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Integrity in Action Case Summaries

In general terms “research misconduct” includes falsification or fabrication of data and plagiarism (FFP), violations of policies on the ethical treatment of human subjects and animals, and misuse of agency funds. The agencies have a common set of policies in place to deal with each of these. While the institutions and the agencies play a role in providing an environment that is conducive to promoting integrity and accountability, individual researchers bear the primary responsibility for their behaviour. 

The responsibilities of grant and award holders are outlined in application instructions, the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, other agency policies, award guides and the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide. 

The following are examples of cases the Agencies dealt with over the last few years. In accordance with the federal Privacy Act, the agencies do not disclose the identity of individuals involved.

Case No. 1

The university informed the agency of an allegation of academic fraud which resulted in an investigation concluding that certain published experiments had not been conducted, and that the results were fabricated. The researcher resigned from the university, nonetheless, the university imposed sanctions against him and he will never be considered for any future position or any other interaction with the university.

The agency declared the applicant ineligible to apply for or hold agency funding, and to participate in the peer review process, on an indefinite basis. 

Case No. 2

Staff noted that two Postgraduate Scholarship applications included the same text in the proposed research and the research experience sections. These were both “direct” applications and no university was involved. While the agencies do not carry out investigations, in cases where there is no institution involved, the agencies will review the material available to them. Following a review of the application and a Web search, the agency determined that information was taken verbatim from various Internet sites without the appropriate references. 

Both applicants were declared ineligible to apply or hold agency funding for three years and a strongly worded letter of reprimand was sent from the agency. 

Case No. 3

During the peer review process, a reviewer noticed similarities between a researcher’s grant application and a manuscript published by a former student without references of the source.

The institution investigated and concluded that the respondent plagiarized in the grant application. The institution responded by taking disciplinary and administrative measures, including the issuance of a letter of reprimand to be retained on file for a period of five years and the requirement to take a course in research ethics.

The agency decided that the researcher was ineligible to apply for future agency funding, as applicant, co-applicant, collaborator or in any other capacity, for a period of two years; and was permanently ineligible to serve on any of the agency’s committees.

Case No. 4

A researcher alleged that a doctoral student at a Canadian institution fabricated, falsified and misrepresented data in a research study. The institution conducted an investigation and concluded that research misconduct had occurred. As a result, the institution suspended the student for five years.

The agency decided that the student was ineligible to apply for future agency funding, as applicant, co-applicant, collaborator or in any other capacity, for a period of five years.

Case No. 5

The institution informed the agency of the results of an inquiry of research misconduct which concluded that several papers listed as published or “in press” in the applicant’s curriculum vitae and/or in other documents and grant applications, were not found in the published literature. The institution took action and rescinded an award related to the researcher; the researcher wrote formal letters of apology acknowledging his actions and taking full responsibility for his behaviour; and the institution administration will take the findings into consideration in future merit increases and promotion.

The agency declared the applicant ineligible to apply for or hold agency funding, and to participate in the peer review process, for a period of five years and was declared ineligible indefinitely to hold or apply for funding for one specific program. 

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