NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS CLOSEOUT MEMORANDUM Case Number: A05100072 Page 1 of 1 We received an allegation of plagiarism by the subject1in a proposal submitted to N S F . ~ We referred the investigation to the subject's university. The university investigation confirmed plagiarism in the NSF proposal; the university made a finding of research misconduct and took actions against the subject. We prepared a report of investigation recommending that NSF: make a finding of research misconduct; issue a letter of reprimand to the subject; require the subject, for a period of two years, certify that his proposals submitted to NSF do not contain plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material; and require the subject, within one year, to complete a course in research ethics. The NSF Deputy Director made a finding of research misconduct and adopted our recommendations. Accordingly, this case is closed. I Redacted. Redacted. NSF OIG Form 2 (1 1/02) ..: . .. . . ... . . .. . . ' , NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION . . 4201 WILSON BOULEVARD . . . . . , ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230' - - - CFFICE OF THE-. .. . . DEPUTY DIRECTOR . . . . . . . 'CERTIFIED MAIL --RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED . . Re: A'otice ofMisconduct irz Scierzce Determination In 2003, you submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation ("NSF") entitled, of Inspector General ("OIG"), this proposal contained plagiarized text. Scientific Misconduct and Proposed Sanctions Under NSF's regulations, "research nlisconduct" IS defined as "fabrlcatlon, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or performing research funded by NSF . .." 45 CFR § 689.1(a). m F defines "plagiarism" as "the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit." 45 CFR 5 689.1(a)(3) A finding o f research misconduct requires that: (1) There b e a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (2) The research ~njsconductbe committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly; and : (3) The allegation be proven by a preponderance of evidence. 4 5 CFR 5 689.2(c) Your proposal contains \!erbatim and parapl~rasedtext from several source documents, i~icluding~ ~ u m e r ojournal us a~ticles.By submittjnga proposal t o NSF that copies the ideas or s anorher 1Klithout adequate attribution, as described in the OIG. Investigative Report: you ' ~ j o i d of IIIISI-epresentedsomeone clse's ~vol-kas your own. 111 addition, you fajled t o properly a c l i ~ ~ ~ \ + : l e01. d gcl-edil c lhe i ~ l i l l l oof~ 111eso~lrcedocumebls in you]- pi-ol,osals. 1 ' 0 ~ 1conduc~ - unqi~es~ionabl!: c o ~ ~ s ~ i ~1~1i1giaris11~. ulec I 11iereli-econclude 1ha1 youi- acljons m e e ~tlie definil~on .. . J . . .. . . . .. . . . , . Page 2 . . . . . o f "research misconduCtnset forth in NSF's regulations. . . . . . .. Pursuant to NSFregulations, the Foundation must also determine whether to make a finding of misconduct based on a preponderance of theevidence. 45 CFR 8 689.2(c). ' ~ f t e r reviewing the h~vestigativeReport and the university Committee Report, NSF has determined 'that, based on 3 preponderance of the evidence, your was committed knowingly and Mnstituted 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, II, and 111) 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 inslitution or individual obtain special prior approval of particular activities from NSF; and requiring that an institutioilal representative certify as to the accuracy of reports or certifications of compliance with particular requirements. 45 CFR $689.3(a)(I). Group 11 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 111 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 fj 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 knowing,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 relevanl circumstances. 45 CFR $ 689.3 (b). In light of the foregoing, I am requiring that, from the date of this letter until January 1. 2009, you certify that any proposal you submii as a principal investigalor or co-principal investigator does not contain plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material. In addition, by January 1, 2008, you must certify that you have attended a course on research ethics. W e recognize that you have completed, or in the process of completing, an on-line course, and believe that additional coursework would serve to reinforce what you have learned. Such certifications should be submitted in writing to the Office of Lnspector General, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. Procedures Governing Appeals. Cnder NSFysr e g ~ i l a ~ i oyou ~ ~ shave : 30 days after receipt ofthis letter to submit an appeal of tl~isdecision, in ~vriring,to the Director ofthe Poundation. 45 CPR $689. I @(a)..411)/appeal .~I~ouldbe addressed lo Ihe Director at l.he National Science Founda~ion,4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. If we do not receive your appeal within the 30-day period, this . . . .. ... . . . . . . . :: . . .. Page 3 .. . .. .. . . . .. decision will become-final. For your inforrnit&n.we are attaching B copy of the applicable . .. regulations. If you have.any questions about the foregoing, call , Assistant . . General counsel, at (703) 292-8060.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ' Sincerely, . Kathie L. Olsen Deputy Director . . Enclosures . ..'. - Investigati~eReport - 45 C.F.R. part 689 Summary The Office of Inspector General (OIG) concludes that the subject1 committed research misconduct by plagiarizing in proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF), and to other Federal agencies. Based on the results of our investigation, OIG concludes that the evidence supports a finding of research misconduct, and recommends that NSF: send a letter of reprimand to the subject informing him that NSF has made a finding of research misconduct; require the subject to certify that proposals or reports he submits to NSF do not contain plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material for 2 years after the date of a finding of research misconduct; and require the subject to submit proof to OIG of attendance at a research ethics course within one year of the finding of research misconduct. and - We received an allegation that a proposal2 written by the subject contained copied text. We wrote to the subject to obtain his perspective of the issue (Tab I). In his response (Tab 2), the subject admitted that he copied text from the work of others into his NSF proposal, but that he simply forgot to rephrase and cite the material. He stated that this error was a one-time occurrence in his proposal,3 and then propagated into his proposals when he re-used the same text. The subject's explanation did not dispel the allegation. The amount of duplicated text was substantive enough to advance from inquiry to investigation. Consistent with our practice, we referred the investigation to the subject's university5 (Tab 3). University's Inquiry and Investigation The University convened an Investigation Committee (IC) to review the matter. We received a copy of the IC report (Tab 4), and a letter (Tab 5 ) , which describes adjudicative action taken by the University. Based on our review of the IC report, we conclude that the IC followed reasonable procedures in its investigation, and that its report is accurate and complete. The IC examined the subject's proposal, the alleged source documents, and the subject's response letter to NSF OIG. In addition, the IC examined ten other proposals the subject submitted through his University to a variety of funding agencies. The IC examined 325 phrases from these proposals, and used each phrase as a keyword submitted to the Google Scholar search engine.6 The phrases selected for search were not differentiated in the subject's proposals by the use of quotation marks or other distinguishing marks'. The IC identified additional evidence of copied text in the subject's other proposals. The IC used these additional examples of copied text to impeach the subject's explanation that his actions were a one-time example of carelessness in proposal preparation. The IC considered the results fiom its examination of the subject's proposals to be emblematic rather than comprehensive, as it 1) did not examine all of the subject's proposals; 2) did not examine all of the text in each of the proposals examined; and 3) realized some of the probable limitations of the Goggle Scholar search engine. Line totals for significant passages of copied text in the subject's proposals appear in the table, and suggest a pattern of copying by the subject. Subject's document Number of lines of duplicated text NSF ~ r o ~ o s a l ~ 43 lines DOE Proposal 1 35 lines DOE Proposal 2 29 lines TOTAL 107 lines The IC concluded that the ~ r e ~ o n d e r a n of c ethe evidence moved that the subiect knowingly plagiarized text into his proposal, and h a t his actions were a significant departure fiom accepted practices. Further, the IC concluded that the evidence it gathered did &t support the s ~ b j e c t claim ~ s that his actions in the NSF proposal were a one-time act of carelessness, but instead supported the conclusion that the subject's actions were part of a pattern of plagiarism in numerous proposals to several funding agencies. We note that the IC did not interview the subject directly. The Vice Provost of the University states that the subject declined to be interviewed by the IC. However, the subject received a copy of the IC report, and provided a written response in which he accepted the report "unconditionally," and stated that he was "taking the responsibility of any plagiarized materials found in any of my proposals." The IC used Google Scholar to manually search sections of texts from the subject's proposals. When a match to a web text was indicated, the IC expanded the search to a longer word string, and then examined the original source document (if available) to confirm the duplication. ' The tabre entry refeis to lines of duplicated text in proposal, and does not recount the same duplicated lines that appear in earlier versions of that proposal. 8 The IC report provides brief descriptive material for each Department of Energy (DOE) proposal, and then - ' sections of text in which duplications were found. The University provided a CD with full copies of the proposals submitted by the subject. 9 Subject's letter of May 16,2006, included with the IC report at Tab 4, page 2. The University took the following actions: 1) issued a letter of reprimand to the subject; 2) asked for the resignation of the subject from his tenure-track Assistant Professor position, and offered to the subject an immediate re-appointment into a non-tenure-track position, renewable annually for up to three years. lo The University states that the subject may apply for a tenure- track faculty position that may be available in the department at the end of the three-year period, but the University will not accept an application from the subject before the end of the three-year period. In a letter, the subject resigned his faculty position, effective . OIG's Assessment A finding of research misconduct by NSF requires that (1) there be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community, that (2) the research misconduct be committed intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly, and that (3) the allegation be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. 12 The Acts A total of 43 lines of text was copied by the subject into a proposal submitted to NSF. Several contiguous paragraphs of duplicated text appeared in the proposal's background and introductory sections, without quotation marks or other differentiating forms, and sometimes without citation to the source. In his response letter to our inquiry (Tab 2), the subject admitted that he copied the text, and that he did not have the original authors' permission to do so. Duplicating the words of others, especially without citation, represents a deliberate choice by the subject. In offering text written by others as his own words, and in providing those words as emblematic of his own understanding of the research field, the subject departed from the accepted standards of the research community. Intent In his response letter, the subject states that he "copied the paragraphs with an intention to properly cite the authors and rewrite according to the need of my proposal. Basically I .cut and pasted from a manuscript and in my rush, failed to insert the reference and failed to rewrite the text."13 In his response letter to the IC report, the subject denies an intention to deceive anyone. l 4 However, the action of "cut-and paste" is itself clearly a knowing act. Although the subject claims in his response letter to our inquiry that the actions in his NSF proposal were the result of a careless error, we agree with the ICYsconclusion that the subject knowingly copied the text into his NSF proposal. 'O Other conditions on the re-appointment include a) no merit salary increases for the first of the three possible years of his appointment; b) completion of a course on scientific ethics and research integrity; c) development of a research integritylethics training module for the University; d) presentations on research ethics to graduate students and faculty at the University; and e) certifications and assurances made to the Office of Sponsored Programs that any proposals submitted through the University meet the most rigorous standards of originality of work and appropriate citation. The subject has accepted these conditions. " Tab 5, page 12. '' 13 45 C.F.R. §689.2(c) (2002). Tab 2, page 1 .(Emphasis in subject's original response). 14 Tab 4, page 2. Standard o f Proof The IC concluded that a preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that the subject acted knowingly when he copied text into his proposal, and that his actions represent a significant departure from accepted practices. We concur with the IC's conclusion, which is also supported by the subject's admitted actions of "cut-and-paste" copying. We conclude that the subject committed plagiarism, and therefore committed an act of research misconduct. OIG's Recommended Disposition When deciding what appropriate action to take upon a finding of misconduct, NSF must consider: (I) How serious the misconduct was; (2) The degree to which the misconduct was knowing, intentional, or reckless; (3) Whether it was an isolated event or part of a pattern; (4) Whether it had a significant impact on the research record, research subjects, other researchers, institutions or the public welfare; and (5) Other relevant circumstances.r151 Seriousness A total of 43 lines of copied text was duplicated verbatim by the subject into = proposal. This duplicated text consisted of blocks of text written by others, who were not cited in the subject's proposal. The subject presented these words to the program officers and reviewers of the proposal as products of his own composition. The subject's actions represent a breach of ethical conduct. Degree o f Intent We conclude that the subject's intent was knowing, based on the subject's admission of purposefbl "cut-and-paste" duplication of text. The subject's claim of carelessness in not - - providing a citation or quotation marks for the duplicated text is belied by the recurrence of the plagiarism in three versions of the proposal. Pattern Our inquiry identified plagiarized text in the su same duplicated text occurred in two previous versions proposal. The University IC also examined the subject's other proposals, and found plagiarism in proposals submitted to other Federal agencies. Although thesubject's response letter to NSF OIG describes the plagiarism in proposals as an isolated incident, additional l5 45 C.F.R. 5 689.3(b). 4 documented instances of his plagiarism undermine his explanation, and establish a pattern of behavior by the subject. Impact on the research record The proposals in which the plagiarism occurred were declined for funding and therefore we conclude that the impact on the research record itself was minimal. Mitigating Factors The subject cooperated with our inquiry, and provided a prompt response to the OIG inquiry letter. While declining to be interviewed.by the University IC, the subject provided a written response to the IC report and accepted responsibility for the duplications of text. Other relevant circumstances We find no other relevant circumstances. Recommendation Based on the evidence in this case, NSF OIG recommends that NSF: send a letter of reprimand to the subject informing him that NSF has made a finding of research misc~nduct;'~ require the subject to certify that proposals or reports he submits to NSF do not contain plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material for 2 years after the date of a finding of research misc~nduct;'~ and require the subject to submit proof to OIG of attendance at a research ethics course within one year of the finding of research misc~nduct.'~ The Subiect's Response to Draft Investigation Report The subject received a copy of the draft investigation report for comments, and responded by letter dated September 20,2006 (Tab 7). The subject accepted the draft investigation report and provided no factual corrections. In his response letter, the subject provided documents that attest to his completion of an on-line ethics course.lg 16 A letter of reprimand is a Group I action. 45 CFR § 689.3 (a) (l)(i). " Certification from an individual for proposals submitted to NSF is considered to be a Group I action. 45 CFR 4 689.3 (1). The university amended its own investigation report (Tab 8) whle the subject was considering our draft investigation report. The university report originally identified a passage in a proposal submitted to another Federal agency by the subject as plagiarized. However, in reviewing the report, the Vice President for Research could find no evidence that the indicated text actually appeared in the submitted proposal. A letter from the subject on this issue is included in the university's amendment of its investigation report. We made the appropriate changes to our own draft investigation report. However, this new information did not cause us to alter our conclusions or our recommendations.
Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2007-04-16.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)