CLOSEOUT FOR M-98010002 On 22 January 1998, we received an allegation1that the subject2plagiarized text from another PI'S award3into his own NSF proposal. Our review of the allegation showed that the subject had apparently copied over 90 percent of the text from the other PI'S NSF award into two separate NSF proposals he submitted to NSF within about 2 months of each other to different programs.4 The subject had not distinguished the copied text or provided any authorship credit to other PI. Our inquiry determined that the allegation of plagiarism had substance. We referred the investigation to the university.' We reviewed the University's investigation report and determined that it was fair, accurate, and complete. Our investigation report and the NSF Acting Deputy Director's 29 September 1999 letter reflecting his decision constitute the closeout for this case. cc: Integrity, IG Page 1 or I ., NATIONAL S C l E N C t POUNUH I I U I - 4201 WILSON BOULEVARD ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22230 October 4 , 1999 OmCE OF ME DEPUTY DIRECTOR CERTIFIED MAIL --RETURN RECEIPT REOUESTED Re: Notice of Misconduct in Science Determination Dear Dr. 0 The National Science Foundation has reviewed the investigation report prepared by hat evaluated allegations that you committed scientific misconduct. The university investigation concluded that you plagiarized text from an NSF-funded proposal authored by-in two proposals that you submitted to NSF in 1997. As discussed below, NSF accepts the findings of the University's investigation report and concludes that you committed misconduct in science. -__--------7 The University investigated the allegations of plagiarism and found ou used substantial amounts of verbatim text from d proposal, in your NSF proposals, without attribution. The University found that your failure to use quotation marks, or their equivalent, to indicate verbatim text from proposal, was plagiarism and a serious deviation from accepte practices. The University concluded that you acted recklessly, and that you conmjtted research risconduct. a I concur with the findings contained in the University's report. I have determined that you committed plagiarism, and hence, misconduct in science, under NSF1s regulations. See 45 CFR S689.1 (a). In light of the significant actions taken by the University, I conclude that issuance of this letter of reprimand is the appropriate action and that no additional actions are necessary to protect the Federal Government. However, I would like to emphasize that failure to provide appropriate attribution to another author's work in an NSF proposal severely undercuts the ability of NSF staff and reviewers to evaluate the PI1s expertise and familiarity with the field. It is extremely important not to mislead reviewers into believing that someone else's work is your own. I trust that you will provide proper attribution to source /documents in the future, and that this isolated error in judgment will be an anomaly in your otherwise distinguished career. Under NSF1s 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 §689.9(a). Any appeal should be addressed to the Director at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230. For your information w e are attaching a copy of the applicable regulations. If you have an questions about the foregoing, please call Lawrence Rudolph, General Counsel, at (703) 306-1060. Joseph Bordogna Deputy Director Enclosures (2) Investigative Report NSF'S misconduct in science regulations CONFIDENTIAL NSF OIG INVESTIGATION REPORT OIG Case Number M980 10002 March 29, 1999 This document is lent to you FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY. It remains the property of the Office of Inspector General. It may not be reproduced. It may be disclosed outside NSF only by the Inspector General, pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, 5 U.S.C. $5 552,552a. REPORT OF INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING SUMMARY The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has determined t h a t d ' ~ ( t h e subject), a faculty member at the ( t h e University), plagiarized extensively from an NSF award into two separate proposals he submitted to NSF without distinguishing1 the text or providing authorship credit. 'Ibis conclusion is based on the University's investigation report, which we believe is fair, accurate, and complete. We recommend that NSF find that the subject committed misconduct in science and that NSF's Deputy Director send the subject a letter of reprimand informing him that NSF endorses the University's Investigation Report and &rrning a finding of misconduct in science against him. In view of the University's actions in this case, OIG believes that no firher action is necessary to protect NSF's interests. FINDINGS i On 22 January 1998 we received an allegationthat the-subect, a tenured full professor in the University's Department of Biology (the D e p a r t m e n t ) d plagiarized material from NSF award (the source document) into two se arate NSF proposals he submitted to NSF, -(hte fm proposal) and (the second proposal): copies of the source proposal and the first and second proposals are attached at Tabs A, B, and C, respective1 with the identical text underlined in red (the bodies of the first and second proposals are identical).Y9 We conducted an inquiry, which included interviewing the author of the source document I by telephone. Because of the extent of the apparent plagiarism and because the subject's first proposal had been recommended for funding, we decided to interview the subject in person.6 I i ' Throughout this report, the term "distinguishing" or "distinction," is used to indicate a method, such as font, indentation, or quotation marks, that is used so that the reader can differentiate between material copied from another source and original material in the document being read. NSF award ent I--" was submitted by award was for- upport of the project. the project. The only differences between the subject's proposals and the source document include 1) a "Special Considerations" section (about a page in length) that was unique to the subject's second proposal, 2) the country and river (and associated surrounding geographical locations) where the study was to be performed, 3) the d3tes representing the timing of the steps to complete the project and student training, and 4) the addition of the geographic positioning system (GPS) in the subject's proposals (to more accurately locate sample localities). 6 The evidence available at the time indicated that the subject likely had submitted two proposals to NSF which were almost entirely plagiarized. On the cover sheet of each proposal the subject certified that "the text and graphics herein . . . are the original work of the signatories. . . . I understand that the willhl provision of false Copies of a summary of our interview with the author of the source document, the affidavit signed by the subject, the form disclosure of rights signed by the subject, and our notes of the meeting with the subject, are attached at Tab D. We found that the subject apparently copied more than 90 percent of the text in both proposals, including 47 references, fiom the source document. None of the apparently copied text was attributed to the source document or distinguished fiom the other contents of either proposal to show that the identical text was derived fro& it. W e determined that the allegation had substance. As we are required to do by the Inspector General Act, we referred the matter to the appropriate component of the Department of Justice, which declined to pursue civil or criminal prosecution.7 Pursuant to NSF's regulation on Misconduct in Science and Engineering, we then contacted the University, which requested we defer the allegation to it for investigation.' On 23 April 1998 we provided the results of our inquiry to the University and agreed to delay our investigation to give it an opportunity to conduct its own investigation; our deferral letter is attached at Tab E. Concomitantly, we recommended that NSF take interim administrative action to defer action on the subject's proposal that had been recommended for h d i n g , pending resolution of the allegations of misconduct in science, which NSF did; copies of these memos are attached at Tab F . ~ On 23 November 1998 we a received a letter from the Dean of the University's College of Graduate Studies and Assistant Vice President for Research, transmitting to us the results of the University's investigation; this letter is attached at Tab G, along with the University's investigation report (the Report) and the transcript of the subject's interview. The subject's response to the Report (the Response) is attached at Tab H, and the letter fiom the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs to the subject informing him of the disciplinary actions being taken against him (the Provost's Letter) is attached at Tab I. The University found that the author was not a collaborator on the subject's proposals, and that the overlapping text originally appearing in the source document was not shared intellectual property. The Report stated that no evidence could be found that the "overlap between [the source document] and [the subject's] two proposals rwas] within the accepted standards of practice of science"'0- information . . . to NSF is a criminal offense (U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 1001)." (See Tabs B & C.) The submission of plagiarized proposals can also constitute violations of the civil False Claims Act. (31 U.S.C. $$ 3729-33.) Thus, the subject's alleged act of plagiarism, besides violating NSF's administrative regulation on misconduct in science, could have warranted civil andlor criminal legal action. Although NSF's regulation calls for deferring most investigations of alleged misconduct to universities, civil and criminal investigations are conducted by OIG, in concert with the ~ e ~ a r t m e noft Justice. Accordingly, we interviewed the subject personally to enable us to appropriately refer the matter to the Department of Justice and obtain guidance on how the case should be pursued. 5 U.S.C. app. 3 $ 4(d). See 45 C.F.R. § 689.4(d). . See 45 C.F.R. $689.7. 'O The Report (Tab G) at page 5. The sheer quantity of words, ideas and descriptions in the [subject] proposals that are identical to those in the [source document] is overwhelming. There are no quotation marks or citations to indicate that another scientist wrote the majority of the text. [The subject], in answering why he omitted quotation marks, responded that he could give no reason other than he thought he had [the author's] permission to do so, in the form of verbal and e-mail communication with [the author]. [The subject] also indicated that he would use quotation marks if he used a citation without an author's approval. [The subject] said that he believes he should have cited [the author] in the proposal, but does not believe that he must use quotation marks (or indentation or other equivalent) to indicate the verbatim material. '' The University found that the subject's use of the verbatim material in his two proposals constituted plagi'arism, and that the subject acted recklessly. After reviewing the subject's publications and proposals, the University concluded that the subject's plagiarism was an isolated incident. The Provost's Letter describes the following actions taken by the University against the subject: issued a letter of reprimand, required the withdrawal of his pending NSF proposal, prohibited him fiom submitting Federal or state proposals and fiom serving as a PI on Federal or state awards for 3 years, required him to certifL to the originality of any external proposals for an additional 2 years, and required him to read materials and attend workshops/meetings on the topic of integrity in research. In addition, if the subject shares information about this case with others he is required to disclose the full extent of his plagiarism and to identify the original author of the proposal.'2 The first proposal, which NSF had suspended, was subsequently withdrawn by the University on 17 November 1998. THE SUBJECT'S DEFENSE In the ~ e s ~ o n s ethe , ' subject ~ provided eleven points purporting to identify ways in which the . . . Report presents errors of fact, misleading andlor not fully documented statements about the testimony of [the subject] and others, and conclusions which unfairly characterize the qualiv of the research proposed by [the subject], regardless of identical language . . . .1 It The Report (Tab G) at page 5. l2 The Provost's Letter (Tab I) at page 3. I3 The subject and the subject's faculty advocate provided written responses on several occasions in the course of the University's inquiry and investigation. Because these responses are substantively duplicative and because the Report provides all of the University's discussion of the evidence and conclusions, we have attached only the subject's response to the Report. l4 The Response (Tab H) at page 1. 3 We will address each of the subject's concerns in turn: 1. NSF OIG Interview: The subject complained that OIG threatened him, to prevent him from having a University representative present when he was interviewed. To the contrary, following our standard procedures, we explained to the subject exactly why we were visiting him at the beginning of the meeting, providing him with a written statement about his rights and emphasizing that talking to us was entirely voluntary; a copy of that statement, signed by the subject, is attached at Tab D. We said .that we would wait if he wanted to contact someone, such as University counsel, but he elected not to do so. He was l l l y involved in the drafting of his &davit, which was prepared on his own computer word processor and produced on his printer. 2. The Universitv Declined Negotiated Resolution: In the course of the University's inquiry and investigation, the subject and his faculty advocate offered to negotiate a settlement, which the University declined to do. The University is under no obligation, under NSFYsmisconduct regulation or any principles of fairness, to negotiate a settlement in the course of an investigation. 3. & 4. The Subiect Did N& Claim the Author Was Collaborator On Proposals: The subject's denial of having raised a defense that the University did not accept is irrelevant--exceptas an admission that indeed the author was not a collaboratoron the two proposals. 5. The Universitv Did Not Share Complete Testimony of Witnesses: The subject argues that without seeing the full testimony of witnesses (besides what was quoted in the Report), he was unable to produce a fair defense. However, the salient facts in this case are incontrovertible, and depend not at all on the testimony of anyone other than the subject. 6. University Misunderstood Subject's Claim Of "Shared Intellectual Property": The subject asserted that he had a "substantial and close collaboration" with the author that produced a "frame of mind . . . that he believed" gave him "implicit approval from [the author] to utilize [the source document] that [the author] voluntarily shared in whatever manner he chose. . . ,715 The subject referred to an e-mail he received from the author that "acknowledges" the subject's request for a copy of the source document and commits the author to send a copy of the source document to the subject. l6 See Tab J. The e-mail from the subject to the author &ked for "a peak at" the source document, stating that he would "like to see the narrative if a copy can be made available."" Nothing in the request or the response suggests that the author and the subject were collaborating on the l5 I6 The Response (Tab H) at page 3. The Response (Tab H) at page 4. . 17 E-mail from the subject to the author dated 12 December 1996 at 11:40:55 EST; e-mail from the author to the subject dated 12 December 1996 at 13 :49:28 EST. 4 subject's proposed project, or that the subject sought or the author gave the subject permission to copy the text from the source document. 7. The Subject's Standards: The subject argued that the Committee's conclusion that "quotation marks (or equivalent) are required by accepted standards of writing in any field" falsely suggested that the subject had "not followed his own standard for use of quotation mark^."'^ The subject's argument underscores the fact that his personal standard is far from the norm; it in no way contradicts the Committee's conclusion that the subject's actions seriously deviated from accepted standards. 8. Differences Between Proposals And Source Document: The subject "insisted" that there are "substarztial" differences between the source document and his proposals.1g However, the differences noted by the subject-which are plainly observable in the copies of the proposals attached at Tabs A, B, and C---are in fact insignificant: the subject copied almost verbatim the research project summary, the introduction and background section, the detailed description of the proposed study area, the objectives, work plan, and methods sections, the discussion on the expected significance of the project, and the description of the training planned for students into his two proposals. In addition, the subject copied the introductory paragraph for the "Biographical Sketches" section into his first proposal. The few changes the subject made did little else than change the location of the study area. 9. The Author's Knowledge of the Subiect's Use Of the Source Document: This was addressed above concerning the subject's 6" point 10. & 11. The Subiect's State of Mind: The subject complains about the University's conclusion that he acted recklessly, but in the next section of this report we draw the same conclusion about his state of mind. CONCLUSION REGARDING MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE We believe the Report is fair, accurate, and complete. The subject's response to the Report does not undermine the University's findings or conclusions. We therefore recommend that NSF adopt the Report's factual NSF's regulation on Misconduct in Science and Engineering defines misconduct in part as a "serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing" re~earch.~'The regulation specifically mentions three examples of misconduct, and one of these is plagiarism. '' The Response (Tab H) at page 3. l9 The Response (Tab H) at page 4 (emphasis in original). 20 45 C.F.R. 5 689.8(a). *' 45 C.F.R. 5 689.1(a)(I). 5 For NSF to make a finding of plagiarism, the preponderance of the evidence must show that the subject committed the act (copying without authorship or distinction) with a culpable state of mind (such as knowing or grossly negligent).= There is ample proof that the subject submitted two proposals to NSF that were almost entirely copied fiom the source document. The subject admitted that he copied the material without authorship or distinction. The essence of his defense is that what he did was acceptable because he believes it to be. We believe the subject acted culpably when he copied text from the source document without providing authorship or attribution. Certain acts compel the inference that they were done knowingly. An honor society of scientists,SigmaXi, The Scientific Research Society, described the state of mind associated with acts of verbatim plagiarism: At one end there is a word-for-word copying of another's writing without enclosing the copied passage in quotation marks and identifying it in a footnote, both of which are necessary ....It hardly seems possible that anyone of college age or more could do that without clear intent to deceive.23 Verbatim copying is inherently a knowing activity. In the course of the University's investigation, the subject claimed that, because he had a "substantial and close collaboration" with the author, his fiame of mind was that he believed he had implicit approval from [the author] to utilize the [source document] that [the author] voluntarily shared in whatever manner he chose due to this close working relationship, close agreement on research methods, and the desirability of complementingeach other's work.24 The subject's position--that a collaborator who gives you a copy of his work gives you implicit permission to represent that work as your own-reflects a remarkable incomprehensionof accepted scholarlypractice. On the other hand, the subject acknowledges in hindsight. : . a lapse in professional judgment by failing to provide an explicit acknowledgement of [the authorl's words in the body of the proposals.25 We.would be more sanguine if this post hoc assertion by the subject were not accompanied by simultaneous insistence that his conduct was without fault. In our view, the preponderance of the evidence supports the University's conclusion that the subject's extensive plagiarism, committed 45 C.F.R.5 689.2(d). 23 Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Honor in Science 15 (1984) (quoting Definition of Plagiarism, in Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, The Blue Book Documents oflnterest to Members of Teaching Stafand . the Student Body 59-60 (1984-85), and noting as the original source Harold C. Martin et al., The Logic and Rhetoric offiposition (3d ed. 1969)). 24 The Response (Tab H) at page 3. *' The Response (Tab H) at page 5. 6 with at the very least a reckless disregard for the ethical standards of the scientific c o r n r n ~ n i t ~ ~ ~ constituted a serious deviation fiom accepted practices and therefore misconduct in science. We recommend that NSF endorse the University's conclusion. ) In deciding what actions are appropriate when misconduct is found, NSF should consider the seriousness of the misconduct and any evidence of a We agree with the University that the subject's plagiarism of virtually an entire research proposal is extremely serious. The University considered the subject's plagiarism in two proposals to be a single act because the subject acknowledgedthe submission of the first proposal in the "Special Considerations"section of the second proposal so that his act of using verbatim text was one act of plagiarism, "whose product appeared in two places.'"8 Given that the two proposals were virtually identical, submitted within 2 months of each other to obtain support for different aspects of work for the same project, and under considerationfor funding at the same time, the University's conclusion is reasonable. The University took balanced and significant action in response to the subject's misconduct. As a result, we believe NSF's interests will be served sufficiently by endorsing the University's Report, affirming that the subject committed misconduct in science, and sending him a letter of reprimand.29 THE SUBJECT CHOSE NOT TO RESPOND T O THE INVESTIGATION REPORT We wrote to the subject on 10 February 1999 providing him with a draft of the investigation report. We explained that, although he was not obligated to provide comments or rebuttal, if he wished to do so, we asked to receive his response on or before 12 March 1999. We explained that comments or rebuttal received on or before March 12, 1999 would receive fidl consideration and may lead to revision of the report or of the recommended disposition (45 C.F.R. 9 689.1 (d). Because we had received no response by 17 March 1999, we called the subject to ask if he planned to respond. He informed us that, since he had nothing further to add to the report, he chose not to respond. The above report remains unchanged fiom the draft report reviewed by the subject. 26 Whether the subject acted recklessly or knowingly has no effect on the conclusion and actions taken in this case *' because reckless behavior is sufficient for a finding of misconduct in science. 45 C.F.R. § 689.2(b). - 28 The Report (Tab G) at page 10, answer to question 10(a). 29 This is a Group I action (see 5 689.2(a)(i)). 7
Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 1999-11-30.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)