Questions surrounding the study and report center around the fact that it was commissioned by a group favorable to the rail plan and tax. Records indicate that the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Bob Morgan, may have influenced how the rail study was handled by the UNCC.
The UNCC is investigating the matter but it's like in Washington DC when politicians police their own members. They won't find much that they did wrong. Even if researchers purposely ignored certain facts, the study was more than likely handled properly within the realm of the UNCC policy.
The policy prohibits "serious deviation" from commonly accepted research practices, including fabrication, falsification or plagiarism. Even ignoring key data and cherry picking the results would not fall within the grasp of the policy. Only making up their own data in lieu of gathering the data properly, deliberately changing results or stealing results from another source would violate the policy. I don't believe that happened here.
What I believe may have happened was that key data was ignored and not even looked at as well as results being cherry-picked to create at report that the people, who commissioned the report, wanted to see. The UNCC did nothing wrong beside possibly not looking at all information and not including information that didn't meet the study criteria. Research is like statistics, data can be viewed and even ignored in a variety of ways while not violating any ethics policy.
This isn't the first time such a thing happened. Studies generally tend to slant toward the views of whoever commissioned the study, regardless of who does the study. This is why I tend to question all the various studies that are being waved around by various groups and government agencies. The studies to believe lean more toward those studies that end up being buried by the groups that commissioned them as it doesn't say what they want it to say.
Personally speaking, the various studies being done for anything and everything these days aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Few produced are done without being commissioned by some group that is paying for the study to be done and setting the study criteria. Of course the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce will get a report favorable to their position when they are the ones setting the criteria of the study. I would bet that if the rail critics commissioned a study and set the criteria, they'd get one that supports their views.
Using commissioned studies to sway popular opinion has become a big business these days. Few are accurate and even fewer are non-biased. While the UNCC study will hold up to the internal investigation since it most likely didn't violate any internal policy, it is still a highly questionable report given the fact that it was a commissioned study which had the study criteria set by the group paying for it.