NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS CLOSEOUT MEMORANDUM Case Number: A05070051 Page 1of 1 During our proactive review for plagiarism, we discovered copying in a proposal submitted to NSF by a PI and two co-PIs.1 We referred the allegation to the subjects' University. The University concluded one of the co-PIS was responsible for the copied text in the proposal. 2 The co-PI resigned from the University. We agreed with the University's conclusions and recommended NSF make a finding of research misconduct against the co-PI for plagiarism. NSF agreed and took the additional recommended action of requiring the subject to certify for 1year t h a t any proposals submitted by the subject contain no plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated 1 material. Accordingly, this case is closed. This memorandum, the Deputy Director's adjudication, and our Report of Investigation constitute the closeout for this case. (redacted). 2 (redacted). VSF OIG Form 2 (11/02) NATIONALSCIENCE FOUNDATION 4201 .WILSON BOULEVARD ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230 OFFICE OF THE DEPUW DIRECTOR CERTIFIED MAIL --RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED Re: Notice of Research Misconduct Determination Dear Dr. In 2004, you submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation ("1VSF") entitled, As documented in the attached Investigative Report prepared by NSF's Office of Inspector General ("OIG"), this proposal contained plagiarized text. Research 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 . . ." 4.5 CFR 9 689.1(a). NSF defines "plagiarism" as "the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit." 45 CFR § 689,l(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 researchmisconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and (3) The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence. 45 CFR § 689.2(c). Your proposal contains verbatim and paraphrased text from two source documents. 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 misrepresented someone else's work as your own. In addition, you failed to properly acknowledge or credit the authors of the '1 I Page 2 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 o f the evidence. 45 CFR $ 689.2(c). After reviewing the Investigative Report and the University Committee Report, NSF has determined that, based on a preponderance of the evidence, your plagiarism was committed knowingly and constituted a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community. 1 am, therefore, issuing a finding of research misconduct against you. NSF's regulations establish three categories of actions (Group I, 11,and ID)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)(l). 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 111actions 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 5 689.3(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 committed knowingly, as well as our determination that it was an isolated incident. 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 5 689.3 (b). In light of the foregoing, I am requiring that, from June 1,2007 through May 31,2008, you certify that any proposal you submit to NSF as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator does not contain any plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material. Such certifications should be submitted in writing to the Office of Inspector General, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. Procedures Governing 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 $689.1O(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 at (703) 292-8060. . , Sincerely, Kathie L. Olsen Deputy Director Enclosures - Investigative Report - 45 C.F.R. Part 689 National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General Confidential Report of Investigation Case Number A05070051 3 November 2006 CONFIDENTIAL NSF OIG FORM228 (1103) Executive Surnmarv Allegation: Plagiarism; a n NSF proposal contains text copied from a published paper. OIG Inquiry: A proposal submitted to NSF by a PI and two co-PIS contains text and references copied from two sources. University Investigation and Action: The University concluded a preponderance of evidence proved one of the co-PIS knowingly plagiarized. Co-PI admits copying. The co-PI tendered her resignation, effective June 2007. For the duration of her time a t the university, the co-PI is prohibited from submitting proposals for external funding. OIG Assessment: We concur with the University. The Act: The subject copied verbatim text, totaling 69 lines and 15 references from 2 sources, without quotation marks or appropriate citation into her proposal. The subject admitted to using the source documents and submitting the copied text to her colleagues a s her contribution to the proposal. Intent: The subject admitted to copying. OIG concurs with the University that the subject knowingly copied. Standard of Proof: The University and OIG used a preponderance of the evidence to reach its conclusions. Significant Departure: The subject's copying represents a significant departure from community standards. Pattern: None. OIG Recommends: Make a finding of research misconduct Send a letter of reprimand Require 1 year certification, beginning June 2007. OIG Inquiry In assessing a n allegation of plagiarism, the subject proposal1 was r u n through plagiarism software, which helped us identify approximately 69 lines of verbatim text and 15 references copied from 2 sources. The proposal had a PI (SubjectA) and two co-PIS (SubjectB and SubjectC). We opened this case to investigate the possibility the subjects plagiarized. We contacted each subject for a n explanation.2 SubjectA and SubjectC jointly responded that SubjectB was responsible for the copied text.3 I n her response,4 SubjectB took responsibility for the existence of the copied text in the proposal, but offered several explanations. SubjectB stated she used the copied text to "jump- start discussions with F e r ] co-PIS," but she never intended "the text from this initial document be used i n the final proposal."s She also claimed t h a t some of the material was assembled by a student, but she did not provide any proof to support this claim. SubjectB's explanations did not refute the allegation; therefore, we referred the allegation to the University for investigation.6 The University's Actions The University7 asked its standing Committee to investigate the allegation.8 The Committee interviewed all three subjects and collected documentation of the subjects' communications during the preparation of the proposal. I t examined five of each subject's papers for evidence of a pattern of plagiarism. It also examined other proposals on which SubjectB was involved. The Committee wrote a report summarizing its investigation and findings for each subject.9 The Committee concluded a preponderance of evidence proved SubjectB alone was responsible for the copied text. By herown admission, SubjectB used material from the source documents to prepare her contribution to the proposal without proper attribution.10 The Committee also found the plagiarized text appeared i n files SubjectB emailed to her co-PIs.11 The Committee concluded her plagiarism was a significant departure from the accepted practices of the research community a s it violated the University's and NSF's policies.12 The Committee also concluded the plagiarism was committed knowingly because she reorganized the text from the 1 (redacted). The PI is (redacted) subject^), and the co-PIS are (redacted) ( ~ u b j e c t and ~) (redacted) (SubjectC), all a t (redacted). The proposal a n d its source documents are Appendix (A). 2 The letters to the three subjects were the same, a n example of which is Appendix (b). 3 Their response is Appendix (C). 4 SubjectB's response is Appendix (D). 5 Appendix (D), p. 1. 6 Our referral letter is Appendix (E). 7 (redacted). 8 The Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance worked with t h e Standing Committee on Conduct i n Science to conduct the investigation. 9 The Committee's report for SubjectB, Case 06-01, is Attachment (F) 10 Appendix (D) 11 Appendix (F), report pp. 5-6. 12 Ibid.,p. 5 . Pg. 2 source documents, she represented the material a s hers, and she read and approved the proposal before its submission.13 The Committee found no evidence to support any of SubjectB's purported explanations. Specifically, the Committee found no evidence SubjectB intended the copied text to be "motivational material" or that she never intended for the copied text to remain in the final proposal.14 The Committee reviewed other proposals and publications authored by SubjectB, but did not find any evidence of a pattern of plagiarism. 15 The Committee recommended SubjectB receive a letter of reprimand and, for a 2-year period, a n appointee of the Chancellor conduct a special review of SubjectB's proposals and reports related to proposals. The University's adjudicator (the Chancel1or)lG reviewed the Committee's report and met with SubjectB. SubjectB subsequently tendered her resignation, effective June 2007, which the Chancellor accepted. The Chancellor prohibited SubjectB from submitting any proposals for external funding during the remainder of her time a t the University.17 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. We found the Committee was thorough i n gathering and assessing the available evidence. We concur with the University's finding of plagiarism against SubjectB and its assessment of intent. We concur with the University Committee that the subject copied verbatim text, totaling 69 lines and 15 references from 2 sources, without quotation marks or appropriate citation into her proposal. The subject admitted to using the source documents and submitting the copied text to her colleagues as her contribution to the proposal. As noted above, the University determined, by a preponderance of evidence, the subject copied knowingly. As described i n the report, SubjectB sought out the source articles to use for her proposal, reorganized the text to fit the proposal sections, and passed off the writing a s her own to her colleagues. We concur with the University's assessment of the subject's intent. 13 Ibid,, pp. 5-6. 14 Ibid., pp. 6-7. 15 Ibid., p. 7. 16 (redacted). 17 The Chancellor's decision is Appendix (G). Pg. 3 In summary, we concur with the University a preponderance of the evidence shows SubjectB acted knowingly when she copied text from two sources into her proposal without indicating the text was not her original words. The University concluded her copying was not an acceptable scientific practice. We conclude her act of copying 69 lines of verbatim text also represents a significant departure from accepted practices. Our conclusion is supported by the University report and statements articulated by the Association for Computing Machinery: Respecting intellectual property rights is a foundational principle of the ACM's Codes of Ethics. Plagiarism, in which oni misrepresents ideas, words, computer codes or other creative expression as one's own, is a clear violation of such ethical principles. Plagiarism can also represent a violation of copyright law, punishable by statute. Plagiarism manifests itself in a variety of forms, including Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing portions of another author's paper; Copying elements of another author's paper, such as equations or illustrations that are not common knowledge, or copying or purposely paraphrasing sentences without citing the source; and Verbatim copying of portions of another author's paper with citing but not clearly differentiating what text has been copied (e.g., not applying quotation). l8 Since the preponderance of the evidence shows that the subject knowingly copied text, and in doing so significantly departed from accepted practices, we conclude the subject's action is plagiarism and constitutes 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. SubjectB copied 69 lines of text from 2 sources, which is a significant amount. There was no evidence of a pattern of plagiarism. The plagiarism occurred within a declined proposal, so there was no harm to the research record. As noted earlier, SubjectB accepted responsibility for the copied text, but provided explanations, which the Committee rejected. Therefore, we recommend NSF send a letter of reprimand to the subject informing her she has been found to have committed plagiarism, hence research misconduct.19 The University has barred SubjectB from submitting proposals for Statements on plagiarism of the Association for Computing Machinery (the "First Society in Computingv) http://www.acm.org/pubs/plagiarism%20policy.html. 19 This is a Group I action; 45 CFR § 689.3(a)(l)(i). Pg. 4 one year. Therefore, we recommend NSF require for 1year beginning June 2007, a certification from SubjectB that all her submissions to NSF (including those in which she is co-PI or co-author) contain nothing that violates NSFs Research Misconduct regulation.20 Subi ect's Response The subject declined to comment on our draft report of investigation. Accordingly, we are forwarding our report to NSFs Deputy Director without substantive changes. 20 This is similar to a Group I action; 45 CFR § ,689.3 (a)(l) Pg. 5
Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2007-04-23.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)