Tokyo Tech News

Preventing Improper Use of Research Funds


Published: March 13, 2015

Tokyo Institute of Technology has implemented a variety of initiatives to prevent the improper use of research funds, including educating all faculty and staff on appropriate use, and developing systems and structures such as a Compliance Office and a comprehensive process of delivery inspection by parties unaffiliated with the lab that ordered the goods.

It was therefore most distressing to learn late last year of the arrest of those involved in a case of improper use of research funds (so-called "depositing") by a former Institute professor, originally discovered in FY2013. We deeply regret that the preventative measures taken by the Institute proved inadequate in preventing this incident.

In response, we have moved quickly to review our current approaches, and are now embarking on the following Institute-wide initiatives in order to build a robust research environment in which misconduct cannot reoccur.

Overhaul of rules and systems for proper management of research funds

  • amendment of rules and regulations concerning standards for disciplinary action; provision for the publication of names and other details of those subjected to disciplinary action for improper use of research funds
  • review of whistle-blowing systems and enhancement of monitoring activities with a view to early detection of potential improper use of research funds

Further systematic awareness-raising for faculty and staff

  • mandatory attendance at workshops and training sessions for faculty and staff; suspension of non-attendees' eligibility to apply for research funding
  • mandatory submission by all faculty and staff of a pledge to comply with Institute rules
  • stricter and more clearly defined penalties for engaging in improper use of research funds, etc.; provision of warnings in training sessions that the Institute may file a criminal complaint and/or civil action in cases of malicious improper acts

Reform of accounting procedures for receipt of goods (please refer to Accounting Measures for the Prevention of Improper Use of Research Funds [December 25, 2014])

  • enhanced inspection systems at the Inspection Center
  • clearer responsibility for matters such as justifying the purpose of orders
  • proper management of purchased goods
  • mandatory submission of pledges by third party suppliers to prevent their complicity in misconduct

Reform of personnel management and operations

  • replacement of vertically segmented lab-based accounting processes with a team-based administrative system involving multiple staff members

Inspection and provision of advice on research fund management systems by a committee composed solely of external experts, formed in November 2014

Furthermore, compliance reform, designed to propagate a culture of zero tolerance for the improper use of research funds, has been identified as a major pillar of the Institute's reform agenda alongside the education, research, and governance reforms already being pursued vigorously. A fundamental Plan for the Prevention of Improper Use of Research Funds, including prevention of collusive relationships between researchers (labs) and suppliers, and strategies for cross-supervision among faculty and staff, will be released as early as possible before the end of the current fiscal year.