Responsible Conduct of Research, Senate Policy on (formerly titled: Misconduct in Academic Research)

Legislative History: Approved by Senate Committee on Research; Approved by Senate: 1994/06/23; Date Effective: 1994/06/23; reviewed 2011; amendments approved by Senate: 2013/06/27.

Approval Authority: Senate

Signature: Harriet Lewis


Description: Policy and procedure to adjudicate allegations of misconduct in academic research


A. Policy

1. Principles and Goals

York University affirms that all members of the University have the obligation to maintain the highest standards of conduct in research. In order to maximize the quality and benefits of research, a positive research environment is required.   It is therefore the responsibility of members of faculty and staff to follow acceptable standards of conduct in research and to foster it in others, and of students to be mindful of and abide by such standards.

2. Framework

The University incorporates by reference the regulations on responsible conduct in research established by national and international agencies, which include but are not limited to the Tri-Agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) and the Canadian Council on Animal Care, and the policies of Senate, and the University respects its obligations in respect of the collective agreements between the University and its employee groups.

3. Objectives

Through this policy, the University strives to promote the following objectives:

  • Ensure that information provided to funding agencies is accurate and reliable;
  • Ensure that public funds secured for research are used responsibly and in accordance with funding agreements;
  • Promote and protect the quality, accuracy and reliability of research;
  • Promote fairness in the conduct of research and in the process for addressing allegations of policy breaches.

4. Responsibilities of Researchers in the Conduct of Research:

 At a minimum, researchers are responsible for the following in the conduct of research:

Using a high level of rigour in proposing and performing research; in recording, analyzing, and interpreting data; and in reporting and publishing data and findings.

Keeping complete and accurate records of data, methodologies and findings, including graphs and images, in accordance with the applicable funding agreement, institutional policies and/or laws, regulations, and professional or disciplinary standards in a manner that will allow verification or replication of the work by others.

  • Referencing and, where applicable, obtaining permission for the use of all published and unpublished work, including data, source material, methodologies, findings, graphs and images.
  • Including as authors, with their consent, all those and only those who have materially or conceptually contributed to, and share responsibility for, the contents of the publication or document, in a manner consistent with their respective contributions, and authorship policies of relevant publications.
  • Acknowledging, in addition to authors, all contributors and contributions to research, including writers, funders and sponsors.
  • Appropriately managing any real, potential or perceived conflict of interest, in accordance with the institution’s policy on conflict of interest in research rectifying proactively, any breach of relevant/applicable funding agency policies.
    1. “Misconduct in Research” is defined as:
      1. Fabrication: Making up data, source material, methodologies or findings, including graphs and images.
      2. Falsification: Manipulating, changing, or omitting data, source material, methodologies or findings, including graphs and images, without acknowledgement and which results in inaccurate findings or conclusions.
      3. Destruction of research records: The destruction of one’s own or another’s research data or records to specifically avoid the detection of wrongdoing or in contravention of the applicable funding agreement, institutional policy and/or laws, regulations and professional or disciplinary standards.
      4. Plagiarism: Presenting and using another’s published or unpublished work, including theories, concepts, data, source material, methodologies or findings, including graphs and images, as one’s own, without appropriate referencing and, if required, without permission.
      5. Redundant publications: The re-publication of one’s own previously published work or part thereof, or data, in the same or another language, without adequate acknowledgment of the source, or justification.
      6. Invalid authorship: Inaccurate attribution of authorship, including attribution of authorship to persons other than those who have contributed sufficiently to take responsibility for the intellectual content, or agreeing to be listed as author to a publication for which one made little or no material contribution.
      7. Inadequate acknowledgement: Failure to appropriately recognize contributions of others in a manner consistent with their respective contributions and authorship policies of relevant publications.
      8. Mismanagement of Conflict of Interest: Failure to appropriately manage any real, potential or perceived conflict of   interest, in accordance with the University’s policy on conflict of interest in research.
      9. Misrepresentation in a funding application or related document:
        • Providing incomplete, inaccurate or false information in a grant or award application or related document, such as a letter of support or a progress report
        • Applying for and/or holding an award when deemed ineligible by NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR or any other research or research funding organization world-wide for reasons of breach of responsible conduct of research policies such as ethics, integrity or financial management policies
        • Listing of co-applicants, collaborators or partners without their agreement.
      10. Breaches of funding agency policies or requirements for certain types of Research – research involving humans, animals and/or biological/biohazardous agents
        • failing to meet funding agency policy requirements or, to comply with relevant policies, laws or regulations, for the conduct of certain types of research activities (such as research involving humans, animals or biological/biohazardous agents)
        • failing to obtain appropriate approvals, permits or certifications before conducting these activities.
      11. Mismanagement of Grants or Award Funds:
        • Using grant or award funds for purposes inconsistent with the policies of the relevant funding agencies;
        • Misappropriating grants and award funds; contravening relevant funding agency financial policies; or
        • Providing incomplete, inaccurate or false information on documentation for expenditures from grant or award accounts.
    1. Intentionality

Research misconduct implies intent. Factors intrinsic to the process of academic research and scholarly activity such as difference in opinion, honest error or honest differences in interpretation or assessment of research design, practice, data or research results do not constitute research misconduct. Merely questionable research practices do not constitute research misconduct.

6. Sanctions

A finding of misconduct in research may lead to a variety of sanctions, ranging from warning or reprimand to dismissal as is appropriate to the circumstances, Senate procedures governing student academic misconduct, and the terms of any applicable collective agreements. The magnitude of the finding of misconduct shall be considered in any determination of sanctions.

7.  Communication of Findings

Information concerning a finding of misconduct will be communicated to relevant research funding agencies or councils in accordance with their requirements and the terms of the relevant Collective Agreement.

B.  Procedures

1. Applicability

These procedures govern the determination of misconduct in academic research by all University employees, and persons employed under research grants by the University or by its faculty members, including persons who are also students at the University. However, students who have been alleged to have engaged in misconduct in academic research solely in their capacity as students, and in respect only to work related to the completion of their degree requirements, shall be governed by the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty and related procedures. In cases where there is an apparent conflict as to which policy and related procedures apply with respect to a particular student situation (i.e. the Senate Policy on Responsible Conduct of Research or the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty), the Dean of the Faculty in which the student is registered may elect which policy and related procedures to follow.

2. Receiving Allegations

2.1 An allegation of misconduct in academic research shall be in writing, signed by the complainant(s), dated, accompanied by documented evidence and directed to the President. Anonymous complaints will be not be accepted; however, the privacy of both the complainant and the respondent will be protected as far as possible and individuals making allegations in good faith or providing information related to an allegation will be protected from reprisals to the full extent possible. Within 10 days of the receipt of an allegation in writing, the President shall notify the individuals named therein with a copy of the document containing the allegation, provided that the signature(s) of complainant(s) shall be removed. The President shall decide whether the circumstances warrant an investigation

2.1.1 Where circumstances warrant or require, in advance of an investigation and/or finding of misconduct, the University may take immediate action to protect the administration of funding agency funds.

2.1.2 Subject to any applicable laws including privacy laws, the University may be required under funding agency rules to report to the agency allegations related to activities funded by the agency that may involve significant financial, health and safety or other risks. However, any ambiguity or uncertainty in agency rules or in their application shall be construed in favour of protection of privacy.

2.2 The President’s authority under this section may be delegated.

3. Investigation

3.1 Within 30 days of determining that an investigation is warranted, the President shall, in writing, so notify the persons involved and shall within 30 days of such notification, designate and convene an ad hoc committee of no fewer than 3 persons to conduct the investigation (the Committee). Some but not all of the members of the Committee shall be from the same discipline as the person under investigation. In addition, for research funded by the Tri-Agency, one member of the committee shall be a person not currently affiliated with the University.

3.2 The Committee shall have the discretion to establish in each case, a procedure suitable to the circumstances, provided that in every case, its discretion will be exercised with the following parameters:

    1. before any determination is made, the person against whom the allegations are made shall have full disclosure of the allegations and evidence and an opportunity to answer in full
    2. time is of the essence
    3. the proceedings will remain confidential to the extent possible, with a view to protecting from persons not party to or witness in the preceding the identity of the persons making the allegations and the person against whom the allegations are made.

3.3 In every case, the detailed procedures of the investigation shall be in accordance with the provisions of the applicable collective agreement and Faculty regulations.

4. Determination of Findings

4.1 Within 7 days following the conclusion of its investigation, the Committee shall report to the President, in writing, with its findings as to whether or not misconduct has occurred.

4.2 If the determination is that the allegations are unfounded, the file shall be closed and every effort will be made to protect or restore the reputation of individuals wrongly subjected to an allegation.

4.3 If the determination is that the allegations disclose that there has been misconduct, the President shall determine an appropriate penalty taking into account the severity of the misconduct.

4.4 In every case, the imposition of a sanction shall be in accordance with the provisions of the applicable collective agreement and Faculty regulations in force at the time of the imposition of the sanction.

5.  Records

5.1 Written records shall be kept of the inquiry and investigation and these records shall be kept as confidential files, for a minimum of 3 years following the finding of misconduct or dismissal of the allegation. An annual report of investigations will be compiled and forwarded to the relevant internal and external institutional office as or if required.