Letter and Report on Investigation into Research Misconduct

March 30, 2007

 

To Members of the MIT Faculty and the Staff of MIT Lincoln Laboratory:

In March 2006, I wrote to inform you that the Department of Defense had launched, at MIT’s urging, an investigation into allegations of research misconduct concerning two members of the Lincoln Laboratory scientific staff. The Department of Defense is releasing today a comprehensive report of its investigation. That investigation determined that none of the allegations against the Lincoln Laboratory scientists was substantiated, and recommended that the Lincoln Laboratory scientists be publicly exonerated. On the basis of these findings and as recommended by the Vice President for Research, I have determined under MIT’s policy on academic misconduct that neither of the Lincoln Laboratory scientists engaged in academic misconduct.

As you may recall, these allegations were the subject of an earlier MIT inquiry, but MIT could not carry out a subsequent investigation because access to essential, classified documentation was blocked. The Department of Defense investigation report details a comprehensive examination of the questions identified by MIT’s inquiry. The investigator was Dr. Brendan Godfrey, Director of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He was advised and assisted by Mr. Norman R. Augustine, former Chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation and a former Member of the MIT Corporation, who participated in all aspects of the investigation. While Dr. Godfrey and Mr. Augustine had unfettered access to the classified information, the investigation report itself is not classified. The full report, including a forward by Mr. Augustine, is available at here.

The final disposition of these allegations ends a long and difficult process, which has been frustrating for all concerned. I am especially aware that the duration of this process and the public disclosures of confidential matters have taken a toll on the two Lincoln Laboratory researchers, their families and colleagues. I greatly appreciate their patience. The investigation report establishes that they engaged in none of the alleged misconduct.

Last May, we released the report of an MIT ad hoc committee charged with investigating the factors that had delayed resolution of this matter. While that committee found that the Institute’s research policies were fundamentally sound, it did identify several improvements in policy and/or practice that might facilitate the resolution of any future cases of unusual complexity. Like the ad hoc committee’s report, the Department of Defense report recommends that MIT enhance its policies regarding research misconduct investigations. Specifically, the report recommends that MIT strengthen the confidentiality requirements in its research misconduct investigations and add to its policies a requirement for a complete set of written allegations and the basis for making them. It also recommends that the Department itself prepare a lessons-learned report.

I will consider carefully these recommendations, working closely with our faculty and administration leaders on steps going forward.  Our goal will remain, as always, to ensure that MIT research reflects and embodies the highest ethical and professional standards and that all members of our community are treated fairly.

On behalf of MIT, I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Godfrey and his colleagues at the Department of Defense for carrying out a thorough investigation of a complex issue. Several senior faculty members also provided invaluable advice and guidance in bringing us to this point. I also want to thank the many individuals at MIT and elsewhere who cooperated with the investigators. We are especially grateful to Mr. Augustine for agreeing to play his essential role in this process. They have all done us a great service.

Sincerely yours,
L. Rafael Reif