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Science Integrity Policy guidelines: Breaches of Scientific Integrity

1. Effective date

These guidelines take effect on March 11, 2020. This is an evergreen document.

2. Context

These guidelines are issued pursuant to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Science Integrity Policy (subsequently referred to as the AAFC SIP), adopted on January 1, 2019. These guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the following AAFC guidelines:

3. Purpose

These guidelines are intended to assist AAFC employees and applicable non-AAFC employees in understanding the required procedures for investigation of breaches of scientific integrity under s. 7.2.2 (Breaches of scientific integrity) of the AAFC SIP.

These guidelines are intended to support AAFC in:

4. Breaches of scientific integrity

A breach of scientific integrity is behaviour or actions by an employeeendnote 1 involved in the design, conduct, management, review, communication or use of research or science that could reasonably be construed as inconsistent with or violating one or more of the principles of scientific integrity as described in s. 6 (Scientific integrity principles) of the AAFC SIP.

Breaches may be of two types:

By contrast, policy non-compliance involves actions or behaviour by AAFC as an organization that could reasonably be construed as inconsistent with or violating applicable sections of the AAFC SIP.

Allegations of policy non-compliance should not be brought under the AAFC SIP. Rather, any such allegations should be documented and brought to the attention of the AAFC National Union-Management Consultation Committee, which will decide upon the appropriate course of action.

5. Principles of investigation of alleged breaches

Investigations of alleged breaches of scientific integrity should be conducted competently and expeditiously with full regard for the following principlesendnote 2:

6. Allegations of breach of scientific integrity

Allegations of breach of scientific integrity may originate from any person, be they an AAFC employee, a non-AAFC federal government employee, or a third party from outside the federal government, including anonymous or undisclosed sources. Allegations may concern the conduct of:

6.1 Precedence

If a complaint regarding an alleged breach of the AAFC SIP is also submitted as a complaint against another Government of Canada or AAFC legislation, directive, policy, regulatory or statutory requirement, or a collective agreement, or is submitted under the AAFC SIP but falls primarily under one of these other policies, the other policy shall take precedenceendnote 5, except in the case where the complaint is dismissed under the other policy at which point, it can be addressed by the AAFC SIP if appropriate.

Complaints pertaining to issues that are covered by AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework or AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications will be addressed directly under those policies, for which AAFC’s Science Ethics Committee is responsible.

See Annex 1: Hierarchy of precedence.

6.2 Roles and responsibilities

6.3 Responding to an allegation

Whenever a possible breach is observed, the observer shall engage in an informal resolution mechanism, such as discussion with the subject of the allegation (henceforth the "respondent"), their own supervisor or the respondent’s supervisor. If this action resolves the issue, the case can be closed. If the issue is not resolved by informal mechanisms, the allegation will be submitted to the SIL.

The SIL will then determine if the alleged breach involves any other policies other than the AAFC SIP, AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework or AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications. If so, the allegation will be forwarded to the appropriate process owner and the complainant will be informed of the transfer of responsibility for the allegation. If the allegation is rejected under the other policy and therefore not resolved, it may be re-submitted to the SIL for investigation under the AAFC SIP, AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework or AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications.

Once the SIL has established that an allegation falls under the AAFC SIP, AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework or AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications, the SIL will appoint a Head of Response, who may or may not be chair of AAFC’s Science Ethics Committee. The Head of Response will investigate the evidence related to the allegation (and may convene an investigation committee as required) and will report findings and recommended action(s) to the SIL. The SIL will then decide on action(s) to be taken and will delegate accordingly for implementation. The SIL or delegate will prepare a final report on the investigation and subsequent actions and respondent will be informed. The complainant will be informed that the allegation has been resolved.

6.3.1 Investigation

During the investigation, the Head of Response is responsible for:

6.3.2 Report

The Head of Response will prepare a written report for the SIL that includes:

6.3.3 Decision and communication

On the basis of the report and any other information deemed appropriate, including consultation with AAFC Legal Services, union representatives, Labour Relations, and other relevant institutions if and as required, the SIL will decide: (a) which, if any, of the allegations they shall consider to be sufficiently well-substantiated; and (b) on subsequent actions, if any.

If the SIL finds that an allegation(s) is not sufficiently well-substantiated, the SIL shall ensure that: (i) all parties involved in the investigation process are advised that the matter has been concluded; and (ii) the respondent is provided with a formal letter to the effect that an allegation was made, a review process was established, that the allegation was found to be not sufficiently substantiated, and that no further action will be taken.

If the SIL finds that one or more allegations are sufficiently well-substantiated, the SIL shall provide the respondent with a letter which explicitly states: (a) which allegation(s) has/have been found to be supported; (b) the reason(s) for this/these determinations; and (c) any further actions that will be undertaken.

If no appeals are filed against the investigation within 30 days, the file can be considered closed.

See Annex 2 for a flow chart depicting the process of responding to an alleged breach.

7. Appeals

If the complainant, the respondent, or any other affected or concerned party files an appeal against the investigation, they must submit a written request to the DM within 30 days of receiving the letter from the SIL stating the reason for the appeal. Legitimate grounds for appeal include: (i) errors of procedure, or (ii) new or additional evidence that was not available to the Head of Response during the investigation. The letter should provide evidence that: (i) appropriate procedures were not followed and/or (ii) the original investigation was unable to consider significant evidence as described in the appeal letter.

Should the DM decide that an appeal is warranted, they will appoint a Head of Appeals to review the case and report on findings. The DM will then make a decision regarding the appeal and inform all parties of the results and any actions required.

In addition, or as an alternative, and where appropriate, the complainant, respondent or any other affected party may consider filing a grievance under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act.

Annex 1: Hierarchy of precedence

AAFC Policy and Responsibility Centre

The Science Integrity Lead, once informed of an incident that may be a breach of scientific integrity, shall determine whether the allegation constitutes a breach of scientific integrity or of any other departmental or Government of Canada policy, and refers it to the appropriate jurisdiction according to the following order of precedence:

  1. a Federal act, regulation, law or policy;
  2. an AAFC policy other than the AAFC SIP, AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework, or AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications;
  3. the AAFC SIP, AAFC’s Science Ethics Policy Framework, AAFC’s Policy on Science and Technology Publications.

If a resolution has not been achieved through a federal or departmental process, it can be addressed by the AAFC SIP process.

Authority level Breach issue: Values & ethics Breach issue: Intellectual Property Breach issue: Science Integrity Breach issue: Science Ethics Breach issue: Science & Technology Publications Breach issue: Communications Breach issue: Workplace (Labour) Relations Breach issue: Other
Government of Canada Policies, Acts, Regulations Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector Public Servants Invention Act n/a n/a n/a Policy on Communications and Federal Identity Collective Agreements Other Regulatory or Statutory Requirements
AAFC Policies, Regulations Values and Ethics Code for AAFC (AAFC) n/a Science Integrity Policy (AAFC) Science Integrity Policy (AAFC) Science Integrity Policy (AAFC) Directive on Management of Communications (PAB) n/a n/a
AAFC Branch Policies n/a n/a n/a Science Ethics Policy Framework (STB - SEC) Policy on Science & Technology Publications (STB - SEC) n/a n/a n/a
Responsible Branch / Work Unit CMB - V&E Secretariat STB - OIPC STB - Science Integrity STB - Science Ethics Committee STB - Science Ethics Committee PAB CMB - HR Other Department / Branch as required

Annex 2: Flow chart for responding to alleged breaches of scientific integrity

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Description of the image above.

Top of chart begins: "Possible Breach observed"

  1. First action: "Observer engages informal resolution mechanism (discussion with respondent, own supervisor, or respondent's supervisor)"
  2. Next Action Q: "Resolved?"
    1. If "Yes" to Resolved – then "Case is closed"
    2. If "No" to Resolved – then: "Science Integrity Lead (SIL) receives notification of an alleged breach", then Q: "Does the alleged breach involve any policies other than SIP, SEPF or S&TPP?"
      1. If "Yes" – then "SIL informs other process owner and complainant" – then "Other process"
        1. Next Action Q: "Resolved?"
          1. If "Yes" to Resolved – then "Case is closed"
          2. If "No" to Resolved – then return to step 2.b. until resolved under 2.b.i.1.a. or the SIL is required to move to step 2.b.ii.
      2. If "No" – then "SIL appoints a Head of Response (HOR) - SEC chair or other" (4 actions follow)
        1. Then "HOR investigates (self or with committee as needed)";
        2. Then "HOR reports to SIL – findings and recommendations";
        3. Then "SIL decides on actions to take and delegates accordingly for implementation"; and
        4. Then "SIL prepares final report to file". Then Q: "Does the Respondent or complainant appeal?"
          1. If "No" – then "Case is Closed"
          2. If "Yes" – then next action: "Appellant sends a written request to DM stating cause for appeal"
            1. Then "DM appoints Head of Appeals (HOA) to review case and report"
            2. Then "DM decides on appeal and informs all parties and delegates any action required"
            3. Then "Case is Closed"
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