Integrity in research and scholarship

The Canadian Cancer Society is the major grantor of charitable funds for cancer research and scholarship in academic institutions in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society works closely with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and other health-related agencies in pursuit of its mission “to undertake and support cancer research and related programs in Canada that will lead to reduction of the incidence, morbidity and mortality from cancer”. The policies outlined below are derived from input from the CIHR and discussions at the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Canadian Cancer Society is committed to the highest standards of integrity in research and scholarships. The Canadian Cancer Society has therefore sought to define integrity in a manner consistent with encouraging the highest standards of research and scholarship. The major concerns regarding scientific misconduct are considered fabrication or falsification of data and plagiarism, but the Canadian Cancer Society regards any action that is inconsistent with integrity as misconduct.

Integrity 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:

  • recognizing the substantive contributions of collaborators and students; using unpublished work of other researchers and scholars only with permission and with due acknowledgement; and using archival material in accordance with the rules of the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
  •  not using new information, concepts or data that were 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, unless the author has given permission
  • using scholarly and scientific rigor and integrity in obtaining, recording and analyzing data and in reporting and publishing results
  • ensuring that authorship of published work includes all who have materially contributed to and share responsibility for the contents of the publication, and only those people
  • revealing to sponsors, universities, journals or funding agencies any material, financial or other conflict of interest 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

These components 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. This document is concerned only with scientific integrity and does not replace any other statements from the Canadian Cancer Society on other areas with which this issue may overlap.

The Canadian Cancer Society requires the institutions that administer funds to accept responsibility for:

  • monitoring and investigating possible instances of misconduct in research or scholarship
  • imposing appropriate sanctions in accordance with their own policies
  • informing the Canadian Cancer Society of conclusions reached and actions taken

The specific expectations for procedures and responsibilities of researcher, research institutions and the Canadian Cancer Society regarding integrity in research and scholarship are outlined below.

Procedures for promoting integrity in research

1. The responsibilities of researchers and scholars

The primary responsibility for high standards of conduct in research and scholarship rests with the individuals carrying out these activities.

2. The responsibilities of research institutions

The Canadian Cancer Society holds the institutions that administer its funds responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct involving researchers, trainees or research staff receiving funds. Promotion by the institutions of understanding of the issues involved in integrity in research and scholarship offers a valuable means of preventing cases of misconduct.

(a) Promotion of 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 education of researchers, scholars, trainees and staff.

The Canadian Cancer Society encourages institutions that administer its funds to establish a mechanism 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 standard 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 cover.

(b) 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 potential to cause great harm to the persons accused, to the accuser, to the institution and to research and scholarship in general.

The Canadian Cancer Society requires the research institutions that administer its funds to establish appropriate impartial and accountable procedures to:

  • receive written allegations of misconduct in research and scholarship
  • conduct and document appropriate investigations within an established and reasonable time period
  • protect the privacy of the person(s) accused and of the person(s) making the allegations throughout the investigation through mechanisms consistent with due process and natural justice
  • decide whether there has been misconduct
  • determine the actions to be taken as a result of conclusions reached, including:
  • the sanctions to be imposed
  • any actions to be taken to protect or restore the reputation(s) or credibility of person(s) wrongly accused of or implicated in misconduct in research, including the procedures to ensure that, if the charges have been dismissed, copies of documents and related files provided to third parties have been destroyed
  • any actions to be taken to protect the person(s) deemed to have made a responsible accusation
  • inform the accused person(s) of the results of the investigation and of the actions that have been decided upon
  • prepare a report on the above

3. Responsibilities of the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is responsible for ensuring that research funds are used with a high degree of integrity, accountability and responsibility.

Each institution receiving research funds must have established procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct that are consistent with the above expectations. The Canadian Cancer Society has the right, but not the obligation, to review the policies and procedures of the institution with regard to integrity in research and scholarship.

Allegations of misconduct made to the Canadian Cancer Society or to research institutions might involve past or present grantees/awardees, trainees or staff supported by or working in laboratories receiving Canadian Cancer Society funds. Such allegations might also arise from the peer review processes of the Canadian Cancer Society. Under provision of the Privacy Act, the Canadian Cancer Society may only transmit allegations of misconduct in research with the permission of their author. The Canadian Cancer Society 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 the Canadian Cancer Society, or one of its peer review committees, identifies evidence of misconduct as part of the peer review processes, the Canadian Cancer Society will initiate an inquiry to gather and expeditiously review factual information to determine if an investigation of the allegation is warranted. An inquiry is not a formal hearing; it is designed to separate allegations deserving of further investigation from frivolous, unjustified, or clearly mistaken allegations. Based upon recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society inquiry, the Canadian Cancer Society may request that the institutions(s) involved to carry out an investigation and inform the Canadian Cancer Society of the outcome.

The Canadian Cancer Society requires that institutions that have carried out investigations of alleged misconduct in research or scholarship involving projects funded by the Canadian Cancer Society inform the Canadian Cancer Society of the allegations made and the progress of investigations and provide the Canadian Cancer Society with the report prepared.

The Canadian Cancer Society will consider the report and may request clarification or additional information. In cases in which misconduct is concluded to have occurred, the Canadian Cancer Society will also consider imposing its own sanction(s) in relation to grants made to the individual(s) or the institutions(s) implicated, in accordance with its policies. If actions are being considered, the Canadian Cancer Society will provide an opportunity for the persons or institutions involved to present their position. These actions may include, but are not limited to:

  • refusal to consider future applications for a defined time period
  • withdrawal of remaining installments of the grant(s) or award(s)
  • seeking a refund of all or part of the funds already paid as a grant(s) or award(s) for the research or scholarship involved

The Canadian Cancer Society will inform the person(s) and the institution(s) involved of any impending action.

The Canadian Cancer Society must retain the right at any time to bring a case to the attention of the appropriate legal authorities.

Last modified on: October 20, 2017