UW–Madison strives to foster the highest scholarly and ethical standards among its students, faculty, and staff. As a recipient of federal funding, UW must comply with federal laws related to civil rights, animal welfare research misconduct, and others. Though extremely rare, we realize there are times when reportable events of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or misconduct may occur in our midst and that it is our responsibility as an academic community to take steps to rectify them.
Reportable events can occur in the course of carrying out one’s normal institutional work assignments; including a breadth of interpersonal interactions; the design, conduct, publication, and communication of research; or the preparation of grant proposals, progress reports, and final summaries for funding agencies.
Graduate students and research associates are among the most vulnerable groups when reporting wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct because their source of financial support and progress in their careers may be placed at risk by their decision to report an adverse event. They are also often the closest witnesses when instances of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct occur and therefore must be appropriately protected from the consequences of reporting adverse events and be informed of their rights.
UW–Madison provides this policy to empower and protect graduate students and postdoctoral fellows when their report of adverse events occurring in the university workplace has the potential to jeopardize their employment status, continuation of appointment or funding, or progress toward degree.
Through the enactment of this policy, UW–Madison encourages our students and research associates to report instances of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct. Furthermore, UW–Madison will, by guaranteeing funding and progress towards degree, support and protect them from circumstances arising because of their good faith disclosure of such instances.
By enacting this policy, UW–Madison recognizes that graduate and postdoctoral studies represent unique endeavors that cannot always be replaced or supervised by interchangeable advisors. Consequently, it may be necessary for students and research associates to carry out new research or to find a new advisor or research supervisor as an ultimate consequence of reporting an adverse event. The Graduate School, Dean’s Office, and department chair will collaborate with affected students and research associates to secure funds and to identify acceptable advisors so that they may continue their studies while allegations of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct are under institutional review. This support includes a planned and mutually agreed upon completion of their degree after allegations have been settled.
It is also important to recognize that unfounded or bad faith allegations of wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct can have serious impacts on the individual accused of the wrongdoing, even when the allegations are subsequently proven wrong. Consequently, students are reminded that under Wis. Admin. Code UWS § 17, Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedures, disciplinary sanctions may be imposed for knowingly making a false statement to any university employee or agents regarding a university matter. Similarly, regarding research associates, disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination may be imposed for knowingly making a false statement to any university employee or agents regarding a university matter.
Graduate students and research associates may report instances of wrongdoing, noncompliance or research misconduct to their department chair, or to the associate dean for research of their respective college or school. UW–Madison also provides many additional ways to learn about policies and procedures regarding wrongdoing, noncompliance, or research misconduct, and to report these to responsible institutional officials, including by use of anonymous, electronic resources. These are summarized below.
At any time in this process, and particularly if a witness does not believe that due attention has been given to a written report of wrongdoing, the witness should contact the University of Wisconsin Ombuds Office, which serves to provide confidential, impartial, informal, and independent advice on how to proceed.