFIED MAIL --RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED Re: Notice of Misconduct in Science Determination Dear Dr. In 2002-03, you submitted three proposals to the National Science Foundation ('WSF"). These.proposals were entitled, . . . E - . - -- As documentedin the attached investigative Report prepared by NSF's Office of inspector General ("OIG"), these proposals contained plagiarized text. Scientific Misconduct and Proposed Sanctions Under NSF's regulations, "research misconduct" is defined as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or performing research funded by NSF ..." 45 CFR 8 689.1(a). NSF defines "plagiarism" as "the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit." 45 CFR 8 &89.1(a)(3). A finding of research misconduct requires that: (1) There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (2) The research misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and (3) The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence. 45 CFR 5 689.2(c): Your proposals contain verbatim and paraphrased text from several source documents, including numerous journal articles. By submitting a proposal to NSF that copies the ideas or words of another without adequate attribution, as described in the OIG Investigative Report, you Page 2 misrepresented someone else's work as your own. In addition, you failed to properly acknowledge or credit the authors of the source documents in your proposals. Your conduct unquestionably constitutes plagiarism. I therefore conclude that your actions meet the definition of "research misconduct" set forth in NSF's regulations. Pursuant to NSF regulations, the Foundation must also determine whether to make a finding of misconduct based on a preponderance of the evidence. 45 CFR $689,2(c). Afier reviewing the Investigative Report and the University Committee Report, NSF has determined that, based on a preponderance of the evidence, your plagiarism was committed recklessly and constituted a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community. I am, therefore, issuing a finding of research misconduct against you. NSF's regulations establish three categories of actions (Group I, 11, and III) that can be taken in response-to a finding of misconduct. 45 CFR $689.3(a). Group I actions include issuing a letter of reprimand; conditioning awards on prior approval of particular activities from NSF; requiring that an institution or individual obtain special prior approval of particular activities from NSF; and requiring that an institutional representative certify as to the accuracy of reports or certifications of compliance with particular requirements. 45 CFR §689.3(a)(I). Group I1 actions include award suspension or restrictions on designated activities or expenditures; requiring special reviews of requests for funding; and requiring correction to the research record. 45 CFR $689.3(a)(2). Group IJJ actions include suspension or termination of awards; prohibitions on participation as NSF reviewers, advisors or consultants; and debarment or suspension from participation in NSF programs. 45 CFR $689.3(a)(3). In determining the severity of the sanction to impose for research misconduct, I have considered the seriousness of the misconduct, our determination that it was reckless, as well as our determination that it was a part of a pattern of plagiarism. I have also considered the fact that your misconduct did not have a significant impact on the research record, your willingness to accept responsibility for your actions, and the contrition that you demonstrated during the course of the investigative process. I have also considered other relevant circumstances. 45 CFR fj 689.3 (b). Ln light of the foregoing, I am requiring that, from the date of this letter until January 1, 201 0, you certify that any proposal you submit as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator does not contain plagiarized material. Such certifications should be submitted in writing to the Office of Inspector General, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. Procedures govern in^ Appeals Under NSF's regulations, you have 30 days after receipt of this letter to submit an appeal of this decision, in writing, to the Director of the Foundation. 45 CFR $689.10(a). Any appeal should be addressed to the Director at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. If we do not receive your appeal within the 30-day period, this decision will become final. For your information we are attaching a copy of the applicable Page 3 regulations. If you have any questions about the foregoing, please call , Assistant General Counsel, at (703) 292-8060. Sincerely, Kathie L. Olsen Deputy Director Enclosures - Investigative Report - 4.5 C.F.R. Part 689 National Science Office of Inspector General Confidential Investigation Report Case Number A04050027 12 September 2006 CONFIDENTIAL NSF OIG FORM228 (1103) The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded three proposals submitted to NSF by the PI contain over 160 lines of text plagiarized from multiple sources. The PI took responsibility for the copied text in two of the three proposals, but he claimed his co-PI on one proposal was responsible for that copied text. The co-PI denied culpability and said the PI was responsible for the copied text. We referred the allegation to the University. The University concluded the P I committed plagiarism in the disputed proposal. Based on the evidence, we recommend NSF make a finding of Research Misconduct and take the following actions: send a letter of reprimand and, for a period of 3 years from final resolution of this case, require the Subject to certify in writing that any documents submitted to NSF are free of any misconduct. OIG Inauiry I n the course of examining proposals for a previous case,l we discovered copying in one of this Subject's proposals (proposal A).2 The Subject, the P I of proposal A, was to collaborate with the subject of the previous case. We opened this case to determine who was responsible for the copied text. We ran three of the Subject's proposals (proposals A-C)3 through our plagiarism software and found numerous instances of text apparently copied from multiple sources.4 Proposal A has approximately 31 lines of text copied from 11 sources; proposal B has approximately 77 lines of text copied from 19 sources; and proposal C h a s approximately 56 lines of text copied from 23 sources.5 We contacted the Subject for a n explanation. He requested a meeting with us to discuss the matter. During the meeting, the Subject took responsibility for the text in proposals A and C. He distanced himself from proposal B, saying he had little to do with it. He claimed the co-PIG was responsible for everything in t h a t proposal except for the last page. For the bulk of the two proposals for which he 1 (redacted). 2 (redacted). 3 (redacted). 4 Proposal B was submitted prior to 17 Apr 02. I n cases such as this, in which some of the alleged misconduct occurred before 17 Apr 2002, NSF applies its current regulation in whole, except that instead of using its current definition of "Research Misconduct," i t uses the definition of "Misconduct in Science" in effect a t the time of the alleged act. The relevant part of that definition is "Fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, carrying out, or reporting results from activities funded by NSF." We determined the allegation falls under the previous definition. Accordingly, we applied the old definition and proceeded under the current regulation. As to Proposals A and C, we applied the current regulation in toto as they were submitted after 17 April 2002. 5 Appendices A, B, and C contain the proposals, with their respective source documents. The copied text is highlighted and cross-referenced. 6 (redacted). accepted responsibility, the Subject characterized the copied text as mistakes, if even that. He viewed many of the allegedly plagiarized passages a s overviews of the literature. H e noted many of the selections were only partial sentences or phrases and said use of the term "according to,'' with a n associated reference, was a sufficient citation in lieu of quotation marks if using verbatim text. There were several sentences where he acknowledged the text was copied verbatim and there was not a citation or a n "according to" phrase, but he maintained he did not copy those phrases, although he could not explain from where he got that text if not copied from the source. During our interview with the Subject, he expressed little understanding of the rules of scholarly citation. The Subject's signed statement is Appendix (D). Because the Subject accepted responsibility for two proposals (A and C), and said the third (B) was the responsibility of the co-PI, we decided to treat his co-PI a s a n additional subject in the matter (Subject2). We wrote Subject2 requesting a n explanation for the copied text in Proposal B. Subject2 said he did not write the proposal; the Subject was responsible for it. He said he had not even seen some of the material until we asked for his comments on it. SubjectZ7sresponse is Appendix (E)- Because the inquiry did not dispel the allegation, we referred the allegation to the University from which this proposal was submitted.7 Our referral letter is Appendix (F). T h e University's Actions The University's Research Integrity Officer8 convened a Committee to investigate the allegation. The Committee's report is Attachment (G).9 The Committee interviewed both Subjects and all the collaborators associated with proposal B. I t asked the University's Computer Forensic Specialist for analysis of the electronic documents recovered from both subjects7computers. It examined several of Subject2's papers for plagiarism. It also examined proposals A and C on which Subject2 was not involved for evidence of a pattern. The Committee concluded a preponderance of evidence supported the allegation that the Subject was responsible for the questioned text in proposal B. While Subject2 did most of the preparation of proposal B, he used material provided to him by the Subject. The electronic evidence collected by the Committee supports the conclusion the Subject created and emailed Subject2 the original documents that contained the plagiarized material. It found no instances of copying in SubjectZ7spapers and noted the similarities of style and content of the copied material i n proposal B to the copied material in proposals A and C, which the The Subject transferred from (redacted) to (redacted) before our Inquiry began. We referred the allegation to (redacted). 8 (redacted), Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. 9 The Committee's full report with attachments is on the enclosed cd. The cd also contains the University's response to several follow-up questions. Subject admitted he prepared. The Committee concluded the Subject's plagiarism i n proposal B significantly departed from the community standards and was committed recklessly. It thought Subject2 was careless a n d credulous in not checking his colleague's contributions to proposal B. The University's adjudicatorlo endorsed the Committee's report. He will send Subject2 a letter of reprimand because, a s co-PI, he was also responsible for ensuring the integrity of proposal B.11 He said the University "will develop and implement a policy that requires faculty and students to receive instructions and/or tutorials on academic misconduct."l2 The Subject did not comment on the University's report. OIG's Assessment We accept the University's report a s accurate and complete, and we conclude the University followed reasonable procedures in its investigation.13 We were impressed with the Committee's thoroughness in gathering and assessing the available evidence and recognize the difficulty in obtaining the electronic records, a s they were several years old. NSF's Research Misconduct Regulation states that a finding of misconduct requires: (I) There be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (2) The research misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and (3) the allegation be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.14 Through the Subject's admissions and the University's investigation, we determined the Subject copied verbatim numerous phrases and occasional complete sentences, totaling 164 lines from 53 sources into 3 proposals, all without quotation marks. Many (23) of the sources were cited, but the citations were not always near the copied text, so the reader would not recognize the text was taken from the source and not the Subject's original words. The University "conclud.[ed.] that the plagiarism was a reckless act by [the Subjectl"l5 and he "appears to exhibit a lack of understanding of the rules 10 (redacted), President. 11 As noted i n fn. 5, the Subject had left the University, so the adjudicator could take no action against him. l2 The president's cover letter to the report, Appendix (G). 13 We note the Committee concluded Subject2 was careless i n his review of proposal B and the adjudicator wrote he would reprimand him. We do not find Subject2's actions rise to the level of research misconduct and make no recommendations regarding him. 14 45 CFR 5 689.2(c). 15 Appendix (G), Committee Report, p. 1. concerning plagiarism."l6 We concur. As noted earlier, in his interview with OIG, even when the Subject agreed text was copied verbatim without a reference or quotation marks, he characterized it as only overview material. During the Committee's interview with the Subject, he stated, They [OIG] said you should have put quotations in this part that contain references. . . . They [OIG] said when you quoted statements you have [to] put quotations marks is what they said. This was something I did not think necessary, but this is what they thought, but in no way did I try to make anybody think this was my work in the introductory or main part of the proposal. I put the work and then the reference, and I thought that would be enough. It was just a matter of opinion to me, but they [OIG] did not consider that way.17 The Committee concluded, "[ilt is apparent from this response that [the Subject] demonstrated a lack of understanding of the rules about plagiarism during his interview."l8 While we agree the Subject appeared to lack an understanding of citation practices, we conclude he should have been aware of them. He's earned two Master degrees and a Ph.D.,lg he has published papers in peer-reviewed journals, he has been awarded research grants, he has directed graduate student theses, and he is a member of professional societies. Given these interactions with his community, we conclude the Subject should have known the verbatim use of text required proper attribution. We conclude a preponderance of the evidence shows the Subject acted recklessly when he copied text from multiple sources into three proposals, mostly without citation, always without indicating the text were not his original words. Hence, we conclude the Subject's action is plagiarism and is research misconduct. OIG's Recommended Disposition In deciding what actions are appropriate when making a finding of research misconduct, NSF must consider several' factors. These factors include how serious the misconduct was; whether it was an isolated event or part of a pattern; its impact on the research record; and other relevant circumstances. Seriousness The Subject copied 164 lines of text from 53 sources into 3 proposals, which is a substantial amount. The seriousness of the Subject's copying is mildly mitigated because he cited many of the sources in his proposal, albeit not near the copied text; for many sources he did not copy complete sentences; and his copying was assessed 16 Ibid.,p. 2. 17 Ibid.,p. 7. 18 Id. 19 One Master degree is in (redacted), one is in (redacted), and his Ph.D is in (redacted). These three degrees were all earned a t (redacted). a s reckless, rather than knowing. The Subject's plagiarism i n three proposals demonstrates evidence of a pattern of plagiarism. Aggravating Factor As noted earlier, the Subject accepted responsibility for the copied text i n two proposals, but disputed copying the text i n the third proposal. Despite his denial of responsibility for the copied text i n proposal B, the University's investigation showed by a preponderance of evidence the Subject was responsible for that text a s well. Therefore, the Subject's action of denying his responsibility for authorship of Proposal B is a n aggravating factor which raises the seriousness of this case. Because of the Subject's denial, both OIG and the University went through unnecessary efforts and delays in resolving this matter. I t was particularly onerous for the University because of the significant difficulty in recovering the electronic files from the Subject's computer, and the intensive review of Subject2's publications to refute the Subject's false statements. Subiect's R e s p o n s e t o d r a f t R O I The Subject responded to our draft Report of Investigation-20 He wrote t h a t until our Inquiry, he was not aware the scholarly standards for a proposal were the same a s for a published paper. He nonetheless recognized his ignorance was not a valid defense and he regrets any misconduct. He reiterated his acceptance of responsibility for proposals A and C, but did not think he was responsible for B because it was his first proposal submission and, although he was the PI, he was the junior faculty and his co-PI was a senior Professor. He thought our recommendations were overly harsh and would have a too negative effect on his career. He informed us he has taken two proposal writing courses in which ethics were discussed, and attended a presentation by a n NSF Program Director a t a national conference in his research area. O I G Assessment While we recognize the factors the Subject lists surrounding the preparation of proposal B, we do not think those factors explain the appearance of plagiarized text in the proposals. Conversely, we acknowledge the Subject's initiative in taking classes to educate himself about the standards of proposal preparation without waiting for resolution of this case.21 By taking these seminars, the Subject demonstrated he wanted to improve his understanding of the standards of scholarship required by NSF and other funding agencies. Accordingly, we modified our recommendations. Recommendations We recommend NSF take the following actions: 20 Appendix (H). 21 Appendix (I) is (redacted) summaries of lectures, workshops, and seminars he attended on ethics and writing. I t includes proof of attendance. Send a letter of reprimand;22 For a period of 3 years from the final resolution of this case, require the Subject to certify in writing that the grant application is free of any misconduct .23 22 A letter of reprimand is a Group I action-45 CFR § 689,3(a)(l)(i). 23 Assurance of compliance is similar to a Group I action-45 CFR 5 689.3(a)(l).
Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2007-04-03.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)