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ARCHIVED - Tri-Agency Process for Addressing Allegations of Non-compliance with Tri-Agency Policies

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Table of contents

Acronyms
Definitions
Preamble
Accessibility
Transparency and Accountability
Process
Continuous Improvement

Acronyms

CIHR – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

MOU – Memorandum of Understanding on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards

NSERC – Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

SSHRC – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Definitions

Throughout this document, "actions" refers to decisions made by the agencies in response to confirmed misconduct or non-compliance.

In relation to individual researchers, actions may include, but are not limited to:

  • letter of reprimand;
  • declaring a researcher ineligible from applying for future funding for a defined time period or indefinitely;
  • terminating 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 within a defined time frame; and
  • ineligibility to serve on agency committees (e.g. peer review, advisory boards).

In relation to institutions, actions may include, but are not limited to (as per the terms of Schedule 8 of the MOU):

  • temporarily suspending funding to specific programs or projects until satisfactory corrective measures are in place;
  • freezing or closing of the grant account(s) of an individual researcher or of all grant accounts at the institution. If grants are used to pay expenditures contrary to the agencies’ policies, they will have to be repaid to the grant account or to the agencies; and
  • declaring an institution ineligible to continue receiving agency funds.

Agencies” or “Tri-Agencies” or “Tri-Councils” refers to CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.

Agency Integrity Committee” refers to each agency’s committee responsible for addressing allegations of non-compliance with Tri-Agency policies and making recommendations on possible actions. This is a generic term; each agency has a specific name for its committee.

"Agency policies" include, but are not limited to, the most current version of the following:

  • Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans;
  • Tri-Council Policy Statement: Integrity in Research and Scholarship;
  • Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research;
  • Agencies’ Grants and Awards Guides;
  • Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide;
  • Canadian Council on Animal Care Policies and Guidelines on the Care and Use of Experimental Animals; and
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards,and related Schedules.

“Complainant” refers to the source of an allegation.

“Confirmed misconduct”refers to a finding by an institution – as documented in an Investigation Report in accordance with the institution’s own policy and process and where the agency is satisfied that the investigation process followed by the institution was exercised in a manner consistent with agency policies.

“Designated Agency Representative” refers to the individual at each agency responsible for receiving allegations of non-compliance with relevant policies.

"Institution" refers to a university, hospital, college, research institute, centres and other organization eligible to receive and manage grant funds on behalf of the Agencies.

"Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards" refers to the agreement between NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR and the funded institutions. The MOU, together with related Schedules, describes the basic requirements for obtaining and maintaining institutional eligibility to administer agency funds.

"Non-compliance" refers to a departure from relevant agency policies and in particular, but not limited to, those that relate to:

  • research ethics (human subjects, etc.);
  • integrity in research or scholarship; and  
  • financial management of public funds.

"Process" refers to the principles and process set out in this document.

“Respondent”refers to the object of an allegation.

Preamble

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 and ethics in research and scholarship and financial accountability, broadly referred to here as “research integrity”.

The Agencies do not conduct investigations or make determinations with respect to misconduct.  In instances where an investigation is warranted, the institution shall be responsible for conducting the investigation, in accordance with its own institutional policies, and for communicating its findings to the agency. The agency shall follow-up with the institution on a regular basis (monthly) to obtain updates on the status of the investigation. 

This document is intended to be used as a guide in dealing effectively with allegations of non-compliance received by the Agencies. The Agencies recognize the need for this document to evolve over time and are committed to championing its ongoing development.

The Agencies’ process is founded on the following principles:

  • accessibility;
  • transparency and accountability;
  • process; and
  • continuous improvement.

These principles are in keeping with the Agencies’ mandates, enabling legislation and values.

Accessibility

The Agencies are committed to an open process that is readily accessible to any person who brings forward an allegation of non-compliance.

This process shall be made available to the public on the agencies’ Web sites, in public documents and through relevant list serves, as appropriate. It shall be provided to staff, institutions, researchers, research participants and the general public upon request.

The Agencies shall appoint a Designated Agency Representative.

It shall be the Designated Agency Representative’s responsibility to communicate directly with the source of the allegation and to facilitate his/her access to the agency.

The contact information for each Designated Agency Representative shall be made publicly available, together with the process documentation.

Transparency and Accountability

The promotion of research integrity is a responsibility shared by the Agencies. The Agencies are committed to ensuring that clear lines of accountability are established at each level of their respective organizations as required to implement this process.

Decision making processes involved in this process shall strive to be fair, open, reportable and able to bear close public scrutiny.

Each agency shall form an Agency Integrity Committee responsible for the review of allegations of non-compliance with policies it receives.

The Agency Integrity Committee may consult with other staff or external members for advice as needed on a case-by-case basis.

The Agency Integrity Committee shall meet as required to review allegations of non-compliance and to determine the next steps.

In matters where misconduct is confirmed, recommendations of actions shall be presented to senior management and/or the president of the respective agency for final approval.

Matters involving financial mismanagement, where there is evidence of fraud or criminal activity, shall be transferred to the appropriate legal authority as per the Treasury Board Directive on Losses of Money or Property

Subject to the Privacy Act and applicable privacy laws, the Designated Agency Representative shall document and record statistical data with respect to the number of allegations and their outcomes:

  • received by the agency in any given year;
  • the general nature of the allegations received;
  • that were not pursued and the general reasons why;
  • that were pursued and investigated;
  • that were resolved with a brief categorization of the outcomes; and
  • that remain active.

In keeping with the Principle of Accessibility, these statistical data shall be posted on the Agencies’ Web sites and updated on an annual basis, subject to the Privacy Act and applicable privacy laws.

Process

Through the implementation of this Process, the Agencies are committed to addressing allegations of non-compliance with fairness and in a timely fashion.

Allegations are reviewed by each agency to determine next steps. During this review, the Agencies shall follow-up as needed with complainants and institutions. Due to the constraints of the Privacy Act, complainants are informed that the agency cannot provide further information about the progress of an investigation or its outcome.

As stated previously, the Agencies do not conduct investigations or make determinations with respect to misconduct. In instances where an investigation is warranted, the institution shall be responsible for conducting the investigation, in accordance with its own institutional policies, and for communicating its findings to the agency within 30 days of the completion of the investigation.

Once the agency receives the institutional investigation report and is satisfied that the investigation and procedure followed by the institution have been exercised in a manner consistent with agency policy, the agency reviews the report to determine the appropriate course of action. The agency may follow-up with the institution for clarification. If there is no finding of misconduct by the institution, the matter is closed. If there is a confirmed finding of misconduct by the institution (all avenues of institutional appeal have been exhausted or expired), the case is referred to the Agency Integrity Committee for a recommendation. If the agency has not recommended an action or actions, the matter is closed.

If the Agency Integrity Committee recommends actions, the Designated Agency Representative shall present the recommendations to senior management and/or the president of the agency for final decision. Once a final decision on actions is made, the matter is closed and the Designated Agency Representative shall proceed to communicate with the respondent and institution.

In instances where the institution is the respondent, the agencies shall determine the appropriate course of action, on a case-by-case basis consistent with Schedule 8 of the MOU.

If no institution is involved, the agencies may review the file and deal directly with the individuals involved in order to resolve the matter, using a process consistent with that described above.

Continuous Improvement

The Agencies and their staff are committed to learning from their experiences in handling cases of non-compliance, to sharing lessons learned and best practices and to improving this process in the future. Hence, this process is intended to be a living document and should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to respond to allegations of non-compliance in a fair and timely manner.

Recommendations for enabling continuous improvement of this process:

  1. Each agency shall prepare an annual statistical report and shall disseminate information on lessons learned and best practices. 
  2. This process shall be reviewed every three years. The next scheduled review of this process is in 2012-13.
  3. Related policies of the agencies shall also be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

For further information and/or assistance please contact:

CIHR
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160 Elgin Street, 9th Floor
Address Locator 4809A
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0W9
Tél. : 613-954-1383
Fax: 613-946-0885
E-mail: research.integrity@CIHR-irsc.gc.ca

NSERC

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 1H5
Tél. : 613-992-0842
Fax: 613-943-1222
E-mail:  sectr@NSERC-crsng.gc.ca

SSHRC

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6G4
Tél. : 613-992-1058
Fax:  613-996-4824
E-mail:  secretariat@SSHRC-crsh.gc.ca

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