oversight

Semiannual Report - September 2017

Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2017-09-01.

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

APRIL 1, 2017 – SEPTEMBER 30, 2017



SEMIANNUAL REPORT

TO CONGRESS




         NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
         OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
         NSF-OIG-SAR-57
ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by
Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health,
prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense....” NSF consists of the National
Science Board (NSB) and the Director, which establish agency policies and provides
oversight of its activities. NSF is vital because it supports basic research and people to
create knowledge that transforms the future.

With an annual budget of approximately $7.5 billion in FY 2017, it is the funding source
for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by
America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer
science, and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of Federal backing.


ABOUT THE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

NSF’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) promotes effectiveness, efficiency, and
economy in administering the Foundation’s programs; detects and prevents fraud,
waste, and abuse within NSF or by individuals that receive NSF funding; and identifies
and helps to resolve cases of research misconduct. OIG was established in 1989, in
compliance with the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended. Because the Inspector
General reports directly to the NSB and Congress, the Office is organizationally
independent from the agency.

CREDIT:
FRONT COVER PHOTOS: VALERIE HILLGREN, NSF OIG
FRONT/BACK COVER BACKGROUND AND INTERIOR FOOTER PHOTOS: KDSHUTTERMAN,
SHUTTERSTOCK
COVER AND FOOTER DESIGN: LAUREN STOKES, CHITRA PRODUCTIONS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
From the Inspector General ......................................................................................... 1


Audits and Reviews ...................................................................................................... 3


   Management of Major Multi-User Research Facilities ................................................. 3

   Business Operations Management and Control Environment ..................................... 5

   Oversight of NSF Awardees ........................................................................................ 9


Investigations .............................................................................................................. 13


   Program Integrity Investigations ................................................................................ 13

   Research Misconduct Investigations ......................................................................... 16

   Administrative Investigations ..................................................................................... 23


Outreach Efforts .......................................................................................................... 25


Management Challenges for NSF in FY 2018............................................................ 27


Statistical Data ............................................................................................................ 29


   Audit Data.................................................................................................................. 29

   Investigations Data .................................................................................................... 33

    FROM THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
    I am pleased to present our semiannual report, which summarizes the work and
    accomplishments of our office during the second half of fiscal year 2017.

    In this report, we focus on the impact of our work on the Foundation and how our
    findings have inspired action to improve the Foundation’s efforts to promote the
    progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to
    secure the national defense. To meet the President’s agenda, the Foundation strives to
    become more effective and efficient. As it does so, we have become stronger, yet still
    independent, partners by providing valuable information, insights, and perspectives to
    improve programs and operations and help NSF accomplish its goals.

    We are making a difference. In this report, we lead with our work on NSF’s
    management of large facilities, or major multi-user research facilities — an inherently
    risky portfolio due to the complex nature of these facilities, the associated high
    construction and operating costs, and the need to apply equal emphasis on sound
    business practices and innovative science in the awarding of cooperative agreements
    for such facilities. By strengthening and augmenting existing policies and procedures in
    response to recommendations from our office and the National Academy of Public
    Administration, NSF has improved its oversight over major facilities. The Foundation is
    now challenged to ensure that those new controls are appropriately and consistently
    applied.

    Beyond our focus on major facilities, much of our work this reporting period addressed
    the “business” side of NSF. In addition to work in grants administration, we examined
    whether the Foundation was ready for the relocation to Alexandria, Virginia, identifying
    some areas needing improvement. NSF completed its move to its new headquarters in
    early October. We will continue to monitor associated recommendations, such as those
    related to records management, and monitor post-move activity including completion of
    an after-action review and the closeout of previous leases.

    Also during this period, OIG contractors conducted audits of four NSF awardees that
    had expended more than $751 million of NSF funds during the respective audit periods.
    The audits assessed the reasonableness, allowability, and allocability of costs across all
    NSF awards at the institutions.

    The four audits of all institutions’ awards identified, in total, more than $860,000 of
    questioned costs. We made recommendations to NSF to recover the questioned
    amounts from the University of Southern California ($639,479), Raytheon BBN
    Technologies ($96,106), Georgia Tech Research Corporation ($68,837), and the
    University of Arizona ($56,904). We also made recommendations for the awardees to
    strengthen controls over the areas that led to the questioned costs. The auditors’
    findings included questioned travel costs, expenses claimed near the end of the award
    period, questioned subaward charges, and unapproved pre-award costs.



1     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    We also continued our efforts focused on the ethical conduct of research during this
    period. In addition to our ongoing investigations of research misconduct, we released
    the results of our review of awardees’ compliance with training in the responsible
    conduct of research required by the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully
    Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 1 (America
    COMPETES Act). The America COMPETES Act requires that each institution
    submitting a proposal to NSF certify that it has a plan to provide appropriate training and
    oversight in the ethical conduct of research to all undergraduates, graduate students,
    and postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct research. In our
    review 2 of a sample of institutional Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training
    plans, issued in July 2017, we answered key compliance questions related to NSF’s
    policy. Among other things, we found that while most of the institutions we sampled
    complied with NSF’s RCR requirements, almost one quarter of the institutions did not
    initially do so. We also presented observations as to how institutions are responding to
    this requirement for NSF’s consideration, including promising practices or techniques
    used by some of the institutions we studied that are worthy of being shared with the
    broader community. We hope that NSF will use this information to strengthen
    implementation of this important requirement. In response to our report, the NSF
    Director issued a notice to all institutions reminding the community that institutions must
    certify to having an RCR plan in place when submitting proposals.

    Finally, this year we also highlight not only our work at NSF, but also our work in the
    Federal audit and investigative communities. As part of our mission to prevent fraud,
    waste, and abuse, we conduct outreach to build partnerships within the agency and with
    other Federal agencies, NSF awardees, and the research community. Our efforts in
    these areas serve to increase knowledge and efficiencies across the various
    communities, identify cross-cutting issues, and help improve oversight across the
    Federal government. Our office’s early commitment to and involvement with the launch
    of Oversight.gov, the Federal Inspector General community’s new accessible and
    searchable website, is an example of one such activity, which should dramatically
    improve the public’s access to the OIG community’s audit, evaluation, and investigative
    work.

    Our work reflects our sustained commitment to helping NSF be an effective steward of
    taxpayer dollars and benefits from the support of NSF management and staff from
    across the Foundation. We look forward to our continued partnership with NSF, the
    NSB, and Congress to fulfill this goal.




    1Pub. L. No. 110-69
    2OIG Review of Institutions’ Implementation of NSF’s Responsible Conduct of Research Requirements, OIG
    Tracking No. PR12030006, July 25, 2017, https://www.nsf.gov/oig/_pdf/RCR_MIR_Final_7-25-17.pdf


2       SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    AUDITS AND REVIEWS
    The Office of Audits is responsible for auditing grants, contracts, and cooperative
    agreements funded by the Foundation. We review agency operations and ensure that
    financial, administrative, and programmatic aspects of agency operations are conducted
    economically and efficiently. By providing independent and objective assessments of
    NSF’s program and financial performance, we are committed to improving NSF's
    business policies and practices to better support NSF in promoting science,
    mathematics, and engineering research and education.

    MANAGEMENT OF MAJOR MULTI-USER RESEARCH FACILITIES
    This reporting period, we continued to review NSF’s management of its major multi-user
    research facilities (major facility). 3 These major facilities are state-of-the art
    infrastructure for research and education and include telescopes, ships, distributed
    networks, and observatories. We found NSF has improved its oversight of such facilities
    — and closed recommendations from seven reports related to the management of
    major facilities 4 — but that it did not fully comply with all of its new policy and
    implementing guidance. We also initiated an audit on the Association of Universities for
    Research in Astronomy’s (AURA) indirect cost structure, but did not complete it due to
    AURA’s reorganization, which will result in significant changes to its indirect cost
    structure.

    NSF NEEDS STRONGER CONTROLS OVER BATTELLE MEMORIAL INSTITUTE AWARD FOR THE
    NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL OBSERVATORY NETWORK

    NSF developed five new policy and implementing guidance documents from 2014 to
    2016 to address OIG and National Academy of Public Administration recommendations
    to strengthen controls over its major facility construction projects. We reviewed the
    Battelle Memorial Institute (BMI) award for managing the National Ecological
    Observatory Network (NEON) to assess NSF’s progress toward putting its new policies
    into practice. 5

    We found NSF strengthened some controls over the BMI award, such as reviewing the
    reasonableness of certain proposed costs and retaining a portion of contingency. In
    addition, NSF reviewed BMI’s proposed use of management fee 6 and incorporated


    3 The term “major multi-user research facility,” or “major facility,” is synonymous with the term “large facility,” used

    previously in our reports. The new terminology better aligns with the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

    (Pub. L. No. 114-329), signed into law on January 6, 2017.

    4 OIG Report No. 12-6-001, September 28, 2012; OIG Report No. 16-1-019, August 10, 2016; OIG Report No.


    16-1-020, June 16, 2016; OIG Report No. 16-6-003, January 29, 2016; OIG Report No. 16-6-004, January 29, 2016;

    OIG Report No. 16-6-008, June 16, 2016; OIG Report No. 17-3-004, May 12, 2017

    5 OIG Report No. 17-3-004, May 12, 2017

    6 According to NSF Standard Operating Guidance 2015-1, Negotiation, Award and Payment of Management Fee, 


    management fee means an amount of money paid to a recipient in excess of a cooperative agreement’s or

    cooperative support agreement’s allowable costs.



3       SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    management fee terms and conditions into the BMI awards, including requiring BMI to
    report on the use of all management fee expended.

    However, NSF did not fully comply with new policy and implementing guidance to
    strengthen controls. Specifically, NSF awarded funding to BMI before completing the
    cost proposal review document for the operations award and was still determining the
    total estimated cost of NEON in the fall of 2016. Without a cost proposal review
    document prior to the start of the operations award, NSF may provide funding to BMI for
    costs that are not necessary, reasonable, or allowable. Also, NEON is the first major
    facility project for which NSF has held management reserve. NSF did not have policies
    in place to prevent the use of its management reserve 7 for costs that do not benefit the
    award. In addition, although prohibited by policy and/or implementing guidance,
    management fee was based on a percentage of total estimated project cost, was not
    finalized before work started, and was allowed to be used for charitable contributions.

    We made recommendations that NSF strengthen controls over the BMI project and
    develop procedures to ensure that controls are in place prior to awarding future major
    facility awards. NSF agreed with all recommendations except for disallowing BMI’s use
    of management fee for charitable contributions.

    MANAGEMENT FEE RECOMMENDATIONS CLOSED DURING THIS SEMIANNUAL PERIOD

    During this reporting period, we closed 13 recommendations related to management fee
    from 4 reports issued from 2016 to 2017. For example, in 2016 we issued reports with
    management fee-related recommendations concerning two NSF awardees, AURA and
    NEON. We closed the AURA recommendations, including our recommendations that
    AURA update its management fee policy and report its use of management fee to NSF.
    We closed management fee recommendations directed towards NEON because
    leadership of the project transitioned from NEON, Inc. to BMI, which should abate the
    risk identified in the NEON report.

    In our 2016 report on NSF’s negotiation, award, and management of management fees
    awarded to AURA and NEON, we recommended 8 that NSF revise its management fee
    policy to require awardees to submit financial information to NSF so it could determine
    the need for a management fee. NSF disagreed with our recommendation and accepted
    the risk of not implementing it. Additionally, NSF responded that offering a management
    fee allows NSF to attract the most qualified organizations to run the Foundation’s major
    facilities. Given this disagreement and the lack of clear government-wide rules with
    respect to management fees, we closed this recommendation and note our differences
    here.




    7 The management reserve, $3.2 million, is held by NSF to manage risks NSF identified, such as environmental
    compliance and potential liabilities, as opposed to funds for risks that are held and managed by BMI.
    8 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Negotiation, Award, and Management of Management Fees Awarded to AURA

    and NEON, OIG Report No. 16-6-008, June 16, 2016


4       SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    We also closed our recommendation regarding use of management fee for charitable
    contributions. During our inspection of BMI, we determined NSF allowed the
    organization to use its management fee to donate to charities. NSF identified in its
    standard operating guidance a list of items, such as alcohol and lobbying, for which
    awardees are not allowed to use management fee; at the time, charitable contributions
    were listed as a prohibited use. We recommended that NSF follow its policy and not
    allow management fee for charitable contributions. NSF responded that allowing BMI to
    use its management fee for charitable contributions is consistent with BMI’s mission. In
    July 2017, NSF removed charitable contributions from its list of prohibited uses of
    management fee. As there are no government-wide rules prohibiting the use of
    management fee for charitable contributions and NSF has changed its internal policy,
    we closed our recommendation.

    CLOSURE OF THE AUDIT OF AURA’S INDIRECT COST RATE STRUCTURE

    OIG staff initiated an audit to determine if AURA’s indirect cost structure resulted in an
    equitable distribution of indirect expenses, complied with applicable Federal regulations,
    and was appropriate for the organization. During the audit, we learned that AURA is
    undergoing a reorganization that will result in a significant change to its indirect cost
    structure.

    As of April 2017, AURA had a complicated indirect cost structure comprised of 28
    individual rates. According to AURA officials, it designed this structure with the goal of
    allocating indirect costs in the most accurate way possible. However, the reorganization
    should also simplify the indirect cost structure and result in a reduction in the number of
    rates.

    We closed the audit due to the material impact that the reorganization will have on the
    indirect cost structure. Any recommendations related to an indirect cost structure that
    will be substantially different in the immediate future may not be applicable. Additionally,
    we did not evaluate the indirect cost structure proposed under the new organizational
    model because it is still in the planning stages and may change.

    However, we did test AURA’s application of its indirect cost rates for fiscal years 2015,
    2016, and 2017 to ensure the rates were applied properly. AURA accurately applied the
    correct rates with one exception. In FY 2015, AURA applied a final indirect rate that was
    still under review by NSF rather than the previously approved provisional rate.

    We will continue to monitor the progress of the reorganization to assess and identify any
    risk areas that may be considered for a future audit.

    BUSINESS OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL
    ENVIRONMENT
    Selecting and funding great science is the agency’s primary mission. Effective execution
    of its financial and administrative operations is critical to NSF’s success, as are strong


5     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    systems and controls over such functions. Therefore, this reporting period, we
    continued to look at the “business” side of NSF and its control environment, including its
    controls to identify and mitigate conflicts of interest for its temporary staff, records
    management, and preparation for its relocation to its new headquarters building.

    NSF COULD STRENGTHEN ITS CONTROLS TO IDENTIFY AND MITIGATE IPA CONFLICTS OF
    INTEREST

    NSF draws scientists, engineers, and educators from academia, industry, or other
    eligible organizations on rotational assignment to supplement its workforce, many of
    whom NSF appoints under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act 9 (IPA). Given the
    significant involvement IPAs have in NSF’s award and oversight processes, we
    conducted an audit 10 to assess the effectiveness of NSF’s controls for identifying and
    mitigating conflicts of interest for IPAs agency wide.

    We found NSF has implemented certain internal controls to identify and mitigate IPA
    conflicts of interest. However, some controls could be strengthened, and additional
    controls may improve NSF’s ability to identify or mitigate IPA conflicts of interest.
    Specifically, NSF’s information system does not restrict conflicted parties from
    accessing proposal and award information, and rules on submitting proposals while at
    NSF are not clear or consistently enforced. In addition, NSF did not always ensure a
    substitute negotiator was named when negotiating awards with former IPAs or fully
    track completion of exit briefings for departing IPAs. NSF had also not completed some
    of the corrective actions it agreed to take in response to a 2015 Management
    Implication Report from our Office of Investigations, including developing tools to
    enforce compliance with the timeframes associated with ethics and financial disclosure
    requirements and making further system enhancements to limit the creation of multiple
    principal investigator (PI) identification numbers, which could allow the circumvention of
    certain controls. These actions, if taken, would strengthen controls over IPA conflicts of
    interest.

    We recommended that NSF take corrective actions to strengthen controls over IPA
    conflicts of interests, including reassessing controls to ensure staff do not have access
    to awards and proposals for which they are conflicted, ensuring that staff obtain exit
    interviews, and clarifying and enforcing its rules on the submission of preliminary
    proposals by current employees and IPAs. NSF agreed with most of our
    recommendations and proposed corrective actions. NSF also stated that it had
    completed some actions responsive to the 2015 Management Implication Report,
    including making system enhancements to address the issue of duplicative PI
    identification numbers and issuing an Ethics Memo.




    9   Pub. L. No. 91-648
    10   OIG Report No. 17-2-008, June 8, 2017


6        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    NSF COULD STRENGTHEN KEY CONTROLS OVER ELECTRONIC RECORDS MANAGEMENT

    We conducted an audit 11 to determine whether NSF is compliant with applicable
    standards for preserving electronic messages as Federal records and if NSF has
    responded to congressional requests for information. This audit responded to a request
    from Ranking Member McCaskill and Senator Carper of the U.S. Senate Committee on
    Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

    We determined that NSF has some controls in place for managing certain electronic
    records but cannot ensure it is complying with Federal requirements and guidance for
    electronic records management. NSF has developed a policy12 to permanently preserve
    select senior officials’ email and chat records, but at the time of our audit the U.S.
    National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had not yet approved this policy.
    NSF has issued policies related to the appropriate use of information technology (IT)
    and social media, but is still exploring solutions to capture work-related text messages,
    social media posts, and records created on non-government accounts. We also found
    that NSF addressed the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) May 2015
    records management recommendations. 13

    In addition, NSF has not finalized its guidance related to the use of smartphone
    applications that support encryption or the automatic deletion of messages for work-
    related communications, although it informed us that it has been working to complete
    that guidance since NARA issued its memo on this topic in March 2017. NSF has the
    capability to monitor the download of smartphone applications on NSF-owned mobile
    devices, yet it does not actively monitor downloads; instead it provides policies on
    expected behavior. This weakness allowed some NSF employees to download
    smartphone applications that support encryption or automatic deletion of messages
    without consulting the appropriate officials as required.

    Finally, we determined that NSF has internal controls for responding to and tracking
    congressional requests for information. For the period of July 1, 2016, to June 13, 2017,
    we found no evidence that suggested NSF or NSB officials were asked to delay or
    withhold responses to congressional requests for information, or that NSF and NSB
    officials directed or advised NSF or congressional staff that NSF will only provide
    information to a committee chair.

    We made five recommendations to strengthen NSF’s compliance with electronic
    records management. As a result, NSF has agreed to take several actions, including
    updating its records management training course and requiring all NSF personnel who
    create, receive, access, or use Federal records to complete initial records management
    training within 60 days of employment and annual refresher training at least once each
    fiscal year. NSF has also agreed to implement controls to prevent prohibited

    11 OIG Report No. 17-2-009, July 6, 2017
    12 In August 2013, NARA provided agencies with a new records management approach, known as “Capstone,” for
    managing their Federal record emails electronically.
    13 GAO-15-339, Additional Actions Are Needed to Meet Requirements of the Managing Government Records

    Directive, May 14, 2015


7        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    applications from being downloaded onto NSF-issued mobile devices without
    authorization and to implement quarterly monitoring of applications installed on such
    devices by March 2018.

    NSF NEEDS TO IMPROVE PLANNING FOR RECORDS MANAGEMENT IN LIGHT OF
    RELOCATION TO ITS NEW HEADQUARTERS

    We conducted an inspection 14 to determine if NSF implemented 1) procedures to
    decrease the amount of paper records moved to its new Alexandria, Virginia,
    headquarters location; 2) controls in its records management and digitization efforts;
    and 3) internal controls to ensure the safekeeping of records by departing employees.
    We also determined if NSF adequately addressed the concerns raised in GAO’s May
    2015 report on managing government records.

    We found that NSF implemented some records management actions to reduce the
    amount of paper records moved to the new headquarters. NSF hired a new records
    management official in November 2015, and it has appropriate controls to ensure the
    safeguarding of information provided to the two contractors for records management
    and digitization services. In addition, NSF took corrective action to address
    recommendations in GAO’s 2015 report.

    Although NSF has made progress to decrease paper records, more work is needed.
    Because of NSF’s delays in providing the contractor documents and the re-scoping of
    the contract, NSF risks not completing its scanning/digitization project efficiently. Also,
    because only approximately 36 percent of NSF employees had taken records
    management training as of August 2017, there is a risk that staff may have inadvertently
    discarded official records before the relocation. At the time of our fieldwork, NSF’s
    separation clearance form did not address records management; however, in June
    2017, NSF revised this form, reducing the risk that departing employees may dispose of
    official records.

    NSF generally agreed with our recommendations and informed us that it plans to
    continue to update records schedules, inventory and scan paper files, update records
    management training, and require mandatory annual training for all staff. In response to
    our recommendation to complete a quality control test on the contractor’s scanned files,
    NSF officials stated that the agency completed a quality control test on the contractor’s
    scanned files in April 2016. However, this testing was limited to one NSF office;
    therefore, NSF should continue quality control testing to include more files from
    directorates.




    14NSF’s Relocation to its New Headquarters Location — Records Management, OIG Report No. 17-3-003, Sept. 28,
    2017


8        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
    NSF UPDATED ITS INTEGRATED PROJECT SCHEDULE PRIOR TO THE NSF MOVE TO
    ALEXANDRIA

    During this reporting period, we closed recommendations relating to NSF’s relocation to
    Alexandria. Our previous audit 15 identified that NSF had established a baseline
    relocation schedule as of May 2016 to manage and monitor activities that NSF and
    several contractors had to complete before the relocation. However, NSF did not
    include all key information in its May 2016 relocation baseline schedule, and status
    information in the schedule was not always current because NSF received only monthly
    updates from the construction contractor instead of weekly or bi-weekly as
    recommended by GAO.

    In response to our recommendations, NSF updated its integrated project schedule in
    May 2017, but NSF did not update the schedule to include resources needed to
    complete the activities included in the schedule and did not ask for more frequent
    schedule updates from the building contractor. Regardless, in early October 2017, NSF
    completed its move to Alexandria.

    OVERSIGHT OF NSF AWARDEES
    To fulfill its mission, NSF selects and administers productive investments in research
    and the Nation’s science infrastructure. Grants administration is integral to the
    Foundation’s mission, and, accordingly, what processes and operations we review. This
    reporting period, OIG contractors conducted audits of NSF awardees that had
    expended more than $751 million of NSF funds and identified more than $860,000 of
    questioned costs. We also evaluated a pilot program to reduce administrative tasks
    involving the amount and type of documentation required to support salary and wage
    charges to Federal awards. In addition, in our desk reviews of 43 audit reports, covering
    more than $658 million in NSF direct expenditures, we found that 30 (70 percent) fully
    met Federal reporting requirements — an improvement since the last reporting period.

    AUDITS OF NSF AWARDEES

    OIG contractors conducted audits of four NSF awardees that had expended more than
    $751 million of NSF funds during the respective audit periods. The audits assessed the
    reasonableness, allowability, and allocability of costs across all NSF awards at the
    institutions.

    The four audits of all institutions’ awards identified, in total, more than $860,000 of
    questioned costs. We recommended that NSF recover the questioned amounts from the
    University of Southern California ($639,479), Raytheon BBN Technologies ($96,106),
    Georgia Tech Research Corporation ($68,837), and the University of Arizona ($56,904).
    We also recommended that the awardees strengthen controls over the areas that led to
    the questioned costs. The auditors’ findings included questioned travel costs, expenses

    15Review of NSF’s Oversight of its Relocation: Part 3 Baseline Schedule, OIG Report No. 17-3-002, December 21,
    2016


9        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     claimed near the end of the award period, questioned subaward charges, and
     unapproved pre-award costs.

     In addition, NSF resolved four grantee audits this period. It sustained the following
     amounts questioned in the respective audit reports: $78,728 for the University of
     California Berkeley (OIG Audit No. 15-1-012); $134,514 for the University of Wisconsin
     Madison (OIG Audit No. 15-1-014); $70,040 for Stanford University (OIG Audit No. 15­
     1-020); and $11,214 for Pennsylvania State University (OIG Audit No. 17-1-001).

     EVALUATION OF FEDERAL DEMONSTRATION PARTNERSHIP’S PILOT PAYROLL
     CERTIFICATION PROGRAM FOR COMPLIANCE WITH 2 CFR 200

     The Federal Demonstration Partnership established a pilot payroll certification program
     in 2011. The goal of the pilot was to reduce administrative tasks involving the amount
     and type of documentation required to support salary and wage charges to Federal
     awards. Instead of activity-based certifications for each individual at the end of each
     semester, the pilot program used cost-based certifications for each Federal award on an
     annual basis. The pilot program was created to comply with the requirements of Office
     of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21, Cost Principles for Institutions of
     Higher Education.

     We previously reported 16 that the pilot payroll certification programs implemented by
     George Mason University and Michigan Technological University, while generally
     adhering to OMB Circular A-21 requirements, did not always comply with their
     documentation policies for payroll transactions for both the current reporting system and
     the pilot program, and that PIs did not have visibility over payroll charges to other
     awards. As a result, PIs would not be aware if collectively they were certifying and
     charging more than 100 percent of an employee’s salary to multiple awards. Visibility of
     full allocations of employees’ time could be an important control to help ensure that
     overcharges and inaccurate charges do not occur.

     In response to a request from OMB, we evaluated the pilot programs for compliance
     with Title 2 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 200, Uniform Administrative
     Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (“Uniform
     Guidance”). Although the Uniform Guidance was not in effect at the time that we
     conducted our audits, we reviewed the audit reports and compared the results to its
     requirements. We found that the recommendations we made in our audit reports are still
     applicable for programs under the Uniform Guidance. Specifically, designing and
     implementing proper internal controls throughout the reporting period, as well as making
     full allocations of employee charges available to each PI with payroll costs charged for
     the employee, would be useful in assuring payroll charges to Federal awards are
     accurate.




     16   September 2015 Semiannual Report, pages 10–12


10        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     QUALITY OF SINGLE AUDITS SHOWS IMPROVEMENT FROM PRIOR PERIOD

     OMB Circular A-133, Audits of States, Local Governments and Non-Profit
     Organizations, and the Uniform Guidance provide audit requirements for state and local
     governments, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations receiving Federal
     awards. Under the guidance, covered entities that expend $750,000 or more a year in
     Federal awards must obtain an annual organization-wide audit that includes opinions on
     the entity’s financial statements and compliance with Federal award requirements. Non-
     federal auditors, such as public accounting firms and state auditors, conduct these
     single audits. We review the resulting audit reports to ensure that the reports comply
     with the requirements of OMB Circular A-133, the Uniform Guidance, and Government
     Auditing Standards.

     The audit findings in Single Audit Reports are useful to NSF in planning advanced
     monitoring site visits and other post-award monitoring efforts. Because of the
     importance of Single Audit Reports to this oversight process, we conduct desk reviews
     on all reports for which NSF is the cognizant or oversight agency for audit, and provide
     guidance to awardees and auditors to improve audit quality in future reports. In addition,
     we return to the awardees reports that are deemed inadequate so the awardees can
     work with the audit firms to take corrective action.

     During the period, we conducted desk reviews of 43 audit reports, 17 covering more than
     $658 million in NSF direct expenditures, and found that 30 (70 percent) fully met
     Federal reporting requirements. The quality issues identified in 13 reports included
     6 reports that were not submitted to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse in a timely
     manner; 4 reports in which the Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards did not
     include required information to allow for identification of awards received from or
     passed-through to other non-federal entities and/or did not adequately describe the
     significant accounting policies used to prepare the schedule; and 4 reports that were
     submitted to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse with an inaccurate Data Collection Form
     (Form SF-SAC). In addition, two reports included incomplete presentations of the audit
     findings as well as incomplete Corrective Action Plans to address the audit
     recommendations, one report failed to accurately identify the major program, and one
     report failed to include all of the required report elements.

     As noted in Figure 1, the percentage of reports that fully met Federal reporting
     requirements showed marked improvement over the past several periods, rising from
     58 percent in the most recent period to 70 percent in the current period. On average,
     66 percent of reports fully met Federal reporting requirements over the past 5 years.




     17   The audits were conducted by 30 different independent public accounting firms.


11        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     FIGURE 1. PERCENTAGE OF SINGLE AUDITS WITHOUT TIMELINESS OR QUALITY DEFICIENCIES


            85%

            80%

            75%

            70%

            65%

            60%

            55%

            50%

            45%

            40%
               Mar-13   Sep-13   Mar-14   Sep-14   Mar-15   Sep-15   Mar-16   Sep-16   Mar-17   Sep-17

           Source: NSF OIG Semiannual Reports

     For those errors that potentially impacted the reliability of the audit reports, we
     contacted the auditors and awardees, as appropriate, for explanations of each of the
     potential errors. The auditors and awardees provided adequate explanations and/or
     additional information to demonstrate compliance with Federal reporting requirements.
     After we completed our review of the reports, we issued a letter to each auditor and
     awardee informing them of the results of our review and the specific issues they should
     work on to improve the quality and reliability of future reports.




12     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     INVESTIGATIONS
     The Office of Investigations is dedicated to promoting effectiveness and efficiency in
     NSF programs and operations. We investigate wrongdoing involving organizations or
     individuals that receive awards from, conduct business with, or work for NSF. We
     assess the seriousness of misconduct and recommend proportionate action. When
     possible, we work in partnership with agencies and awardees to resolve issues.

     PROGRAM INTEGRITY INVESTIGATIONS
     As part of our mission, we investigate allegations concerning misuse of NSF funds,
     false statements in documents submitted to NSF, and employee misconduct. When we
     identify a violation of a criminal or civil statute, we refer the matter to the U.S.
     Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution or civil action. When appropriate,
     we also refer matters to NSF for administrative action, such as award termination and
     government-wide suspension/debarment.

     SBIR COMPANY FOUNDER AND UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR ARRESTED ON CONSPIRACY
     CHARGE

     A university professor who is also the founder of two Small Business Innovation
     Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) companies was arrested
     on a charge that he conspired with others to defraud the Federal Government. The
     founder was charged by criminal complaint, which alleged the founder and his co-
     conspirators attempted to defraud NSF by submitting proposals for work previously
     completed overseas. The founder also submitted false statements and claims to NSF
     concerning time and effort reporting, the expenditure of award funds, and compliance
     with award terms and conditions. Shortly before the end of this period, we
     recommended that NSF suspend the founder and his companies government wide; the
     agency’s decision is pending. This joint investigation is ongoing.

     SBIR COMPANY OWNER INDICTED ON WIRE FRAUD AND AGGRAVATED IDENTITY THEFT
     CHARGES

     As a result of a joint investigation, the owner of an SBIR company was indicted on
     charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for, among other things, submitting
     proposals that contained endorsements of people without their permission, budgeting
     funds for subcontractors without their knowledge, and not providing the subcontractors
     with the budgeted funds. After the indictment, based on our recommendation, NSF
     suspended the company and its owner government wide, pending the completion of
     legal proceedings.

     NSF FELLOWSHIP RECIPIENT SENTENCED TO 27 MONTHS IN PRISON

     As a result of a joint investigation, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipient pled
     guilty and was sentenced for theft of Federal Government funds related to false


13     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     statements on an NSF grant application, wire fraud related to using multiple social
     security numbers to fraudulently obtain Federal student aid, and passport fraud. The
     subject pled guilty to three counts, and was sentenced to 27 months of imprisonment
     followed by 3 years of supervised release. The court also ordered restitution of more
     than $500,000, nearly $140,000 of which will be paid to NSF.

     CIVIL COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST SBIR COMPANY AND OWNER FOR FAILING TO
     MAINTAIN RECORDS

     We determined an SBIR company did not maintain award records, as required by NSF
     policy and the SBIR program. As a result, a civil complaint was filed against the
     company and its owner alleging, among other things, that the company and owner
     knowingly failed to maintain records of how the company expended grant funds and
     falsely certified to NSF that it would maintain such records.

     UNIVERSITY IDENTIFIES ACCOUNTING ERRORS AND RETURNS MORE THAN $2.2 MILLION TO
     NSF

     A university self-reported that it erroneously charged more than $2.2 million on various
     NSF awards due to an issue with its accounting procedures. The university determined
     that salaries for some administrative staff who did not work on NSF awards had
     inadvertently been charged directly to the awards. Because the university could not
     readily identify which salary costs were properly related to NSF awards, it decided to
     return all claimed administrative salary costs from 2005 to 2015. We reviewed the
     submitted report and concurred with its findings. The university took corrective action
     and returned more than $2.2 million to NSF.

     NSF WITHHELD FINAL PAYMENTS TO SBIR/STTR COMPANY

     In response to our recommendation, NSF withheld the final payments for an STTR
     Phase I award and an SBIR Phase II award to a company. The company had provided
     a sample timesheet and its timekeeping policy to NSF during the required Phase II
     financial capability review. However, the company kept no time and effort records for its
     PI, who served in that role on both awards. Our investigation is ongoing.

     FORMER CEO OF SBIR COMPANY REACHES NEARLY $30,000 SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

     Our investigation of the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an SBIR awardee
     company found that the former CEO had taken company funds for his personal use.
     DOJ declined to pursue the case. The awardee company recouped the stolen funds
     through its insurance company, so there was no monetary loss to NSF. The former
     CEO subsequently reached a settlement agreement with the awardee company’s
     insurance company to repay nearly $30,000 over 5 years.




14     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     RECIPIENT OF NSF FUNDS SENTENCED IN FRAUD SCHEME; UNIVERSITY RETURNED NEARLY
     $3,000

     A man portraying himself as a high school student fraudulently received a stipend from
     a university through an NSF award to promote math and science in middle schools.
     Another Federal law enforcement agency determined that he was an adult who
     committed fraud by receiving financial support to which he was not entitled. He was
     convicted of these offenses, and the university refunded NSF the amount of the stipend.

     SBIR COMPANY AND PRINCIPALS SUSPENDED GOVERNMENT WIDE

     Based on our recommendation, NSF suspended an SBIR company, its President,
     Senior Scientist, and PI government wide. Our investigation found that the company
     submitted false statements and claims related to the PI’s primary employment, violated
     the SBIR percentage of work requirement, and failed to expend NSF funds in
     accordance with the approved budget. The joint investigation of the company and its
     principals is ongoing.

     NSF SUSPENDS AWARD TO STTR COMPANY

     Based on our recommendation, NSF suspended an award to an STTR company. We
     based our recommendation in part on evidence that the company misrepresented the
     employment status of the former PI, in violation of the SBIR/STTR program
     requirements. Our investigation of the company is ongoing.

     NSF EMPLOYEE COUNSELED FOR VIOLATING ETHICAL CONDUCT STANDARDS

     We investigated allegations that an NSF employee violated Federal ethics statutes by
     steering a procurement to an individual with whom she had a financial business
     relationship. We determined that the employee assisted in selecting the contractor, and,
     despite routinely seeking conflict of interest guidance from the NSF Office of General
     Counsel (OGC) on other matters, did not consult with OGC during the procurement of
     the contractor. We referred the matter to DOJ, which declined to prosecute. We
     reported the possible violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the
     Executive Branch to the employee’s supervisor, who formally counseled the employee.

     ACTIONS RESULTING FROM PREVIOUSLY REPORTED PROGRAM INTEGRITY INVESTIGATIONS

     We previously reported 18 that a former graduate student pled guilty to one count of wire
     fraud for falsifying portions of a fellowship application, including fabricating a letter of
     support and forging an associated signature. A Federal court subsequently sentenced
     the former graduate student to 3 years of probation including 50 hours of community
     service, and ordered the graduate student to pay nearly $40,000 in restitution. In this
     reporting period, based on our recommendation, NSF debarred the former graduate
     student for 5 years.

     18   September 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 17; March 2017 Semiannual Report, p. 10


15        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     As previously reported, 19 a community college returned more than $490,000 for
     improperly charged and unsupported costs on two NSF awards. We identified additional
     unsupported charges totaling more than $30,000, which the college agreed to return to
     NSF.

     We previously reported 20 an employee of another Federal agency improperly applied for
     and received an NSF award. The employee used his university position as an adjunct
     professor in violation of his agency’s guidance to use only his official government
     position when seeking Federal awards. By doing so, the employee violated a Federal
     ethics statute and ignored specific written guidance from agency ethics officials. The
     university agreed to return nearly $20,000 and in response to our recommendation,
     NSF prevented the university from drawing down the remaining award funds, resulting
     in nearly $7,000 in funds put to better use. Although DOJ declined to pursue the case,
     the employee’s Federal agency issued him a letter of reprimand for his actions involving
     the NSF award and will provide additional counselling.

     As a result of a joint investigation, a PI and company employee were sentenced to
     prison and ordered to pay restitution for making false statements to the SBIR program. 21
     In this reporting period, NSF debarred the PI and company for 5 years.

     We previously reported the government-wide suspension, termination of awards, civil
     settlement, and debarment recommendation related to a small business and its
     principals. 22 During this period, NSF reached agreements with the small business and
     its principals whereby the entities agreed to government-wide voluntary exclusions for
     4 years, less time already spent under government-wide suspension.

     RESEARCH MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS
     Research misconduct damages the scientific enterprise, is a potential misuse of public
     funds, and undermines the trust of citizens in government-funded research. It is
     imperative to the integrity of research funded with taxpayer dollars that NSF-funded
     researchers carry out their projects with the highest ethical standards. For these
     reasons, pursuing allegations of research misconduct — plagiarism, data fabrication,
     and data falsification — by NSF-funded researchers continues to be a focus of our
     investigative work.

     NSF takes research misconduct seriously, as do NSF’s awardee institutions. During this
     reporting period, institutions took actions against individuals found to have committed
     research misconduct, ranging from issuing letters of reprimand to expelling a student
     from the university. In every case, we recommended that NSF make a finding of

     19 March 2017 Semiannual Report, p. 10
     20 March 2017 Semiannual Report, p. 9
     21 March 2013 Semiannual Report, p. 23; September 2013 Semiannual Report, p. 16; September 2014 Semiannual

     Report, p. 23; September 2015 Semiannual Report, p. 23; March 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 20; September 2016
     Semiannual Report, p. 18
     22 September 2015 Semiannual Report, p. 26; March 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 22; September 2016 Semiannual

     Report, p. 17


16        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     research misconduct, issue a letter of reprimand, and require the subject to complete a
     Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training program. We also recommended
     additional significant actions as summarized below; unless specified, NSF’s decisions
     are pending.

     FORMER ASSISTANT PROFESSOR FABRICATES DATA, MISLEADS COLLEAGUES

     A co-PI of an NSF grant provided fabricated interview data used in a conference
     presentation and a manuscript submitted for publication. The data he claimed to have
     collected were subsequently questioned by his colleagues when he altered quotations.
     He departed the university and shortly thereafter ceased cooperating with the
     investigative committee (IC). The IC learned there were multiple occasions in which the
     co-PI’s data were questioned by his colleagues. Those colleagues withdrew
     publications in which those data appeared. The IC learned the co-PI presented his own
     graduate student with questionable data, which led to her retracting the paper in which
     that data appeared and not being able to use that data in her dissertation. The IC
     unanimously concluded there were multiple occurrences in which the co-PI falsified
     interview data purportedly resulting from student interviews. Accordingly, the university
     determined the co-PI committed research misconduct.

     We concurred with the university and concluded the co-PI committed research
     misconduct by exhibiting a pattern of data falsification and lying to his collaborators to
     avoid taking responsibility for his actions. We recommended NSF debar the co-PI for
     5 years; require the co-PI to provide certifications and assurances for 1 year following
     the debarment; and prohibit the co-PI from serving as a reviewer, advisor, or consultant
     for 1 year following the end of the debarment.

     POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW FABRICATES AND FALSIFIES DATA

     An NSF-supported postdoctoral fellow fabricated and falsified data in four publications
     and three unpublished manuscripts. After denying the allegations during the university’s
     inquiry, the postdoctoral fellow admitted to data fabrication in his response to the inquiry
     report. Based on an investigation into additional alleged acts of research misconduct,
     the IC determined that the postdoctoral fellow intentionally engaged in multiple acts of
     data falsification. The university did not impose any disciplinary or corrective actions
     because he had already departed the university. Three out of the four publications were,
     however, retracted.

     We concurred with the university’s findings. The postdoctoral fellow’s acts were
     intentional and constituted a significant departure from accepted practices of the
     research community. We recommended that NSF debar him for 5 years. We further
     recommended that for 5 years after the debarment period, NSF require certifications
     and assurances; require submission of a detailed data management plan with annual
     certifications of adherence for any new awards; and bar him from participating as a peer
     reviewer, advisor, or consultant for NSF.




17     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     GRADUATE STUDENT FALSIFIES DATA AND PLAGIARIZES IN MANUSCRIPT PUBLISHED
     WITHOUT CO-AUTHORS’ KNOWLEDGE

     A university determined that an NSF-supported graduate student committed data
     falsification, plagiarism, and other ethical violations in preparing and submitting a
     manuscript, which two journals published. Specifically, the graduate student submitted
     the manuscripts without his co-authors’ knowledge or consent, copied unattributed text
     and figures from a dissertation, and reported results he had been told were inaccurate.

     During the investigation, the graduate student denied responsibility, asserting that an
     unprofessional relationship with his advisor caused the events and that his advisor did
     not correctly train or supervise him. He also said he disagreed with concerns about the
     data. The university found, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the
     graduate student committed multiple acts of plagiarism and data falsification with
     varying levels of intent ranging from reckless to intentional. It dismissed the graduate
     student and pursued retraction of the two publications. It also made recommendations
     to the graduate student’s academic department to ensure all students received
     appropriate training.

     We concurred with the university that the graduate student acted intentionally in
     plagiarizing figures and text from another researcher’s dissertation and in falsifying data
     in the published manuscript, and that the actions represented a significant departure
     from accepted practices. We also determined the graduate student committed unethical
     acts in relation to the manuscript’s submission and publication; made inaccurate
     statements during the misconduct process; and never took responsibility for his actions,
     which we deemed aggravating factors.

     We recommended that NSF debar him for 3 years and require he submit certifications
     and assurances for 3 years following debarment.

     GRADUATE STUDENT FALSIFIED DATA IN PUBLISHED PAPER

     A graduate student falsified data in a published paper based on NSF-funded research.
     Researchers from another institution contacted the PI stating the published results were
     likely falsified. When the PI repeated the same experiments without the graduate
     student present, the results were radically different. The PI realized that the results
     reported in the paper were implausible and retracted the paper.

     Although the university’s IC did not make a finding of research misconduct, the
     university’s deciding official, based on additional review, concluded that the graduate
     student committed research misconduct by manipulating the instrument used in
     obtaining the data, thereby falsifying the data. The university subsequently expelled the
     graduate student.

     We concurred with the deciding official’s conclusion that the graduate student had
     manipulated the instrument used to create the falsified data. We recommended that



18     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     NSF debar the graduate student for 3 years and require submission of certifications and
     assurances for 3 years after the debarment.

     GRADUATE STUDENT FABRICATES DATA

     A graduate student at a university, supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
     Program award, fabricated data included in an NSF proposal and in two submitted
     manuscripts, one of which was accepted for publication. The student admitted to the
     research misconduct and voluntarily withdrew from the graduate program prior to the
     university’s investigation. The two manuscripts were withdrawn prior to publication. The
     university’s IC determined that the student intentionally fabricated and falsified data, a
     significant departure from accepted practices of the research community. The university
     took disciplinary actions, which included recording the research misconduct finding in
     the student’s transcript and sending notifications to the student’s previous research
     mentors. In addition, the grades in the student’s graduate research courses were
     changed to unsatisfactory, and those credits cannot be applied towards a degree.

     We concluded that the student’s acts of data fabrication were intentional, fit a pattern of
     research misconduct, and were a significant departure from accepted practices. We
     recommended that NSF debar him for 3 years. We further recommended that for
     3 years after the debarment period, NSF require certifications and assurances; require
     submission of a detailed data management plan with annual certifications of adherence
     for any resulting awards; and bar him from participating as a peer reviewer, advisor, or
     consultant for NSF. NSF proposed a 1-year debarment concurrent with 4 years of the
     additional requirements and prohibitions as recommended above.

     GRADUATE STUDENT FALSIFIES EXPERIMENTS

     In NSF-supported research, a graduate student falsely portrayed numerous
     experimental procedures and falsified data. After attempts failed to replicate the
     student’s data, her mentor retracted two papers. The university investigation concluded
     that the student falsified 14 figures in the 2 papers. However, the IC felt a lack of
     physical evidence precluded them from drawing any conclusions on whether the student
     had falsely portrayed the experiments.

     We concurred with most of the university’s conclusions; however, we found that the
     evidence indicated that the student falsely portrayed the experimental procedures. We
     recommended that NSF debar the graduate student for 5 years and require the
     graduate student to submit certifications and assurances for 3 years after the
     debarment.

     PI PLAGIARIZED INTO NSF PROPOSAL

     We received an allegation that the authors of an NSF proposal (PI and two co-PIs)
     included plagiarized text in the proposal. We conducted an inquiry and learned the PI
     was responsible for most of the copied text. We referred an investigation to the
     university, which concluded the PI plagiarized with a culpable intent, the plagiarism was

19     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     a significant departure from accepted practices, and the act constituted research
     misconduct.

     The IC was limited in its recommendations because of inadequacies within the
     university’s research misconduct policy. It recommended training and supervision as
     corrective actions. The adjudicator concurred with the committee recommendations and
     made a finding of research misconduct. The adjudicator decided that the university
     would: 1) within 6 months, require the Subject to complete training in research ethics, to
     include proper citation and referencing; 2) require for 1 year that the Subject run his
     documents through iThenticate and submit the reports to the Office of the Vice
     Chancellor for Research; and 3) require for 1 year that the Subject be prohibited from
     serving on advisory and peer review committees. The adjudicator also acted to address
     the shortcomings of the university’s policies and ethical training. He directed several
     offices to develop a revised policy on misconduct in research, directed one of those
     offices to provide RCR training for all new faculty, and imposed a requirement that all
     students conducting research complete appropriate RCR training.

     We concurred with the university that the PI committed research misconduct. We
     recommended that for 2 years NSF bar the PI from participating as a peer reviewer,
     advisor, or consultant for NSF, and require submission of certifications to NSF.

     ASSISTANT PROFESSOR ARGUES CITATIONS ALONE ARE SUFFICIENT

     An assistant professor plagiarized in three NSF proposals. She claimed that she had
     not understood the convention of using quotation marks to identify copied text, instead
     believing copied material required only careful and accurate citation. Her university’s IC
     concluded that she had been ignorant of the use of quotation marks, but pointed out
     that some copied text had inaccurate citation or no citation at all. They nevertheless
     concluded no research misconduct occurred.

     Our investigation determined that almost all the copied text had insufficient citation. We
     concluded the assistant professor committed research misconduct and recommended
     that NSF require the professor to submit certifications and assurances for 1 year and
     impose a 1-year ban on serving as a reviewer, advisor, or consultant.

     DATA FABRICATION LEADS TO NEARLY $300,000 PUT TO BETTER USE

     A university investigation concluded that a former graduate student falsified 16 images
     in the student’s Ph.D. thesis and in resulting publications. The university also concluded
     that two faculty members, one of them a laboratory director, exercised inadequate
     supervision over the student’s work and publications, and that the laboratory director’s
     laboratory management practices were deficient.

     Based on the investigation, the university suspended the laboratory director for a
     semester, barred her from advising graduate students or applying for grants for 2 years,
     and imposed training requirements. It also reprimanded the collaborating faculty
     member and imposed training requirements on him as well.

20     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     The university concluded that it could not continue the work on an existing NSF award
     to the laboratory director due to her inability to advise graduate students, so it requested
     that her award be terminated. NSF terminated the award, which resulted in nearly
     $300,000 of funds put to better use. Our investigation is ongoing.

     PI PLAGIARIZED TEXT AND FIGURES IN AN NSF PROPOSAL

     A PI on an NSF proposal plagiarized both text and figures into an NSF proposal without
     providing adequate attribution. The university conducted an investigation that concluded
     the PI knowingly committed plagiarism and exhibited a pattern of plagiarism. The
     university required that the PI complete an online RCR course, and required that all PI’s
     external funding proposals be run through plagiarism detection software for 3 years with
     the results presented to university officials at least 7 calendar days prior to the
     submission deadline.

     We concurred with the university’s finding and recommended that NSF require the PI
     submit certifications and assurances for 1 year and be prohibited from participating as a
     peer reviewer, advisor, or consultant for NSF for 1 year.

     ACTIONS BY NSF MANAGEMENT ON PREVIOUSLY REPORTED RESEARCH MISCONDUCT
     INVESTIGATIONS

     NSF adjudicated on our recommendations from seven research misconduct cases
     reported in previous Semiannual Reports. Except where noted, each case resulted in
     NSF making a finding of research misconduct, issuing a letter of reprimand, and
     requiring RCR training. NSF also took additional significant actions in response to our
     recommendations, as summarized below.

     •	 In the case of a university associate professor who falsified and fabricated
        research, 23 NSF initially made a finding of research misconduct and issued a notice
        of proposed debarment based on our report of investigation. However, the former
        associate professor appealed the finding and thereafter entered into a settlement
        with NSF in which he agreed to a voluntary government-wide exclusion. The
        voluntary exclusion included a prohibition on serving as a reviewer for NSF. The
        former associate professor also agreed to voluntarily exclude himself, and any
        companies in which he is a principal owner, from submitting proposals to NSF, and
        from being listed as senior personnel on any proposals submitted to NSF, until he
        has completed an RCR course and provided a certificate of course completion to
        NSF. As part of the settlement, NSF set aside the research misconduct finding.

     •	 In the case of an assistant professor who submitted nine proposals containing both
        plagiarized text and previously published research, 24 NSF debarred the assistant
        professor government wide. A year later, the assistant professor appealed the

     23   September 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 21
     24   September 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 22


21        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
          finding. NSF denied the appeal, upholding the 2-year debarment; the 4-year

          requirement for certifications and assurances; and 4-year ban on serving as a 

          reviewer, advisor, or consultant for NSF.


     •	 In the case of a graduate student who falsified data in a conference poster that was
        also included in an NSF award’s Annual Report, 25 NSF required for 3 years
        submission of certifications and assurances and detailed data management plans
        with annual certifications of adherence. NSF also barred her from serving as an NSF
        reviewer, advisor, or consultant for 3 years.

     •	 In the case of an assistant professor who submitted an NSF proposal containing
        copied material in its background/motivation and proposed research sections, 26 NSF
        required that he submit certifications and assurances for 2 years.

     •	 In the case of a university assistant professor who falsified data in an NSF
        proposal, 27 NSF required submission of certifications and assurances for 1 year, as
        well as the submission of a detailed data management plan for any resulting awards,
        and barred the assistant professor from serving as an NSF reviewer, advisor, or
        consultant for 1 year. NSF also required a certification that the assistant professor
        complied with the university’s imposed requirements, which included completion of
        training courses, oversight by a mentoring committee, and submission of a
        correction to the journal that published the manuscript with the mislabeled figure.

     •	 In the case of a university faculty member who plagiarized almost an entire seven-
        page manuscript from two law review articles, 28 we recommended that NSF debar
        the faculty member for 1 year; require that she submit certifications and assurances
        for 3 years following the debarment period; and bar her from serving as an NSF peer
        reviewer, advisor, or consultant. We recommended actions because the
        manuscript’s topic was discussed in the proposal, the manuscript itself cited NSF
        support, and the manuscript was mentioned in a progress report submitted to NSF.
        The agency determined that the employee’s conduct fell outside the jurisdiction of
        NSF’s research misconduct regulation and, therefore, took no action.

     •	 In the case of an assistant professor who submitted an NSF proposal containing
        copied material in its plan of work section, describing nonstandard experimental
        procedures and values, and who acknowledged the existence of additional copying
        in the proposal, as well as copying in two other NSF proposals, NSF required the
        assistant professor to submit certifications and assurances for 2 years.




     25 March 2017 Semiannual Report, p. 12
     26 March 2017 Semiannual Report, p. 12
     27 September 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 23
     28 September 2016 Semiannual Report, p. 22




22        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     ADMINISTRATIVE INVESTIGATIONS
     Our office investigates a wide variety of allegations that are not pursued as criminal or
     civil matters or do not meet the strict definition of research misconduct. These cases,
     which are resolved administratively, include (but are not limited to) misallocation of grant
     funds, violations of human and animal subject regulations, violations of peer review
     confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and employee misconduct.

     VIRTUAL PANELIST LIVE-TWEETS ABOUT PANEL REVIEW

     A panelist participating remotely in NSF’s merit review process used her Twitter account
     to “live-tweet” her observations about the applications, the panel, and the panelists.
     Even after the program director asked her to stop, the panelist continued to tweet,
     posting a rationalization justifying her tweeting if NSF objected to her actions. After
     sending several requests asking the panelist to cease tweeting, to which the panelist
     was unresponsive, the program director removed the panelist from the panel.

     We concluded the panelist’s actions violated the confidentiality of NSF’s review process.
     Accordingly, we recommended NSF send the panelist a letter of reprimand notifying her
     that NSF has made a finding that she violated NSF’s rules for panelists; bar the panelist
     from participating as a peer reviewer, advisor, or consultant for NSF; and take other
     actions as appropriate to protect the integrity of its review process. NSF acted swiftly to
     prohibit the panelist from serving as a review, advisor, or consultant for 3 years.

     DECLINED SUPPLEMENTS RESULT IN $48,000 PUT TO BETTER USE

     We investigated a PI who requested an institutional transfer of five NSF awards. The PI
     had used very little of the funds over several years, but reported significant
     achievements in progress reports and acknowledged support from the awards in
     publications. The PI had ample funds available but nevertheless requested supplements
     to three of the awards. We reported the low spending rate to the awards’ program
     officers, who ultimately declined the PI’s supplement requests, resulting in $48,000 of
     funds put to better use. The investigation into the grant expenditures is ongoing.

     OIG REVIEW OF INSTITUTIONS’ IMPLEMENTATION OF RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF
     RESEARCH REQUIREMENT

     In 2007, President Bush signed into law the America Creating Opportunities to
     Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 29
     (America COMPETES Act), which, among other things, directed NSF to introduce a
     requirement for awardees to provide adequate training for undergraduate students,
     graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers about RCR. NSF began implementing




     29   Pub. L. No. 110-69


23        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     the Act in 2010. In 2013, we began a review of how a sample of institutions had
     implemented their RCR training in response to NSF’s requirement.

     In July 2017, we issued a report 30 to NSF that includes the results of our review and
     answers key compliance questions related to NSF’s policy, such as whether the
     institutions in our sample had a plan, had designated a person to oversee compliance,
     and could verify that the necessary people are being trained. We found that while most
     of the institutions we sampled complied with NSF’s RCR requirements, almost one
     quarter of the institutions did not initially do so. In addition, the institutions we reviewed
     utilized a wide variety of training approaches and formats. As a result of our findings
     and observations, we identified opportunities for NSF to strengthen its RCR policy, such
     as providing written guidelines or templates for universities to follow.

     In response to our report, the NSF Director issued a notice reminding the community
     that institutions must certify to having an RCR plan in place when submitting proposals.
     The notice emphasized the importance of training and that it is the responsibility of each
     institution to determine the content of the training.




     30   See footnote 2, supra.


24        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     OUTREACH EFFORTS
     Preventing and detecting waste, fraud, and abuse in NSF’s programs and operations is
     central to our mission. Our outreach efforts are essential to building partnerships within
     the agency and with other Federal agencies, NSF awardees, and research
     communities, and those relationships enhance our ability to accomplish our mission.
     They assist us in promoting education on fraud recognition and prevention, proper
     administration of Federal funds, the ethical conduct of research, and resolving integrity
     and efficiency matters effectively. We have also enhanced oversight and accountability
     through activities with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency
     (CIGIE) — focusing on projects to address integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues
     that transcend individual government agencies. Finally, our office has conducted an
     audit peer review in accordance with the Comptroller General’s government auditing
     standards.

     OIG Leadership and Staff Continue Community Involvement

     Oversight.gov, which launched on October 1, 2017, is the Federal Inspector General
     community’s new accessible and searchable repository of reports published for all
     67 OIGs that publish public reports. As members of the initiative’s steering committee,
     our office was one of a small group to upload audit, investigative, and semiannual
     reports to the test website. In addition, our auditors participated in the Federal Audit
     Executive Council DATA Act 31 Working Group and its coordination meetings with GAO.
     The DATA Act was enacted to increase transparency of direct Federal agency
     expenditures and, among other things, expanded on the required Federal spending
     information that agencies report. It also requires a series of oversight reports by
     agencies’ OIGs and GAO.

     Our Investigations staff also provided support to numerous initiatives within the Federal
     Inspector General, law enforcement, and research communities. The Assistant
     Inspector General for Investigations chaired the Council of the Inspectors General on
     Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) Assistant Inspector General for Investigations
     Committee and co-chaired the SBIR Working Group. OIG’s Special Agents and
     Investigative Attorneys provided grant fraud training to multiple agencies and assisted
     them in developing SBIR investigative programs, and the Special Agent in Charge
     planned and executed a leadership workshop for CIGIE Special Agents in Charge, at
     which more than 30 agencies were represented. Investigative staff also served as guest
     instructors at numerous training programs conducted by the CIGIE Inspector General
     Criminal Investigator Academy and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC);
     served on curriculum development and review efforts for the FLETC Investigative
     Analyst curriculum and the FLETC Grant Fraud curriculum; and were active in the
     FLETC Law Enforcement Control Tactics Working Group. OIG’s investigative scientists
     continued to engage with the research community, presenting at research integrity


     31   Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act), Pub. L. No. 113-101


25        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     meetings sponsored by other government agencies, universities, and professional
     organizations.

     OIG Conducts Audit Peer Review of the OIG for the Board of Governors of the
     Federal Reserve System and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

     Audit organizations that perform audits and attestation engagements in accordance with
     the Comptroller General’s Government Auditing Standards (GAS) must have an
     external peer review performed every 3 years by independent reviewers. Peer reviews
     focus on quality control, which includes organizational structure and policies and
     procedures that help ensure compliance with GAS.

     During this reporting period, we completed a peer review of the Office of Inspector
     General’s Audit Office for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and
     the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Board/CFPB) for the year ending March 31,
     2017. We determined that the OIG Board/CFPB’s system of quality control was suitably
     designed to provide reasonable assurance that audits were performed and reported in
     accordance with GAS. Our independent assessment resulted in a pass rating. A copy of
     our peer review report is available on the OIG Board/CFPB’s website. 32




     32   https://oig.federalreserve.gov/reports/peer-review-audit-operations.pdf


26        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES FOR NSF IN FY 2018
     We published our assessment 33 of NSF’s top management and performance challenges
     and the agency’s progress in addressing those challenges as required by the Reports
     Consolidation Act of 2000. 34 We compiled this list based on our audit and investigative
     work; general knowledge of the agency’s operations; and evaluative reports of others,
     including GAO and NSF’s various advisory committees, contractors, and staff.

     This year’s list identifies six areas representing challenges NSF must continue to
     address to better accomplish its mission:

            •   Major Multi-User Research Facilities Management
            •   Business Operations Management
            •   Management of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Program
            •   Management of the United States Antarctic Program
            •   Cybersecurity and Information Technology Management
            •   Encouraging the Ethical Conduct of Research

     This year, we led with challenges faced in managing major facilities. This is not a new
     challenge, and NSF has improved its oversight over its major facilities over the past few
     years. NSF is now challenged to implement all of its new controls.

     In the business operations challenge, we identified that ensuring that payments are
     proper at the time they are initiated continues to be a challenge for NSF because grant
     recipients are generally not required to provide supporting documentation in order to
     receive payments from the agency. Issues with accountability and transparency are
     further compounded due to the need for NSF to monitor awardees that “pass through”
     funds to subrecipients. NSF continues to be challenged to implement controls over the
     spending of grant funds that ensure transparency and accountability but do not unduly
     encumber awardees and Federal program officers.

     While a core part of the Foundation’s business operations, cybersecurity and IT
     management was highlighted as a standalone challenge area this year. The protection
     of its information systems against unauthorized access or modification is critical to
     NSF’s ability to carry out its mission. NSF’s FY 2016 Agency Financial Report contained
     the first instance of an IT-related significant deficiency in internal control over financial
     reporting. NSF has taken steps to address the deficiency and should continue to take
     steps to improve IT controls over financial reporting.

     We also removed two challenges identified in previous periods from this year’s list. In
     the past, we had a challenge focused on grants administration, which is integral to the
     Foundation’s mission, and, accordingly, what processes and operations we review.
     However, due to its broad nature, instead of distinguishing grants administration as its

     33   Management Challenges for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year 2018, October 12, 2017
     34   Pub. L. No. 106-531


27        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     own challenge this year, we instead incorporated specific aspects of grant
     administration where we see issues in more narrowly focused challenge areas. In
     addition, as NSF completed its relocation to its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, in
     October 2017, we no longer consider NSF’s move to a new building as a challenge area
     and removed it from the list. Although NSF has completed its move, we will continue to
     monitor associated challenges, such as with records management, which we included
     as a business operations management challenge.

     Most of these challenges are longstanding, and we are encouraged by the actions NSF
     has taken to address them during this fiscal year. Effective responses to these
     challenges will help position NSF to ensure the integrity of NSF-funded projects, to
     spend research funds in the most effective and efficient manner, and to maintain the
     highest level of accountability over taxpayer dollars.




28     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     STATISTICAL DATA

     AUDIT DATA
     TABLE 1. AUDIT REPORTS ISSUED WITH RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BETTER USE OF FUNDS
                                                                                  Dollar Value
     A.  For which no management decision has been made by the                     $12,029,696
         commencement of the reporting period
     B. That were issued during the reporting period                                        $0
     C. Adjustments related to prior recommendations                                        $0
     Subtotal of A+B+C                                                             $12,029,696
     D. For which a management decision was made during the reporting period                $0
         i: Dollar value of management decisions that were consistent with OIG
                                                                                           $0
         recommendations
         ii: Dollar value of recommendations that were not agreed to by
                                                                                           $0
         management
     E. For which no management decision had been made by the end of the
                                                                                   $12,029,696
         reporting period
     F. For which no management decision was made within 6 months of
                                                                                   $12,029,696
         issuance


     TABLE 2. AUDIT REPORTS ISSUED WITH QUESTIONED COSTS

                                                         No. of    Questioned     Unsupported
                                                        Reports      Costs           Costs
     A.  For which no management decision has been
         made by the commencement of the reporting            11   $11,539,509       $380,411
         period
     B. That were issued during the reporting period           4      $861,326        $62,013
     C. Adjustment related to prior recommendations                         $0             $0
     Subtotal of A+B+C                                        15   $12,400,835       $442,424
     D. For which a management decision was made
                                                               4     $4,006,011        $4,000
         during the reporting period
         i: Dollar value of disallowed costs                 N/A       $294,496           N/A
         ii: Dollar value of costs not disallowed            N/A     $3,711,515           N/A
     E. For which no management decision had been
                                                              11     $8,394,824      $438,424
         made by the end of the reporting period
     F. For which no management decision was made
                                                               7     $7,533,498      $376,411
         within 6 months of issuance




29     SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     TABLE 3. LIST OF REPORTS: OIG AND IPA-PERFORMED 35 REVIEWS 36
          Report                           Subject                             Questioned        Unsupported          Better
          Number                                                                 Costs              Costs             Use of
                                                                                                                      Funds
      17-1-007      Raytheon BBN Technologies                                       $96,106              $23,861          $0
      17-1-008      Georgia Tech Research Corporation                               $68,837                   $0          $0
      17-1-009      University of Southern California                              $639,479              $38,152           0
      17-1-010      University of Arizona                                           $56,904                   $0          $0
      17-2-008      Review of IPA Conflicts of Interest                                  $0                   $0          $0
      17-2-009      NSF Controls over Electronic Records                                 $0                   $0          $0
                    Management
      17-3-003      NSF Relocation — Records Management                                    $0                   $0             $0
      17-3-004      NSF Controls over Battelle Award for NEON                              $0                   $0             $0
      17-3-005      NSF’s Compliance with IPERA in FY 16                                   $0                   $0             $0
      17-6-001      Closure of the Audit of AURA’s Indirect Cost                           $0                   $0             $0
                    Rate Structure
      17-7-001      OIG Peer Review of the OIG Audit                                       $0                   $0             $0
                    Organization for the Board of Governors of
                    the Federal Reserve System and the
                    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
      17-7-002      IQCR of 17-1-020 (UC Davis)                                           $0                   $0          $0
      N/A           FDP’s Pilot Payroll Certification Program —                           N/A                  N/A         N/A
                    Compliance with 2 CFR 200
      Total                                                                        $861,326              $62,013               $0


     TABLE 4. REPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 4/3/17 WITH UNIMPLEMENTED RECOMMENDATIONS AS
     OF 9/30/17 (SUMMARY TABLE) 37

      Year              Number of Reports with                    Number of                         Dollar Value of
                           Unimplemented                        Unimplemented                     Aggregate Potential
                          Recommendations                      Recommendations                      Cost Savings 38
      2006                                    1                                          2                          N/A
      2007                                    2                                          2                          N/A
      2009                                    1                                          4                      $92,667
      2012                                    1                                          1                          N/A
      2013                                    2                                          8                     $266,893
      2014                                    2                                          3                 $11,714,680 39
      2015                                    4                                         44                     $204,554
      2016                                    4                                         47                   $4,713,347
      2017                                    8                                         52                  $3,135,167 40
      Total                                  25                                        163                  $20,127,308

     35 In Table 3, IPA refers to independent public accounting firm.

     36 The Office issued 13 reports this semiannual period.

     37 NSF has commented on all reports within 60 days of receipt.

     38 Aggregate potential savings are Questioned Costs if the recommendations have not been resolved, and Sustained

     Costs if the recommendations have been resolved.

     39 The $11,714,680 (for Report No. 14-1-005) is Funds Put to Better Use (potential cost savings), not Questioned Costs


     (potential costs that could be returned to the government).

     40 This total includes $3,050 of Questioned Costs and $315,016 of Funds Put to Better Use for Report No. 17-1-004.





30        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
 TABLE 5. REPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 4/1/17, FOR WHICH NO MANAGEMENT DECISION HAS
 BEEN MADE BY 9/30/17, INCLUDING THE AGGREGATE POTENTIAL COST SAVINGS OF THOSE
 RECOMMENDATIONS (DETAILED TABLE) 41
     Report     Issue            Title           Summary         No. of        Why Mgmt.        Desired   Aggregate
      No.        Date                                            Recs.      Decision Has Not Timetable     Potential
                                                                without        Been Made          for a  Cost Savings
                                                                 Mgmt.                           Mgmt.
                                                                Decision                        Decision
 14-1-005 9/30/14        Independent Audit      Audit of re­            1 NSF is evaluating     11/30/17 $11,714,680 42
                         of Association of      baselined                 the results of a
                         Universities of        proposal for              recently completed
                         Research in            ATST/                     AURA accounting
                         Astronomy              DKIST                     system audit in order
                         (AURA) Cost Book       telescope                 to decide whether an
                         Evaluation for the                               estimating system
                         Rebaselined                                      audit is needed.
                         ATST/DKIST
                         Project
 14-3-002 9/30/14        Alert Memo: NSF’s      Assessed                 1 NSF is evaluating          11/30/17                N/A
                         Management of          the                        the results of a
                         Costs Proposed         reasonable­                recently completed
                         for the Large          ness and                   AURA accounting
                         Synoptic Survey        integrity of               system audit in order
                         Telescope              proposed                   to decide whether an
                         Construction           LSST costs                 estimating system
                         Project                                           audit is needed.
 16-1-004 2/11/16        University of          Incurred                14 Complex issues               1/31/18       $2,003,109
                         Washington             Cost Audit                 require additional
                                                                           NSF review before
                                                                           management
                                                                           decisions can be
                                                                           finalized.
 16-1-023 9/26/16        University of          Incurred                24 Review and revision         12/31/17       $2,710,238
                         Michigan               Cost Audit                 of draft management
                                                                           decisions led to
                                                                           additional delay.
 16-3-001 12/10/15 NSF’s Oversight of           Assessed                 1 Issue complexity –           3/31/18               N/A
                   the Large Synoptic           potential                  awardee’s unfunded
                   Survey Telescope             cost and                   liabilities. NSF is
                   Construction                 schedule                   continuing to work
                   Project                      risks to the               with OIG and the
                                                project                    awardee on
                                                                           resolution.




      41 This table shows only recommendations that are unimplemented because they are unresolved, either because

      NSF has not provided corrective action plans, or NSF and OIG have not agreed on the adequacy of the proposed
      corrective actions. Table 4 includes additional reports/recommendations because it includes the reports with
      unresolved recommendations shown in this table, plus reports with resolved recommendations that have not yet been
      implemented.
      42 The $11,714,680 represents Funds Put to Better Use (potential cost savings), not Questioned Costs (potential costs

      that could be returned to the government).


31       SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
 Report        Issue            Title          Summary        No. of        Why Mgmt.          Desired    Aggregate
  No.           Date                                          Recs.      Decision Has Not     Timetable    Potential
                                                             without        Been Made           for a    Cost Savings
                                                              Mgmt.                             Mgmt.
                                                             Decision                         Decision
17-1-002 2/27/17        University of         Incurred               9 Resolution of             3/31/18    $2,330,503
                        California Davis      Cost Audit               questioned cost
                                                                       transactions for 58
                                                                       different awards
                                                                       requires additional
                                                                       research and
                                                                       coordination.
17-1-003 3/20/17        Purdue University     Incurred               8 Questioned cost          2/28/18       $91,281
                                              Cost Audit               transactions and
                                                                       complex issues
                                                                       require additional
                                                                       documentation from
                                                                       the University and
                                                                       research by NSF.
17-1-004 3/23/17        Audit of R/V          Incurred               3 Highly complex           3/31/18     $318,066 43
                        Oceanus               Cost Audit               issues related to
                        Operations Award                               ship rates require
                                                                       extensive research
                                                                       and coordination
                                                                       within NSF and
                                                                       other Federal
                                                                       agencies.
17-1-005 3/23/17        Scripps Institution   Incurred               8 Questioned cost          1/31/18      $111,516
                        of Oceanography,      Cost Audit               transactions and
                        University of                                  complex issues
                        California San                                 require additional
                        Diego                                          documentation from
                                                                       the University and
                                                                       coordination within
                                                                       NSF.
17-1-006 3/29/17        University of         Incurred             10 Questioned cost           2/28/18      $283,801
                        California, San       Cost Audit               transactions and
                        Diego                                          complex issues
                                                                       require additional
                                                                       documentation from
                                                                       the University and
                                                                       coordination within
                                                                       NSF.
Total: 10                                                          79                                     $19,563,194




     43   This includes $3,050 of Questioned Costs and $315,016 of Funds Put to Better Use.


32        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     INVESTIGATIONS DATA
     April 1, 2017 – September 30, 2017

     TABLE 6. INVESTIGATIVE ACTIVITIES
      Referrals 44 to DOJ Criminal Prosecutors                                                                       6
      Referrals to Criminal State/Local Authorities                                                                  0
      Indictments/Criminal Informations                                                                              2
      Arrests                                                                                                        1
      Criminal Convictions/Pleas                                                                                     3

      Referrals to DOJ Civil Prosecutors                                                                             2
      Referrals to Civil State/Local Authorities                                                                     0
      Civil Settlements/Judgements/Compliance Plans                                                                  1

      Investigative Reports Issued to NSF Management for Action 45                                                 18
      Research Misconduct Findings Issued by NSF                                                                    6
      Government-wide Suspensions/Debarments/
      Voluntary Exclusions                                                                                         17
      Administrative Actions taken by NSF 46                                                                       25

      Total Investigative Recoveries 47                                                              $3,219,435.79

      Substantiated Whistleblower Retaliation                                                                        0
      Substantiated Agency Interference                                                                              0


     TABLE 7. CASE STATISTICS

                                                                    Preliminaries               Investigations
     Cases Active at Beginning of Period                                                 2                    218
     Cases Opened this Period                                                            7                     38
     Cases Closed this Period                                                            6                     67
     Cases Active at End of Period                                                       3                    189




     44 We count referrals of individuals and entities separately.

     45 We count only Investigative Reports issued to NSF that include recommendations for administrative action (e.g.

     findings of Research Misconduct, imposition of Government-wide Suspension or Debarment, or

     suspension/terminations of awards). We count recommendations for each individual and entity separately.

     46 This includes sanctions related to findings of Research Misconduct, suspension/termination of awards, or 


     employee misconduct.

     47 This includes funds returned to NSF, restitution, fees, and Funds Put to Better Use.





33        SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     RESEARCH MISCONDUCT (RM) STATISTICS
     FY 2007 – FY 2017

     TABLE 8. ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS
                        RM Allegations Received 48                            RM Investigations Opened 49
        FY
                     P       Fab        Fal      Total 50                   P        Fab        Fal    Total 51
      2007             82         7          6       95                        59         5          0     64
      2008            130         6          9      145                        97         4          5    106
      2009            107         0         11      118                        82         0         10     92
      2010             87         4          9      100                        67         3          2     72
      2011             84        17         15      116                        57        15          8     80
      2012             97         9          8      114                        80         7          5     92
      2013             84        10         11      105                        80         8         10     98
      2014             36         7          4       47                        34         7          4     45
      2015             64         9          9       82                        64         9          9     82
      2016             35        10         11       56                        24         6          9     39
      2017             38         1          8       47                        27         1          6     34
      Totals          844        80       101      1025                       671        65         68    804

     These tables only provide information about allegations that come to our office’s
     attention and cases we open. Accordingly, they do not reflect the total universe of
     research misconduct related to NSF proposals or awards, only a subset.

     Note: some of the figures in the allegation and investigation tables differ from the
     previous Semiannual Report due to a data capture discrepancy that was identified and
     corrected.




     48 Key to allegations: P = Plagiarism; Fab = Fabrication; Fal = Falsification. Allegations were made against both

     funded and declined NSF proposals.
     49 We define an investigation as any case in which investigative activity occurred, including case activity defined as

     “Inquiry” in the RM regulation.
     50 Over the reporting period FY 2007–2017, we used three different methods of capturing allegation data. The periods

     were: FY 2007 through FY 2012; then FY 2013, when we were granted Statutory Law Enforcement authority, through
     FY 2015; and finally, FY 2016 onward, when we switched to a new Investigative case management system. For this
     reason, one cannot make a meaningful comparison or identify trends related to allegations across the entire reporting
     period. A further limitation on the ability to identify such trends arises from the fact that we ran several proactive
     assessments looking for plagiarism over the years encompassed in the tables, which inflated the number of
     plagiarism allegations we had in some years. We ran the last such proactive in 2013, but allegations resulting from it
     were still being identified in 2014.
     51 There are a small number of allegation involving RM that result in Criminal or Civil investigations. We have not

     included those allegations in this report.


34      SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
     TABLE 9. INVESTIGATIVE OUTCOMES 52
                                Total RM Findings
       FY 53                                                                        Included Debarment 54
                      P        Fab/Fal    Multi 55             Total
      2007              11            1            0               12                                                   5
      2008               9            2            1               12                                                   5
      2009              16            0            1               17                                                   5
      2010               9            1            1               11                                                   2
      2011              14            3            0               17                                                   5
      2012              18            0            0               18                                                   2
      2013              13            3            0               16                                                   6
      2014              19            5            2               26                                                   7
      2015               9            2            0               11                                                   6
      2016              11            5            0               16                                                   4
      2017               3            8            0               11                                                   3
      Totals           132           30            5              167                                                  50




     52 The outcomes reported in this table cannot be linked to the allegations and investigations by fiscal year, due to the 


     varying amount of time it takes to investigate and adjudicate allegations of RM.

     53 These data reflect RM findings by NSF in the fiscal year of the finding.

     54 The debarment action taken by NSF typically lags NSF’s RM finding (debarment is a multi-step process with a 


     separate appeal), but in this display we link the debarment data to the date of the RM finding.

     55 “Multi” indicates that an allegation of plagiarism and either fabrication or falsification was substantiated in our


     investigation. NSF makes a single finding of RM, even if we refer multiple allegations to NSF.



35      SEMIANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION   OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
2415 EISENHOWER AVENUE        GENERAL INQUIRIES: 703-292-7100, ANONYMOUS HOTLINE: 1-800-428-2189
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