How long will it take to find out a complaint of scientific misconduct? There has never been a uniform standard.
JanHendrik Schón’s ” falsification of data case” in bell laboratory took about 11 months from peer questioning in October 2001 to the report released by the investigation team in September 2002.
Hwang Woo – suk’s ” Embryonic Stem Cell Falsification Case” took about 20 months from the disclosure of Nature magazine in May 2004 to the release of the investigation results by Seoul University in January 2006.
Rusy Taleyarkhan’s ” bubble fusion case” lasted for five years and four months from March 2002, when the paper was published in science, to June 2007, when the report of the joint investigation Committee was made public.
However, it takes an average of 6 to 12 months for the complaints of academic misconduct that the author knows to take from the acceptance to the transfer to the receipt of the investigation report.
Do academic investigations really take so long?
In the spirit of seeking truth from facts, sometimes it is really necessary.
From the time of receiving the report to the time of establishing the investigation team, preliminary verification, formal investigation, supplementary investigation, writing the investigation report, examination and approval by the committee, publishing the results, handling the complaint, etc., a normal investigation procedure itself is extremely complicated.
Not to mention that some reports still need to verify the original records, some still need to entrust a third party to restore or repeat the experiment, and some have too long a time span and the parties have gone their separate ways.
Compared with the complainant’s assertion, time is needed to verify some more complicated allegations. During the investigation, it may also be interfered with in various forms. It needs to be repeated many times to obtain the required evidence …
However, the delay in the investigation time will undoubtedly cause further troubles for some obviously improper acts and events that are of great concern to public opinion.
Here, the author suggests that this kind of investigation might as well try the summary procedure.
Summary procedures refer to the investigative methods used to deal with complaints involving specific clues that can be investigated and rectified.
Most reports of academic misconduct may be subject to summary procedures. This procedure can also be applied to academic misconduct events that attract public attention.
Generally, the scientific research integrity commissioner of the institution invites the members of the academic committee or the person in charge of the team where the complainant is located to meet with the complainant and listen to his explanation on the contents of the complaint by means of conversation and understanding.
This stage can also be called the self-incrimination stage. That is, the respondent will take out the scientific research route, original data and relevant supporting evidence to explain the contents of the complaint.
If necessary, continue to talk with other team members to learn more evidence.
The above process is different from the ” back – to – back investigation” commonly used in discipline supervision, and is mainly based on the reproducibility of scientific research activities.
Of course, there are also certain risks, for example, opponents question that this practice allows the respondent to obtain favorable information, etc.
Through summary procedure, the investigation conclusion is drawn, which retains the original flavor of academic investigation to the greatest extent.
The purpose of implementing summary procedures is to quickly understand whether the problem of complaint reporting exists, judge the nature and severity of the problem, and the knowledge and attitude of the person against whom the complaint is filed.
After the conversation is over, experts will submit written opinions to judge the truth and give suggestions on whether to carry out the next formal investigation or terminate the investigation. If no further investigation is needed, the case will be closed after the approval procedures are completed.
However, the person against whom the complaint is made should cherish the opportunity of such summary procedures and provide factual evidence on his own initiative to facilitate professional judgment by experts. If the relevant direct evidence cannot be provided, relevant circumstantial evidence shall also be provided as far as possible.
If the facts can be ascertained through summary procedures and the investigation can be terminated in a timely manner, administrative resources can be saved to the greatest extent and academic investigation institutions can deal with relevant academic complaints quickly and effectively.
Take the case of Chen Xiaowu of China Northern Airlines in early 2018 as an example. It took only two weeks from January 1 when the online public opinion was fermented to January 14 when the title of ” Yangtze River Scholar” was revoked.
The Nantah Liang Ying case at the end of 2018 lasted less than two months from October 24 when China Youth Daily reported ” 404 Thesis” to December 12 when it was disqualified as a tutor, removed from teaching and research positions and revoked the title of ” Young Yangtze River Scholar”.
The summary procedure can also be used to deal with the ranking of signatures when declaring scientific and technological awards and honors.
In practice, there are often complaints against the ranking of awards for collective achievements.
Generally speaking, the whistleblowers in such reports have no objection to the scientific research results themselves, but have objection to the ranking of the winners. Including national awards and provincial and municipal incentives, all refer to such complaints as ” objections” to distinguish them from misconduct.
The handling of objections shall be negotiated by the recommending unit. Objections involving cross-department shall be handled by the awarding unit in coordination.
According to the author’s understanding, most of these complaints still belong to the category of academic appraisal, that is, the appraisal has not been completed and the misconduct has not yet become a fact, so they cannot be generally classified as scientific research misconduct.
Due to time constraints, such complaints are not suitable to initiate a protracted investigation.
” Face – to – face” conversation, negotiation and agreement are the necessary steps for academic appraisal.
The collective achievements after academic appraisal, after deliberation by the administrative decision-making body of the unit, shall be submitted to the awarding unit for election, which shall be the proper meaning of corporate governance.