Responsible conduct of research
UBC is committed to providing an environment that supports the best research and scholarly practices and fosters researchers’ abilities to act honestly, accountably, openly and fairly.
UBC Policy 85: Scholarly Integrity makes clear the responsibilities and standards required of UBC researchers engaged in scholarly activity. It also provides a process for dealing with allegations of scholarly misconduct.
UBC researchers are personally and directly responsible for the intellectual and ethical quality of their work and must ensure their work meets the requirements of all applicable funding agreements, policies, standards, laws and regulations. If you direct and supervise researchers, you share in this responsibility.
Education is key to ensuring the responsible conduct of research.
UBC students, faculty, post-doctoral fellows and staff have access to a free online course on the responsible conduct of research. This course covers all major aspects of research integrity including publication practices, data acquisition and management, writing, and ethical decision-making. Separate courses relevant to the Life Sciences and Physical Sciences are available, and one for the Social Sciences and Humanities will be online shortly.
Register for this course at citiprogram.ca.
Workshops for graduate students on integrity issues are regularly presented through the Graduate Pathways to Success program on the Vancouver campus and the Grad Essentials program on the Okanagan campus. The deans’ offices of the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (Vancouver) and College of Graduate Studies (Okanagan), in partnership with the Office of Research Services and the Centre for Scholarly Communication, work with graduate programs, departments, faculties and other units to design and present research integrity offerings customized to the needs of disciplines, which may be combined with the online course.
New postdoctoral fellows and faculty members are oriented to UBC Policy 85: Scholarly Integrity at the annual Research Orientation Days on both the Vancouver campus and the Okanagan campus.
Reporting scholarly misconduct
All members of the University community have a responsibility to report concerns regarding scholarly integrity.
All matters relating to scholarly misconduct, including confidential enquiries, allegations and information related to allegations, should be sent to the Vice President Research & Innovation.
For allegations of scholarly misconduct, the Vice President follows the procedures detailed in Policy 85.
The University will not tolerate any retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, makes an allegation, gives evidence, or otherwise participates in a process under Policy 85. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows may be in particularly vulnerable positions in these situations, and are encouraged to seek advice and support through their academic units or the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies dean’s office on the Vancouver campus and College of Graduate Studies dean’s office on the Okanagan campus.
The University has a policy specific to the reporting of improper financial activity. Policy 111 details the process to follow to report improper financial activity as well the protection afforded UBC persons who report such concerns in good faith.
Findings of scholarly misconduct
The University community recognizes the necessity for and importance of maintaining the highest ethical standards in the conduct of scholarly activities. In the following cases, UBC persons were found to not uphold these standards. For each case, the events leading to the finding of scholarly misconduct and the action taken are summarized, without disclosing the identities of the individuals involved.
An investigative committee made one finding of scholarly misconduct involving a faculty member related to published research for which the principal investigator had not sought or received Research Ethics Board (REB) approval. The committee noted that the faculty member used so-called umbrella REB approvals, rather than obtaining appropriate approval for discrete research studies. The faculty member admitted that proper REB approvals had not been obtained, and took responsibility for the error. The investigative committee found that the misconduct was deliberate. It noted the likelihood that the faculty member disregarded REB submission requirements in order to avoid perceived delays associated with obtaining REB approval, and that the faculty member had indeed expressed this view to students.
Action taken: At the committee’s recommendation, a review was conducted of the faculty member’s research to determine whether there was other published work that did not have appropriate REB review and approval. This review yielded only one other publication where REB approval should have been, but was not, sought. The faculty member will be provided with additional mentorship, and was reminded of the high standards expected with regards to research at the University.
The findings concerned the conduct of a clinical research study and a manuscript submitted to a scientific journal for publication. The investigative committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct related to scholarly rigor in performing research and accurate record keeping, and supervision of trainees. The faculty member was the principal investigator on the research study.
Action taken: as recommended by the investigative committee, the faculty member contacted the journal to advise that neither the manuscript in question nor any other from this research project would be (re)submitted for publication.
An investigative committee found that a faculty member was the principal investigator on two published articles, the second of which represented self-plagiarized work. The committee determined that a trainee who was an author on both papers acted alone in submitting the second paper, without the knowledge or consent of the co-authors. As the principal investigator, the faculty member was responsible for the publications and was found to have committed misconduct through a failure to adequately and appropriately supervise the trainee. The trainee was no longer a UBC person at the time the allegation was received.
The committee noted that the faculty member in no way intended to commit misconduct, and that in this circumstance, the misconduct was minor. The committee acknowledged the active participation and cooperation of all authors in the investigative process.
Action taken: The faculty member was instructed to retract one of the two papers, and to send an explanatory note to the editor of the journal in which the other paper was published to explain the committee’s findings. The committee recommended that in research projects such as this one, the corresponding author should always be the principal investigator, who is the one most responsible for the content of published work.
The findings concerned an undeclared conflict of interest and false claims about products that were the subject of a student’s research. The Investigative Committee made two findings of serious misconduct with regards to the student’s failure to disclose a financial interest in published research and with regards to unsubstantiated assertions about the products being researched and use of the University brand to enhance the credibility of the unsubstantiated assertions.
Action taken: the student was asked to inform the journal of the previously undeclared financial conflict of interest in the published work. The student was suspended from the University for one year, and a notation of the findings of misconduct were placed on the student’s academic transcript.
The findings concerned data included in a PhD thesis. The Investigative Committee found that the student had committed misconduct in that data in the thesis was fabricated. The Committee noted that the misconduct was the result of negligence and carelessness on the part of the student; the student did not intend to deceive or to commit misconduct.
Action taken: The student was required to correct all of the errors identified in the thesis, and have it approved by a supervisory committee that included one of the two academic members of the investigative committee. A notation of the committee’s findings will be placed on the student’s academic transcript. The student was asked to issue formal, written apologies to those in the department who were affected by this misconduct.
The findings concerned an article published in a scientific journal. It was the opinion of the Investigative Committee that the original allegation of scholarly misconduct against the student and the student’s graduate supervisor based on plagiarism could not be sustained.
However, the Committee found that the student wrongfully attributed co-authorship of the article to the supervisor and the supervisor was unaware of the publication of the article until notified of the scholarly misconduct allegation. In the opinion of the Committee, the student’s failure to do anything about the erroneous co-authorship and false attribution until notified of the scholarly integrity allegation was intentional and constituted scholarly misconduct.
Action taken: The article in question was withdrawn. The student was instructed to write an apology to the journal and, in relation to the student’s thesis, obtain verification of the raw data and analysis and oversight of citations. A copy of the student’s discipline letter was placed in the student’s file. The committee’s recommendations regarding guidance to faculty members who act as graduate student supervisors was communicated to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Faculty member, Faculty of Science
The findings concerned the faculty member’s use of two credit cards as they related to a federal funding program. It was found that the faculty member incorrectly used a department-issued UBC purchasing credit card and a personal Visa interchangeably for both work and personal expenses. As a result, a large number of ineligible expenses were charged to the faculty member’s federal funding program account. It was determined that the faculty member did not deliberately set out to defraud the federal funding program or UBC.
Action taken: UBC replenished the federal funding program account for the ineligible charges. A repayment plan was implemented, with the faculty member repaying the University. The faculty member served a one-month unpaid, disciplinary suspension. UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research.
Faculty member, Faculty of Medicine
The findings concerned figures published in different scientific journals. The Investigative Committee made 16 findings of Scholarly Misconduct related to falsification, four findings related to fabrication, four findings related to failure to keep records, three findings related to self-plagiarism, one finding related to lack of scholarly rigour and one finding related to failure to acknowledge contribution. The faculty member was the Principal Investigator and Corresponding Author.
In a separate investigation, the findings concerned the faculty member’s conduct as a CIHR peer review committee member. The Investigative Committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct: that the faculty member breached the confidentiality requirements of the CIHR Peer Review Manual for Grant Applications and that the faculty member failed to familiarize themselves with CIHR policies.
Action taken: UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research and, in the first case, also to the Office of Research Integrity. UBC notified the journals in which the publications appeared, the co-authors of the papers and the funders, as necessary. The faculty member is no longer an employee of the University.
The findings concerned fabrications contained in a paper submitted for publication (the paper was subsequently withdrawn) and unacceptable behaviour in the laboratory setting. The Investigative Committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct related to fabrication, one finding related to intoxication in the laboratory and one finding related to misuse of laboratory materials.
Action taken: The student was prohibited from using data found to be fabricated and suspended from the University for one year. A notation of misconduct was entered on the student’s transcript (the student may apply for removal of the notation two years after graduation from UBC, or at any time thereafter).
Faculty member, Faculty of Medicine
The findings concerned the faculty member’s failure to give appropriate recognition to the intellectual contribution made by a graduate student in an article. The Investigative Committee made one finding of scholarly misconduct related to the failure to appropriately acknowledge the contributions of others.
Action taken: UBC required the faculty member to notify the journal of the omission and request publication of an erratum to rectify the omission. The faculty member was banned from acting as a sole supervisor of a graduate student for two years and required to complete a course on graduate student supervision as approved by the Department Head.
The findings concerned the faculty member’s actions in relation to a federal funding program. The Investigative Committee made findings of scholarly misconduct related to the faculty member deliberately contravening the requirements of the funding program, that the faculty member made false reports to the funding agency, and that the faculty member asked students to pay a portion of the funding they received under the program to the faculty member.
Action taken: A forensic audit, as recommended by the Investigative Committee, was undertaken by UBC Internal Audit. This audit provided further evidence of financial improprieties in the faculty member’s research accounts. UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The matter was also referred to the Vancouver Police Department. The faculty member is no longer an employee of the University.