IntegrityStar UCF Compliance & Ethics Newsletter UCF Compliance & Ethics Newsletter

Case Corner

(All names have been changed in an effort to provide confidentiality of the parties involved.)

An anonymous report was submitted through the UCF IntegrityLine alleging that Dr. Smith was employed by a university in Asia, 123 UNIVERSITY, while maintaining full time employment with UCF. A related complaint was made via the IntegrityLine again later that same month.

While the concerns submitted in the IntegrityLine report were focused on an alleged conflict of interest and conflict of commitment, upon reviewing the allegations, it was identified that 123 UNIVERSITY, the place where Dr. Smith allegedly also worked, was listed as a “denied entity” according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (i.e., an entity that engages in activity contrary to national security or foreign policy interests of the U.S. government). As a result, University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk worked with University Audit and the Office of Export Controls Compliance to jointly investigate the allegations.

The investigative team reviewed information on 123 UNIVERSITY’s websites listing Dr. Smith as a current “professor” and “team leader” of a laboratory. Also reviewed were travel records, publications, research activities, and conflict of interest disclosures. Dr. Smith was interviewed twice. Because of prior work with the Office of Export Controls Compliance, the investigative team was aware that Dr. Smith had previously been informed three times that 123 UNIVERSITY was on the denied entity list and that they were not permitted to collaborate or visit that university.

Based on the findings of the investigation, it was confirmed that:

    • Dr. Smith was employed by 123 UNIVERSITY during their sabbatical in which time Dr. Smith set up a laboratory at 123 UNIVERSITY, recruited employees and graduate students for the lab, purchased equipment similar to that in their UCF lab for 123 UNIVERSITY, set-up and calibrated the equipment in the lab, and provided instruction to 123 UNIVERSITY employees and students in the operation of the equipment.
    • Upon conclusion of their sabbatical, Dr. Smith continued to collaborate with 123 UNIVERSITY. They traveled to Asia 22 times over a four year period. Although none of these trips officially lists 123 UNIVERSITY as a destination, Dr. Smith admitted that they visited 123 UNIVERSITY several times a year, stating that they had been advising 123 UNIVERSITY faculty and students for “about three to four years.”
    • Twelve of Dr. Smith’s 55 publications were in collaboration with a co-author from 123 UNIVERSITY. Also, research for four of those 12 publications was funded by 123 UNIVERSITY.
    • Dr. Smith submitted seven online conflict of interest reports. Although they reported similar collaboration with another university in Asia, which is not a denied entity, none of these reports mentioned their outside activities with 123 UNIVERSITY.

When presented with the evidence, Dr. Smith admitted that they continued collaborating with 123 UNIVERSITY despite being instructed not to do so on at least three occasions.

In response to the investigation findings, Dr. Smith’s continued collaboration with 123 UNIVERSITY in the face of multiple instructions to the contrary constituted misconduct, and Dr. Smith was issued a letter of reprimand informing Dr. Smith to:

    • notify 123 UNIVERSITY to remove their name and likeness from its website,
    • provide a list of papers published and submitted for publication with a co-author from a denied entity,
    • cease using university, contract and grant, or UCF Foundation funds to pay for travel to Asia for at least five years, and
    • discontinue initiating or replying to contacts from a denied entity seeking collaboration in a manner not in compliance with U.S. export control laws or regulations.

Because Dr. Smith was found to have engaged in prohibited activities with a denied entity, the UCF Export Control Officer was also required to submit a Voluntary Self-Disclosure to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Following conclusion of the investigation and corrective actions, through UCF’s monitoring efforts, it was identified that Dr. Smith continued to seek unallowable collaborations. UCF issued Dr. Smith a letter of proposed termination following which time, Dr. Smith submitted their resignation.

This case represents not only a violation of UCF’s outside activity reporting requirements, but also a violation of law and non-compliance with previous directives by university officials to discontinue activities with a denied entity. We are grateful for the reports submitted through the IntegrityLine which led to the investigation into this matter. Armed with this information, UCF was able to correct the unlawful behavior.

If you become aware of a situation that is not in accordance with UCF regulations, policies, procedures, or standards of conduct, please report it through the available reporting mechanisms or submit a report through the UCF IntegrityLine.