27.8 Anti-Retaliation Policy for Reporting of Misconduct in Research

(2/97; 3/10)
  1. Purpose. These guidelines provide information to whistleblowers on an appropriate method of submitting retaliation complaints and subsequent procedures for resolving the complaints.

    These guidelines apply to all instances of possible retaliation against whistleblowers who make allegations of research misconduct covered by the University of Iowa Policy on Ethics in Research (II-27.6).
  2. Definitions.
    1.  "Adverse action" means any action taken by a member of The University of Iowa which negatively affects the terms or conditions of the whistleblower's status at the University, including but not limited to their employment, academic matriculation, awarding of degree, or University relationship established by grant, contract, or cooperative agreement.
    2. "Allegation" means any disclosure, whether by written or oral statement, or any other communication, to a University, a governmental or other sponsoring agency official who receives the allegation while acting in their official capacity, that the University or member thereof has engaged in research misconduct.
    3. "Deciding official" means the official designated by the President of the University to make a final University determination as to whether retaliation occurred.
    4. "Good faith allegation" means an allegation of research misconduct made with a belief in the truth of the allegation which a reasonable person in the whistleblower's position could hold based upon the facts. An allegation is not in good faith if made with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation.
    5. "Research misconduct" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the research community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data or creative innovations that are nonetheless ethical, legal and meet professional standards.
    6. "Responsible official" means the official designated by and reporting to the President of the University to establish and implement the University's anti-retaliation policy for reporting of misconduct in research.
    7. "Retaliation" means any adverse action or credible threat of an adverse action taken by the University, or member thereof, in response to a whistleblower's good faith allegation of research misconduct. It does not include the University's decision to investigate a good faith allegation of research misconduct.
    8. "University" means The University of Iowa.
    9. "University member, or member" means a person who is employed by, affiliated with under a contract or agreement, or under the control of the University. University members include but are not limited to faculty, students, administrators, teaching and support staff, researchers, clinicians, technicians, and fellows.
    10. "Whistleblower" means an individual who makes a good faith allegation of research misconduct or demonstrates an intent to make a good faith allegation (or what is perceived to be an allegation) while a member of the University at which the alleged research misconduct occurred.
  3. Processing whistleblower retaliation complaints.
    1. Responsible official.
      1. The University has designated the University of Iowa Research Integrity Officer (RIO) the "Responsible Official" to establish and implement the University's Policy for Reporting Misconduct in Research. The Responsible Official also serves as a liaison between the University and the sponsoring agency, and will prepare and submit all reports to the research sponsor.
      2. The Responsible Official shall be free of any real or apparent conflicts of interest in any particular case.
      3. If involvement of the Responsible Official in a particular case creates a real or apparent conflict of interest with the University's obligation to protect good faith whistleblowers, and the conflict cannot be satisfactorily resolved for that case, the Vice President for Research shall appoint a substitute Responsible Official who has no conflict of interest.
    2. Notice of University policy. The University shall provide to all its members notice of its Anti-Retaliation Policy for Reporting of Misconduct in Research. The notice shall include the requirement set forth regarding a whistleblower's deadline for filing a retaliation complaint.
    3. Filing complaints.
      1. A whistleblower who wishes to receive the procedural protections described by these guidelines shall file their retaliation complaint with the Responsible Official within 180 days from the date the whistleblower became aware or should have become aware of the alleged adverse action. The University shall review and resolve all whistleblower retaliation complaints and should do so within 180 days after receipt of the complaint. If the whistleblower fails to receive a University response to the complaint in accordance with these Guidelines within ten working days, the whistleblower may file the retaliation complaint directly with the sponsoring agency.
      2. The retaliation complaint must include a description of the whistleblower's research misconduct allegation and the asserted adverse action, or threat thereof, against the whistleblower, by the University or its members in response to the allegation. If the retaliation complaint is incomplete, the Responsible Official shall describe to the whistleblower what additional information is needed in order to meet the minimum requirements of a complaint under this II-27.8c(3).
    4. Responding to complaints.
      1. Upon receipt of a whistleblower retaliation complaint, the Responsible Official shall notify the whistleblower of receipt within ten working days after receipt. The notice shall also inform the whistleblower of the process the University proposes to follow in resolving the retaliation complaint and the necessary actions by the whistleblower required under that process.
      2. The whistleblower may raise any concerns about the proposed process with the Responsible Official and the University may modify the process in response to the whistleblower's concerns.
      3. The whistleblower has five working days from the date of receipt of the initial notification in II-27.8c(4)(a) to:
        1. accept the proposed process, although the whistleblower may also submit documentation for the official record about any concerns they may have about the proposed process; or
        2. not accept the proposed process. If the whistleblower rejects the proposed process, they may pursue other remedies as provided by law.
      4. The University shall notify the sponsoring agency of any whistleblower retaliation complaint it receives within ten working days after receipt of the complaint.
    5. Interim Protection.
      1. At any time before the merits of a whistleblower retaliation complaint have been fully resolved, the whistleblower may submit a written request to the Responsible Official to take interim actions to protect the whistleblower against an existing adverse action or credible threat of an adverse action by the University or member.
      2. Based on the available evidence, the Responsible Official shall make a determination of whether to provide interim protections and shall advise the whistleblower of their decision in writing. Documentation underlying the decision whether to provide interim protections shall become part of the record of the complaint. When the whistleblower retaliation complaint is fully resolved, any temporary measure taken to protect the whistleblower shall be discontinued or replaced with permanent remedies.
  4. Resolution of complaints.
    1. General.
      1. For each whistleblower retaliation complaint received, the University shall adhere to the process for resolving the whistleblower retaliation complaint, or settle the complaint, as described below.
      2. The process should be completed within 180 days of the date the complaint is filed, unless the whistleblower agrees to an extension of time. The University shall promptly report the final outcome of either process or any settlement to the sponsoring agency.
      3. If the whistleblower declines the University's proposed process according to these guidelines, they may pursue any other legal rights available to the whistleblower for resolution of the retaliation complaint. However, sponsors, including the federal government, may deem the University to have met its obligation under federal regulations and may not pursue the whistleblower complaint further.
    2. University investigation.
      1. The University shall conduct an investigation of the whistleblower retaliation complaint according to these Guidelines and implement appropriate administrative remedies consistent with the investigation's finding and University decision thereon.
      2. An investigation of whistleblower retaliation shall be timely, objective, thorough, and competent. The investigation should be conducted by a panel of at least three individuals appointed by the Responsible Official. The members of the investigation panel, who may be from outside the University, shall have no personal or professional relationship or other conflict of interest with the whistleblower or the alleged individual retaliator(s), and shall be qualified to conduct a thorough and competent investigation.
      3. The investigation shall include the collection and examination of all relevant evidence, including interviews with the whistleblower, the alleged retaliator(s), and any other individual who can provide relevant and material information regarding the claimed retaliation.
      4. The University shall fully cooperate with the investigation and use all available administrative means to secure testimony, documents, and other materials relevant to the investigation.
      5. The confidentiality of all participants in the investigation shall be maintained to the maximum extent possible throughout the investigation.
      6. To encourage and protect whistleblowers, it is University policy that no reference to good-faith reporting of University-related misconduct shall be made in personnel files, letters of recommendation, performance appraisals, or any other permanent evaluative documents without the concurrence of the whistleblower.
      7. The panel members shall evaluate and respond objectively to any concerns raised by the whistleblower about the process, including concerns regarding the selection of the Deciding Official, Responsible Official, and specific panel members, which are raised prior to resolution of the complaint.
      8. The conclusions of the investigation shall be documented in a written report and made available to the whistleblower. The report shall include findings of fact, a list of witnesses interviewed, an analysis of the evidence, and a detailed description of the investigative process.
      9. The Vice President for Research shall be the Deciding Official. The Deciding Official shall make a final University determination as to whether retaliation occurred. This decision shall be based on the report, the record of the investigation, and a preponderance of evidence standard. Appeals may be made to the University President and subsequently to the Board of Regents via the usual appeals process.
      10. If there is a determination that retaliation has occurred, the Deciding Official shall determine what remedies are appropriate to satisfy the University's obligation to protect whistleblowers. The Deciding Official shall, in consultation with the whistleblower, take measures to protect or restore the whistleblower's position and reputation, including making any public or private statements, as appropriate. In addition, the Deciding Official may provide protection against further retaliation by monitoring or disciplining the retaliator.
      11. The University shall promptly notify the sponsoring agency of its conclusions and remedies, if any, and forward the underlying investigation report to the sponsor.
      12. The University recognizes that the sponsoring agency may, at its own discretion, review the University report to determine whether the University has substantially followed the process described herein.
      13. University compliance with this process does not bar the whistleblower from seeking redress against the University's decision under state law, University procedure, rules of the Board of Regents, policy, or agreement, or as otherwise provided.
    3. Settlement. In lieu of the option described above, the University and whistleblower may, at any time after the retaliation complaint is made, enter into any binding settlement agreement which finally resolves the retaliation complaint. If both parties agree, the Responsible Official shall facilitate negotiation of such settlements. If such an agreement is reached, the University and the whistleblower shall sign a statement indicating that the retaliation complaint has been resolved. The University shall within 30 days send a copy of the signed statement to the sponsoring agency. The settlement may not restrict the whistleblower from cooperating with any investigation of an allegation of research misconduct.
  5. University compliance. At any time a sponsoring agency may review the University's compliance with these guidelines to the extent that the University relies on these guidelines for regulatory compliance. The University and its members shall cooperate with any such review and provide the sponsoring agency access to all relevant records. If the University's procedures and implementation thereof substantially conforms to II-27.8c and II-27.8d above, it shall be deemed to have met its whistleblower protection obligation under federal regulations.