oversight

Plagiarism (Verbatim)

Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2014-09-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                                        NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
                                                         OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
                                                           OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS

                                                  CLOSEOUT MEMORANDUM

Case Number: Al3050061                                                                                     Page 1 of 1



                                                                                        2
                NSF OIG received an allegation that Pll (Subject) 1 and PI2 submitted an NSF proposae
         containing plagiarism. Our inquiry determined that Subject 1 was responsible for the plagiarism.
         We referred the matter to his University. 4

                The University's investigation concluded, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that
         the Subject recklessly and possibly knowingly committed plagiarism, deemed a significant
         departure from accepted practices, and took actions to protect the University's interests.

               We adopted the University's findings, but determined the Subject acted knowingly. We
         recommended actions to be taken to protect the federal interest. The Deputy Director concurred
         with most of our recommendations. 5

                 This memo, the attached Report of Investigation, and letter from the Deputy Director
         constitute the case closeout. 6 Accordingly, this case is closed.




         5
           Despite our recommendation, the DD did not require that the Subject be barred from serving as a reviewer, advisor,
         or consultant for NSF.
         6
           The DD letter indicates that the Subject is required to submit certifications and assurances for a period of four
         years; the requirement however is for a period of three years, as we recommended. NSF clarified this matter with the
         Subject.




NSF OIG Fonn 2 (11/02)
                                 NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
                                      4201 WILSON BOULEVARD
                                     ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230




                                                                               JUL n8 l014
    OFFIG!=. OF THE
   DEPUTY DIRECTOR




CERTIFIED MAIL -RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED




       Re:      Notice oj Research Misconduct Determillation


Dear D r . -

As a professor in the
-("University"), you served as a Principal Investigator ("PI'') on a proposal that was
submitted to. the National Science Foundation ("NSF"). As documented in the attached
Investigative Repmi prepared by NSF's Office oflnspector General {''OIG"), the proposal
contained 153 lines ancl42 imbedded references of plagiarized material.

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 ... " 45 CPR § 689.1 (a). NSF
defines ''plagial'ism" 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 6fthe 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.
                                                                                              Page2.

45 CFR § 689.2(c)

Your admission that the proposals .contain copied material permits me to conclude thatyour
actions meetthe applicable definition ofplagiarism 1 as set forth in NSF's regulations.

Pursuant to NSF's regulations, the Foundation must also determine whether to make a finding of
research misconduct based on a preponderance of the evidence. 45 CFR § 6892(c). After
reviewing the OIG Investigative Report, the University investigation, and your admission of
plagiarism, NSF has determined that, based on a preponderance of the evidence,. the plagiarism
was· collln:ljtted 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, II, and III) that can be taken in
response to a finding of misconduct 45 CFR § 689.3(a). Group I actions include issuing aletter
of reprimand; conditioning awards on prior approval of particular activities from NSF;. requiring
that an institutional representative certify as to the accuracy of reports or certi:ficatiorts of
compliance w1thparticular requirements~ 45 CFR § 689.3(a)(l). Group'II actions include award
suspension .or restricti.ons on designated activities or expenditures; requiring special reviews of
requests for funding; and requiring correction to the research record. 45 CFR § 6893(a)(2).
G:roup III acti()ns incl'ude susp~nsion or termination of awa,rds; prohibitions on participation as
NSF reviewers, advisors or consultants; and debarment or suspension from participation in NSF
prograrps. 45 CFR § 689J(a)(3).

In determining the severity ofthe sanction to impose for research misconduct, I have considered ·
the seriousness of the misconduct; my determination that it was committed knowingly; the fact
that the. misconduct had .no impact on the research record; and the fact that the misconduct was
an isolated incident. I have also considered other relevant .circumstances. See 45 CFR § 689.3(b).

Based on the foregoing, I am imposing the followin~ action on you:

    •   You are required to comply with the requirements imposed on you bythe University as a.
        result of its independent investigation.
    •   You are required to complete a comprehensive responsible conduct of research training
        course by June 24, 2015; and provide .documentation ofthe progtam;s conte11t The
        instruction should be in an interactive format (~.g., an instructor..cled course, workshop,
        etc) and should include a discussion of plagiarism.
    •   For aperiod ofthreeyears, untilJune 24, 2018, I am requiringthat ycm submit
        certifications that any proposals or reports you submit to NSF do not contain plagiarized,
        falsified, or fabricated material.
                                                                                               Page 3

    •   For a period of three years, until June 24, 2018, you are required to submit assurances by
        a responsible official of your employer that any proposals or reports you submit to NSF
        do not contain plagiarized, falsified, or fabricated material.

All certifications, assurances, and training documentation, should be submitted in writing to
NSF's Office of the Inspector General, Associate Inspector General for Investigations, 4201
Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230.

Appeal Procedures for finding of Research Misconduct

Under NSF's regulations, yo'-1 have 30 days after receipt of this letterto submit an appeal of this
finding, in writing, to the Director of the Foundation. 45 CFR§ 689.10(a). Any appeal should be
addressed to the Director atthe National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard,
Arlington, Virginia 22230. If we do not receive your appeal within the 30-day period, the
decision on the finding of research misconduct will become finaL For your infonnation, wb ate
attaching a copy ofthe applicable regulations.

Should you have any questions about the foregoing, please                         ·Assistant
General Counsel, at (703) 292-   .



                                                     Sincerely;




                                                     Cora .B. Marrett
                                                     Deputy Director



Enclosures:
Investigative Report
                                                                                                        ~   -:
Nonprocurement Debarment Regulations
FAR Regulations
45 CFR Part 689
SENSITIVE                                                                              SENSITIVE




       National Science Foundation
         Office of Inspector General




                  Report of Investigation
                 Case Number A13050061
                           February 24, 2014

                         This Report of Investigation is provided to you
                                  FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY.
  It contains protected personal information; the unauthorized disclosure of which may result in
  personal criminal liability under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. This report may be further
  disclosed within NSF only to individuals who must have knowledge of its contents to
  facilitate NSF's assessment and resolution of this matter. This report may be disclosed
  outside NSF only under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552 &
  552a. Please take appropriate precautions handling this report of investigation.

                                                                              NSF OIG Form 22b (1/13)
 SENSITIVE                                                                             SENSITIVE


                                     Executive Summary

Allegation:     Plagiarism.

OIG Inquiry:    OIG identified six sources from which 153 unique lines and 42 embedded
                references were copied into one declined NSF proposal. OIG referred
                investigation of the matter to the Subject's home institution.

University
Investigation
and Action:     The University concluded, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the
                Subject recklessly and possibly knowingly committed plagiarism, which it
                deemed a significant departure from accepted practices.

                The University required the Subject attend a pre-approved conference on
                research ethics; attend the University's annual RCR training; be ineligible to
                serve on faculty grant award committees until completing the previous
                requirements; be relieved of a current University grant; be ineligible to serve as
                the primary director on master's theses for two years; prepare and sign a letter
                informing a journal that an article it contained that he co-authored was are-
                publication of a previously copyrighted article he co-authored; submit plagiarism
                detection software results for all proposals before submission; and not receive
                merit-based increases for two merit pay years or until attending the research
                ethics conference, whichever was later.

OIG
Assessment:
                •   The Act: The Subject plagiarized 153 lines and 42 embedded references into
                    one NSF proposal.
                •   Intent: The Subject acted knowingly.
                •   Standard of Proof: A preponderance of evidence supports the conclusion
                    that the Subject committed plagiarism.
                •   Significant Departure: The Subject's plagiarism represents a significant
                    departure from accepted practices.
                •   Pattern: None.

OIG
Recommends:
                •   Make a finding of research misconduct against the Subject.
                •   Send the Subject a letter of reprimand.
                •   Require the Subject certify compliance with University-imposed actions.
                •   Require certification from the Subject for a period of three years.
                •   Require assurances from the Subject for a period of three years.
                •   Require certification of attending a comprehensive responsible conduct of
                    research training class within one year.
                •   Bar the Subject from participating as a peer reviewer, advisor, or consultant
                    for NSF for a period of two years.


                                               1
                                                                 .. I




    SENSITIVE                                                                            SENSITIVE


                                            OIG's Inquiry

        OIG conducted an inquii:y into an allegation that an NSF proposal (Proposal 1) contained
copied text. We reviewed the Proposal and found, as illustrated below, that 153 unique lines and 42
                                                   2
embedded references were copied from six sources :

                   Source                 Proposal
                   A (article)            3 9 lines, 14 embedded references
                   B (article)            14.5lines, 8 embedded references
                   c (article)            7.5 lines, 2 embedded references
                   D (article)            30.5lines, 17 embedded references
                   E (article)            51.5 lines, 1 embedded reference
                   F (articl~             10 lines
                   Total                  153 lines, 42 embedded references

The copied text appeared in the Introduction, Current State ofKnowledge, Field Methods, and
Analytical Methods sections of the Proposal.

        We contacted Pll (Subject)3 and PI2 4 regarding the allegations 5 and each provided his own
response. 6 Both responses acknowledged that the Proposal contained inadequately cited text and
stated that the Subject was responsible for the copied text. The Subject said:

                                                        a
                 I acknowledge, unreservedly, that in rush to get this proposal
                 done under a chronic deadline, I should have re-worded and
                 applied better scholarship to these sections. This is my oversight
                 and I take full responsibility for it. It was not done with any
                 malicious intent or to give the proposal any advantage over others.
                 It was simply poor judgment on my part to get it done. 7

PI2 said the Subject "came forward immediately and has taken full responsibility for the writing
identified in the highlighted sections," noting that"as a Co-PI, you must rely on the scientific
inte~ity of your Co-PI in these efforts." 8                                  ·


       The response dispelled the allegation against PI2, but not the Subject. We concluded there
was sufficient evidence to proceed to an investigation.




5
  Tab 3.
6
  Tab 4.
7
  Tab 4, pg 1.
8
  Tab 4, pg4.


                                                    2
                                                                                                                   i   I




     SENSITIVE                                                                                         SENSITIVE


                                     University Inquiry and Investigation .

       We referred the investigation to the University9 which, consistent with its policies, 10
conducted an inquiry that determined an investigation was warranted. 11 It convened a Committee,
                                                        12
which produced a Report that it provided to our office.

         The Committee concluded, based on the preponderance of evidence, that the Subject
  recklessly "and approach~ing] knowingly" committed plagiarism, deemed a significant departure
. from accepted practices. 1 It based its determination on its finding that "The [P]roposal does
  contain unreferenced and referenced (but not indicated as quoted) copies of parts of the referenced
                        14
  published works A-F" and on the Subject's own statements of responsibility. In his intery!ew, the
  Subject said he and PU wrote the Proposal "essentially" in three days and near its deadline'~ and
  explained:

                  It just wasn't a body of literature with which I was tremendously
                  familiar, and [I] just quite frankly screwed it up. I had worked with
                  paragraphs in there, because I was working and writing various
                  bits as we moved through, and just simply should have rewritten
                  those parap-aphs that were in some of those papers in the NSF
                            1
                  proposal.                         .


       The Committee determined the Subject's actions were a significant departure from the
accepted practice of the relevant research community, which it defined as the University and the
Subject's discipline. It said the Subject's actions met the University's "definition of unethical
conduct and such acts are handled as significant departures from accepted practice of our research
community." 17 It also said that "In his own words at the interview, [the Subject] indicated he had
departed from acceptable research practices." 18

         Regarding intent, the Committee was "divided as to whether or not [the Subject] knows
where the line was crossed on plagiarizing others' work as background to his." 19 It found the
Subject cominitted the act at least recklessly, but approaching knowingly? 0 The Committee arrived
at this determination by reviewing for plagiarism six other proposals the Subject submitted, and
published works the Subject listed on recent annual reports? 1 It found "the same instances of



9
 -Tab5.
10
   Tab 6.
11
   Tab 7.
u Tab 8. The University produced a similar, but separate report for the Provost, contained in Tab 9.
13
   Tab 8, NSFinvestigationReport (Report), pg 1-2.
14
   Tab 8, Report, pg 1.
15
   Tab 8, InterviewTranscript, pg 2.
16
   Tab 8, InterviewTranscript, pg 2.
17
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.
18
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.
19
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.
20
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.
21
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2-3.


                                                           3
 SENSITIVE                                                                                                 SENSITIVE


plagiarism" in a nearly identical proposal submitted concurrently to the University?2 It also
identified self-plagiarism in a journal article (Journal) the Subject co-authored, which was
essentially identical to one he had co-authored and published under copyright in a different journal
five years earlier. 23

        The Committee did not identify plagiarism in the other documents it reviewed and
concluded that the Subject's act of plagiarism was "an isolated event" rather than part of a pattem. 24
It further found the Subject's actions had no significant impact on the research record, research
subjects, or the public welfare, but was "likely to im~act the co-PI's willingness to work with [the
                                                       5
Subject] or other researchers as co-PI in the future."                 .




                                             University Adjudication

        The· Committee recommended the Subject: attend, at his own expense, a pre-approved
conference on research ethics; attend the University's annual Responsible Conduct of Research
training; be ineligible to serve on faculty grant award committees until completing his conference
attendance and training; be relieved of a current University grant, of which unspent funds would
return to the program; be ineligible to serve as the primary director on master's theses for two years;
prepare and sign a letter the Associate Provost would send informing the Journal that his co-
authored article was a re-publication of a previously copyrighted article; submit plagiarism
detection software results for all proposals before submission; and not receive merit-based increases
for two merit pay years or until attending the research ethics conference, whichever was later. 26

        The Committee further recommended one of the University's colleges27 "investigate
practices of declaring, determining, and rewarding refereed publications on faculty annual reports";
the University's Office of Sponsored Programs require electronic plagiarism analysis of external
proposals before submission; and that the Office of Graduate Studies require electronic plagiarism
                                                                28
analysis of theses and dissertations prior to their acceptance.

         The Provost accepted the totality of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations. 29                      .




22
   Tab 8, Report, pg 3. Given the nature of this specific internal grant program, the University expects submitted
proposals to be identical or near identical to those externally submitted. The Committee therefore treats the plagiarism
in the internal proposal and NSF Proposal as one unit.
23
   Tab 8, Report, pg 3. The Appendix in Tab 8 contains copies of the articles, with the identical material annotated.
24
   Tab 8, Report, pg 4. The Appendix in Tab 8 contains a chart illustrating the Committee's analysis of other reviewed
documents. See footnote 22.
25
   Tab 8, Report, pg 4.
26
   Tab 8, Report, pg 5-6.
27
   College of Science and Engineering.
28
   Tab 9, pg 5.
29
   Tab 10.


                                                            4
     SENSITIVE                                                                                      SENSITIVE


                                               OIG's Assessment

        OIG invited the Subject's comments30 on the University Report. His response31 focused on
the Committee's fmdings regarding self-plagiarism in his publications. 32 He said he would "be far
more careful on using work that we have previously written ... without direct quotes or re-wording
the sentences sufficiently. " 33 He also said he would use plagiarism detection software on all of his
wn'tin'gs. 34

        OIG assessed the Report for accuracy and completeness. We found the Report to be both
accurate and complete, and concluded the University followed reasonable procedures in conducting
its investigation. We adopted the University's findings in lieu of conducting our own investigation,
although a.s discussed below, we concluded the Subject acted knowingly.

          We reviewed the Committee's finding regarding the Subject's re-publication of his
previously published article and determined NSF did not fund the research presented in either
article. 35 Accordingly, our office lacked jurisdiction regarding this matter and we conducted no
further review.

        A finding of research misconduct by NSF requires (1) there be a significant departure from
accepted practices of the relevant research community, (2) the research misconduct be committed
intentionally, or knowingly, or recklessly, and (3) the allegation be proved by a preponderance of
the evidence. 36                                                                                ·


                                                    The Acts

        The University concluded that the Subject plagiarized 153 unique lines and 42 embedded
references into one declined NSF proposal. OIG concurs with the Report that the Subject's actions
constitute plagiarism.

        The Report found the Subject's acts constituted a significant departure from accepted
practices of the University. We concur with the University's assessment.



         The Report found the Subject acted at least recklessly, but potentially knowingly" 37 by
copying material directly from sources into his Proposal. We qoncluded the Subject acted, in fact,
knowingly. 38 The Subject, by his own admission, prepared the Proposal hastily, cutting and pasting
into it material related to topics with which he was unfamiliar. Also by his own admission, the

30
   Tab 11.
31
   Tab 12.
32
   See Tab 8, Appendix Analysis-RefereedPublications.pdf.
33
   Tab 12.
34
   Tab 12.
35
   eJacket indicated that neither the Subject nor the articles' co-PI,···· had ever received NSF funding.
36
    45 C.F.R §689.2(c).
37
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.
38
   Tab 8, Report, pg 2.


                                                       5
 SENSITIVE                                                                                SENSITIVE


Subject knew that copying the work of others without adequate citation constitutes plagiarism. The
Subject therefore knew the Proposal contained inadequately cited material, yet neglected to
carefully review the Proposal's text prior to submission.                                ·

                                               Standard o(Proo(

       .OIG concludes that the Subject's actions and intent were proven based on a preponderance
ofthe evidence.

    . OIG concludes by a preponderance of the evidence that the Subject knowingly plagiarized,
thereby committing an act of research misconduct. 39


                                       OIG's Recommended Disposition

       When deciding what appropriate action to take upon a finding of misconduct, NSF must
consider:                                                                    '
             (1) 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 ---
                             40
             circumstances.

                                                  Seriousness

       The Subject's actions are a violation of the standards of scholarship andthe tenets of general
research ethics. Copied text serves to misrepresent one's body of knowledge, presenting reviewers
with an inaccurate representation of a proposal's respective merit. The Subject's flawed method of
preparing the Proposal is itself serious in its proclivity to incorporate inadequately cited material.

                                                    Pattern

           The University did not identify a pattern; we concur with this assessment.


                             Subject's Response to OIG's Draft Investigation Report

     We sent the Subject a copy of our draft report and he responded that he had no further
comments.




39
     45 C.F.R. part 689.
40
     45 C.F.R. § 689.3(b).


                                                       6
     SENSITIVE                                                                              SENSITIVE


                                                   Recommendation

Based on the evidence, OIG recommends thatNSF:
       • Send the Subject a letter of reprimand notifying him that NSF has made a finding of
           research misconduct. 41
       • Require the Subject certify his compliance with the requirements imposed by the
           University as a result of its investigation.
       • Require the Subject certify to the Assistant Inspector General for Investigations (AlGI)
           his completion of a responsible conduct of research training program and provide
           documentation of the program's content within 1 year ofNSF's finding. 42 The .
           instruction should be in an interactive format (e.g., an instructor-led course) and
           specifically include ir£ormation regarding plagia;_-rism and appropriate citation practices.

For a period of three years as of the date ofNSF's fmding:                             .     .
       • Bar the Subject froi:n participating as a peer reviewer, advisor, or consultant for NSF. 43
       • Require for each document (proposal, report, etc.) to which the Subject contributes for
           submission to NSF (directly or through his institution),
               o the Subject submit a contemporaneous certification to the AlGI that the
                   document does not contain plagiarism, falsification, or fabrication. 44
               o the Subject submit contemporaneous assurances from a responsible official of his
                   employer to the AlGI that the document does not contain plagiarism,
                   falsification, or fabrication. 45




41
   A Group Iaction45 C.F.R. 689.3(a)(l)(i).
42
   This action is similar to Group I actions 45 C.F.R. 689.3(a)(l).
43
   A Group III action45 C.P.R. 689.3(a)(3)(ii).
44
   This action is similar to 45 C.F.R. 689.3(a)(l)(iii).
45
   A Group I action 45 C.F.R. 689.3(a)(l)(iii).


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