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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Science Ethics Policy Framework

Effective Date: March 1, 2019

If you have questions about the internal documents mentioned below, contact the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Science Integrity section at

1. General

1.1 Preamble

Integrity in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) science and technology branch is essential to maintain public confidence and to enhance the reputation of AAFC as a research organization. It is vital that the Canadian public has confidence in the research that comes from AAFC laboratories or that involves AAFC scientists. Accordingly, it is essential that AAFC, as a science-based government department engaged in scientific research and related scientific activities, establish and make public its policy on an ethical framework within which all scientific activity is conducted. Responsible conduct in scientific activities is important to AAFC and its employees. The Science and Technology Branch (STB) community is expected to adhere to the rigorous standards required of scientific investigation, and to the values of the Canadian federal public sector as expressed in the Values and Ethics Code for AAFC.

The Science Ethics Policy Framework (SEPF) provides further guidance and support for STB employees conducting and managing science in all their professional activities. The SEPF sets out the principles and guidelines that govern the conduct of employees involved directly and indirectly in conducting and managing science, and affirms AAFC's commitment to the highest standard of integrity in its science and technology activities.

This policy outlines the basic standards and measures that should be understood and incorporated in everyday activities to ensure responsible conduct in research, technology and other activities covered under related policies such as AAFC’s Science Integrity Policy, and the Policy on Science and Technology Publications.

1.2 Objectives

The objectives of the AAFC Science Ethics Policy Framework (SEPF) are to:

1.3 AAFC Vision, Mission and Mandate

Driving innovation and ingenuity to build a world-leading agricultural and food economy for the benefit of all Canadians.
AAFC provides leadership in the growth and development of a competitive, innovative and sustainable Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.
AAFC provides information, research and technology, and policies and programs to achieve an environmentally-sustainable agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector, a competitive agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector that proactively manages risk, and an innovative agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector.

1.4 Scope

This policy applies to all employees, AAFC partners and non-employees conducting scientific research under AAFC-approved collaborative research, development and technology activities within STB, or using AAFC facilities to conduct scientific research.

STB employees who do not meet or comply with the standards set out in the framework may be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including termination of employment. Third parties who do not meet or comply with the standards set out in this policy may face sanctions including non-renewal or termination of agreements.

1.5 Roles and Responsibilities


All activities of AAFC STB employees involved in conducting and managing science should be consistent with this policy. All AAFC employees should also be aware of their responsibilities under other laws, regulations, policies and procedures. Some of the other related policies and procedures are listed in Annex A.

The Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) STB through appropriate delegated officials will:


AAFC STB Employees will:

AAFC partners and non-employees

This policy applies to all AAFC partners and non-employees conducting scientific research under AAFC-approved collaborative research, development and technology activities within the STB, or using AAFC facilities to conduct scientific research. As such, relevant aspects of the SEPF must be outlined in all third-party agreements.

Non-STB Employees will:

2. Principles and Guidelines

This section sets out the principles and guidelines that apply to all AAFC STB employees as well as to partners and non-employees who are conducting scientific research under AAFC-approved collaborative research, development and technology activities and/or using AAFC facilities to conduct scientific research.

2.1 General Principles

2.1.1 Performance of Science

2.1.2 Professional Conduct

2.1.3 Selection of Scientific Research

2.2 General Guidelines

2.2.1 Ethics Risks

AAFC employees involved in conducting and managing science will:

2.2.2 Environmental Impact

All natural or applied research that may affect the environment is subject to governing legislation, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In addition, the stewardship value in the Values and Ethics Code for AAFC specifies that public servants must use resources responsibly, including by considering the present and long-term effects their actions will have on people and the environment. Appropriate caution must be exercised in the conduct of research that raises environmental issues, and all research must comply with AAFC’s Biosafety, Biosecurity and Biocontainment policies and guidelines. AAFC research with living organisms must be conducted in an appropriate containment laboratory in accordance with federal legislation. For organisms that pose a risk to human and animal health (e.g., Level 2 or 3 organisms), the appropriate legislation is the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act (PDF). For organisms that pose a risk to plant health, the appropriate legislation is the Plant Protection Act.

2.2.3 Research Involving Human Subjects and Animals


Research involving human subjects must:


Research involving animal subjects must conform to generally-accepted scientific principles and must be consistent with the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). Research involving animal subjects must be evaluated and approved by an animal care committee as provided for in the CCAC guidelines.

2.2.4 Collaborative Science/Research

Partnerships/Collaborations must:

Research as a Service and Third party Activity

2.2.5 Openness and Transparency

It is AAFC policy, subject to law, including the Access to Information Act, that:

2.2.6 Application of Research and Development Results

2.2.7 Provision of Scientific Advice

2.2.8 Data management (collection, acquisition, and interpretation)

Research records (such as lab books and electronic data sets) are the property of AAFC, and must be made available on demand for consultation, audit or investigation. AAFC employees involved in conducting and managing science must follow all Government of Canada and AAFC guidelines to ensure the integrity of scientific research data and the research records. This should include, but is not limited to:

2.2.9 Authorship

Authorship shall be based on significant contribution to the conceptualization, design, execution, and/or interpretation of the research study, as well as a willingness to assume responsibility for the study. It must be avoided for persons who have not made significant research contributions to the work being published. See Annex A.

2.2.10 Intellectual Property

It is the responsibility of all AAFC employees to:

For more information about copyright, please refer to the AAFC Policy on Science and Technology Publications. For assistance with respect to intellectual property and copyright issues, STB employees should contact the OIPC.

2.2.11 Technology Transfer for Commercialization

Due diligence must be exercised by employees in developing agreements for transfer of technology for commercialization, ensuring the Government of Canada’s intellectual property rights are fully protected and that AAFC receives an adequate return on investment.

3. Research and Development Misconduct

Research and Development misconduct is taken here to mean fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, reporting, or reviewing research and development. It does not include honest errors or honest differences in the interpretation of data. Misconduct in research and development is constituted by a failure to comply with the provisions of this and, without limiting the generality of this section, includes:

4. Science Ethics Committee

The ADM STB shall establish a Science Ethics Committee (SEC) to provide policy direction on ethical issues affecting AAFC science and to review and assess the decisions of science ethics subcommittees (SESCs) related to the following:

The mandate, roles and responsibilities of the SEC and SESCs are outlined in the SEC Terms of Reference.

5. Categories of Ethics Review

Employees may request:

5.1 Ethics Policy Review

Employees who need policy direction on new or emerging issues in scientific research shall first raise the matter, preferably in writing, with their immediate supervisor or using the usual reporting relationships.

5.2 Science Ethics Issue Resolution

The framework does not limit an employee from raising an issue through other means. Employees may wish to consult other means of resolution, such as those established under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, the AAFC Code, or the Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace. Where a matter may constitute serious wrongdoing, disclosure to the immediate supervisor, AAFC’s Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure, or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner would be a protected disclosure under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. Employees should consult the Office for Internal Disclosure or the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for more information.

Employees may also wish to consult their union representative, the Values and Ethics Policy Centre, AAFC’s Departmental Harassment Coordinator, or Integrated Resolution Services.

Employees who require advice on non-compliance with the SEPF should discuss the matter with their supervisor(s) or a member of the SEC.

STB employees, and non-employees using AAFC facilities or who are conducting research under AAFC-approved activities, who become aware of a situation of possible non-compliance, possible scientific misconduct or possible non-compliance with other ethics-related policies, laws, or regulations, shall first raise the matter with the immediate supervisor or using regular reporting relationships. In situations where the issue relates to the immediate supervisor, the employee can raise the matter directly with the SEC (Annex A).

The reports of scientific ethical issues and/or misconduct will be protected in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

6. Implementation and evaluation

6.1 Implementation

Science and Technology Branch employees and non-employees who rent or use AAFC facilities, including third parties, will be provided with a copy of the SEPF by Branch management. Branch management should also ensure that Branch employees have completed mandatory training on Values and Ethics and Conflict of Interest (AGR-620), Science Ethics (AGR-850) and Scientific Publications Ethics and Copyright (AGR-860).

6.2 Evaluation

The policy will be evaluated every three years following its implementation, or at the request of the ADM STB or appropriate officials, to ensure that it continues to meet its objectives and that it remains current and consistent with the AAFC STB mandate and other AAFC policies. Any issues or concerns identified will be addressed as necessary.

Annex A: Procedures


Copyright Release/Copyright Permission

Intellectual Property

Ethics Policy Review Process

Step 1: Employee Requests Review

The employee requests policy direction from the immediate supervisor (or through regular reporting relationships), in writing, for new or emerging science ethics policy issues.

Step 2: Screening and Review of Request

The immediate supervisor will:

Step 3: Review by the SEC

The SEC will:

Step 4: Review by the ADM STB

The BEC / ADM STB may reject or approve the SEC's recommendations. If the SEC's recommendations are approved, the ADM STB will instruct officials to implement the recommended new policy and to convey the decision to the SEC, the employee and the immediate supervisor.

Science Ethics Issue Resolution by Formal Process

Employees who wish to formally raise a matter related to alleged non-compliance with the SEPF should follow the process noted below.

Step 1: Request for Review

The employee may raise a matter of alleged non-compliance through various channels, either by informing their immediate supervisor, a member of STB management, or a member or the chair of the SEC, about the nature of the specific concern, including:

Step 2: Screening and Review of Request

The immediate supervisor will:

Step 3: Review by the SEC

The SEC Chair will:

Step 4: Response

The ADM STB will:

Step 5: Recourse

Employees affected by the SEC’s decision may appeal in writing to the ADM STB within 25 business days of being notified of the decision. Employees subject to discipline may seek resolution through established grievance procedures.

For non-STB employees, a similar process will be followed with allegations raised by non-STB employees against STB employees.

For allegations raised against non-STB employees using AAFC facilities or conducting research under AAFC approved collaborative research, development, and technology activities, the non-STB employee’s direct non-STB supervisor will be involved. Following the investigation, the ADM STB will answer to the external complaint in respect with the diverse directives.

Annex B: Related Laws, Acts, Regulations, Policies and Procedures

All AAFC employees are responsible under the following policies and procedures:

In addition, AAFC employees should also be aware of their responsibilities under various policies and laws and their related guidelines for example,

Annex C: Definitions


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Assistant Deputy Minister
Canadian Council on Animal Care
Human Research Ethics Committee
Science Ethics Policy Framework
Science Ethics Committee
Science Ethics Sub-Committees


Any written and signed statement describing possible misconduct and given to AAFC.

Good faith allegation

An allegation made with the honest belief that misconduct has occurred by an employee who formally raises an issue for review through the SEPF's resolution process.

Bad faith allegation

An allegation made as part of an employee's formal notification of an issue in which the issue-raising employee should have known, or through reasonable inquiry could have known, that the allegation is untrue or frivolous.


An author of a scientific publication is someone who has made significant contribution to the conceptualization, design, execution, and/or interpretation of the research study described in the publication, and who is willing to assume some responsibility for the study and the publication.


Data include the methodology used to obtain results, the actual research results, and the analysis and interpretations by the researchers.


"Derived from the Greek word "ethos", which means "way of living", ethics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with human conduct, more specifically the behaviour of individuals in society. Ethics examines the rational justification for our moral judgments; it studies what is morally right or wrong, just or unjust." Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer


In this context, inquiry means information gathering and initial fact-finding to determine whether an allegation or apparent instance of ethical misconduct warrants further investigation.


Investigation means the formal examination and evaluation of all relevant facts to determine if ethical misconduct has occurred and, if so, to determine the responsible person(s), define the nature of the misconduct, assess the seriousness of the misconduct and make recommendations if further action is required.


Includes "misconduct in science" or "misconduct in research" or "scientific misconduct" and "non-compliance" with the provisions of the SEPF.

Misconduct in science/research means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, avoidance or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are outlined in the SEPF and are commonly accepted within the natural science and engineering research community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

Avoidance is making it difficult for other researchers to reproduce one's findings by deliberately omitting, when publishing, information fundamental to the understanding of the procedures that were followed.

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them as real observations.

Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's (or the author’s own previously published) ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.


Section 2 of the Library and Archives of Canada Act defines record as "any documentary material other than a publication, regardless of medium or form."


Creative work undertaken on a systematic basis to increase the stock of knowledge and use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications of science and technology.

Research includes all individual and group activities concerned in the advancement of knowledge through scholarly, scientific and creative activity.

Research involving human subjects

Research involving human subjects is broadly understood to include electronic or other kinds of observation in an experimental setting; physical and psychological experiments; measurements and surveys; and field work for studies of cultural groups, national or ethnic groups.

Research record

Any data or results that embody results of scientific inquiry; it includes, for example, laboratory records, both physical and electronic, research proposals, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, and journal articles.

Science activities

These activities include foundational science and longer term core research and innovation work that advances the understanding of the natural resources upon which agriculture depends (soil, air, water); research to combat threats to Canadian agriculture production; mechanisms to protect and conserve Canadian bioresources and genetic diversity; and find future new opportunities for the sector.

Technology transfer

The development, utilization, communication, and commercialization of research outputs.

Annex D: List of contacts

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