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ARCHIVED – Tri-Council Policy Statement: Integrity in Research and Scholarship

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As the major federal sources of funds for research and scholarship in academic institutions, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) are committed to the highest standards of integrity in research and scholarship.

The Councils have therefore undertaken to define their policies and expectations with regard to integrity, in a manner consistent with encouraging the highest standards of research and scholarship. The Councils regard any action that is inconsistent with integrity as misconduct.

Integrity in research and scholarship includes the principles listed below, which should be interpreted with the understanding that research can involve honest error, conflicting data or valid differences in experimental design or in interpretation or judgment of information.

These principles of scientific integrity overlap with other areas, such as financial integrity in the use of research funds and the ethical issues involving the use of human or animal subjects in research, in which the Councils have established guidelines and requirements. This document is concerned only with scientific integrity and does not replace any other statements from the Councils on other areas with which this issue may overlap.

Principles and Responsibilities

  1. The Councils hold researchers and scholars receiving Council funds responsible for upholding the following principles:
    1. recognizing the substantive contributions of collaborators and students; using unpublished work of other researchers and scholars only with permission and with due acknowledgement; and using archival material in accordance with the rules of the archival source;
    2. obtaining the permission of the author before using new information, concepts or data originally obtained through access to confidential manuscripts or applications for funds for research or training that may have been seen as a result of processes such as peer review;
    3. using scholarly and scientific rigour and integrity in obtaining, recording and analysing data, and in reporting and publishing results;
    4. ensuring that authorship of published work includes all those who have materially contributed to, and share responsibility for, the contents of the publication, and only those people; and
    5. revealing to sponsors, universities, journals or funding agencies, any material conflict of interest, financial or other, that might influence their decisions on whether the individual should be asked to review manuscripts or applications, test products or be permitted to undertake work sponsored from outside sources.
  2. The Councils hold institutions that administer Council funds responsible for:
    1. promoting integrity in research and scholarship; and
    2. investigating possible instances of misconduct in research or scholarship, including:
      • imposing appropriate sanctions in accordance with their own policies; and
      • informing the appropriate Council(s) of conclusions reached and actions taken.
  3. The Councils are responsible to the Government of Canada for ensuring that research funds administered by them are used with a high degree of integrity, accountability and responsibility.

Procedures for Promoting Integrity and for Preventing and Addressing Misconduct in Research

1. Researchers and Scholars

The primary responsibility for high standards of conduct in research and scholarship rests with the individuals carrying out these activities. The Councils expect researchers and scholars receiving funds from the Councils to adhere to the principles detailed in the preceding section.

2. Research Institutions

The Councils hold institutions responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct involving researchers, trainees or research staff working with funds from the Councils. Promotion by the institutions of understanding of the issues involved in integrity in research and scholarship offers a valuable means of preventing misconduct.

  1. Promoting Integrity in Research and Scholarship

    Integrity in research and scholarship is best encouraged by developing awareness among all involved of the need for the highest standards of integrity, accountability and responsibility. Research institutions should provide an environment conducive to this goal, and actively promote programs for the education of researchers, scholars, trainees and staff.

    The Councils encourage institutions that manage the Councils' funds to establish mechanisms to educate all who are involved in the collection, recording, citing, reporting and retention of scientific or scholarly material about their expectations for the highest standards of integrity.

    Mechanisms for meeting this objective might include encouraging awareness of the issues involved and establishing policies on specific areas. Awareness might be encouraged by establishing information sessions on the principles and practices of scientific integrity for scientists, scholars, graduate students and other trainees, and research staff when they arrive in the institution and at regular intervals thereafter. Institutions are encouraged to develop policies on such areas as requirements for authorship for publications or applications, on copyrights and patents, and on the responsibilities for retention of data appropriate to the range of disciplines that they offer.

  2. Investigating Allegations of Misconduct in Research and Scholarship

    Allegations may arise from anonymous or identified sources within or outside the research institution; the allegations may be well founded, honestly erroneous or mischievous. Whatever their source, motivation or accuracy, such allegations have the potential to cause great harm to the persons accused, to the accuser, to the institution, and to research and scholarship in general. Each Council requires each research institution that administers its funds to demonstrate that appropriate impartial and accountable procedures have been established to:

    1. receive allegations of misconduct in research and scholarship;
    2. conduct and document appropriate enquiries within an established time period;
    3. protect the privacy of the person(s) accused and of the person(s) making the allegations as far as is possible given the need for due process in pursuing the enquiry;
    4. allow the accused person(s) due process and full opportunity to respond to the allegations throughout the enquiry through mechanisms consistent with due process and natural justice;
    5. decide whether or not there has been misconduct;
    6. determine the actions to be taken as a result of conclusions reached, including:
      • any sanctions imposed;
      • any actions taken to protect or restore the reputation(s) or credibility of any person(s) wrongly accused of, or implicated in, misconduct in research, including procedures to ensure that if the charges have been dismissed copies of documents and related files provided to third parties have been destroyed; and
      • any actions taken to protect the person(s) deemed to have made a responsible accusation;
    7. inform the accused person(s) of the results of the enquiry and of the actions that have been decided upon; and
    8. prepare a report on the above.

3. Research Funding Councils

Allegations of misconduct made to the Councils or to research institutions might involve past or present grantees or awardees of the Councils, or trainees or staff supported from their funds or working in laboratories receiving their funds. Such allegations might also arise from the peer review processes of the Councils. Under provisions of the Privacy Act, the Councils may only transmit allegations of misconduct in research with the permission of the person making the allegations. The Councils will not transmit oral allegations to the institution, or otherwise act upon them, since these cannot be assessed or transferred accurately.

In the event that a Council, or one of its peer review committees, identifies evidence of misconduct as part of the peer review processes, the Council will request that the institution(s) involved carry out an enquiry and inform the Council of the outcome.

The Councils request that institutions which have carried out enquiries of alleged misconduct in research or scholarship involving projects funded by the Councils provide the appropriate Council(s) with the report of their findings. The Council(s) will consider the report and may request clarification or additional information.

In cases where misconduct is concluded to have occurred, the Council(s) will also consider imposing its/their own sanction(s) in relation to grants made to the individual(s) implicated, in accordance with Council policies. These sanctions may include, but are not limited to:

  • refusing to consider future applications for a defined time period;
  • withdrawing remaining instalments of the grant or award;
  • seeking a refund of all or part of the funds already paid as a grant or award for the research or scholarship involved.

If such actions are being considered, the Council(s) will provide an opportunity for the person(s) involved to present a response.

The Council(s) will then inform the person(s) and the institution(s) involved of any impending sanction.

As agencies of the federal government, the Councils retain the right at any time to bring a case to the attention of the appropriate legal authorities.

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