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Scientific integrity policy guidelines: breaches of scientific integrity

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1 Effective date

These guidelines take effect on December 1, 2019.

2 Context

These guidelines are issued pursuant to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy (Scientific Integrity Policy), adopted on December 31, 2018.

3 Purpose

These guidelines are intended to assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s employees in understanding the required procedures for investigation of breaches of scientific integrity under (s. 7.2.2) of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy.

4 Objectives

These guidelines are intended to support Fisheries and Oceans Canada in:

5 Breaches of scientific integrity

A breach of scientific integrity is behaviour or actions by an employee 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 the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy.

Breaches are failures to abide by any of the provisions described in Section 6 and 7 of the DFO Scientific Integrity Policy.

6 Principles

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

7 Scientific integrity lead

The Departmental Ombudsperson is hereby designated as Scientific Integrity Lead for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Ombudsperson:

8 Allegations of breach of scientific integrity

In cases where an allegation of a breach is made in the context of a complaint pursuant to a collective agreement or a regulatory or statutory requirement, complaint procedures associated with such agreements, statutes or regulations take precedence. Moreover, any allegations of breaches associated with such procedures should be evaluated carefully so as to ensure that the allegation(s) in question does indeed constitute a breach as defined in s. 5.

Allegations of breaches may originate from a Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s employee or former employee within their one-year post employment period.

Allegations may concern the conduct of:

Allegations of a breach should be transmitted in writing to the Scientific Integrity Lead by e-mail or post. The receipt of the allegations will be formally acknowledged.

On the information provided by the source of the allegation (henceforth the complainant), the Scientific Integrity Lead should provide:

If sufficient information on which to base an informed judgment is available from the complainant, the Scientific Integrity Lead’s report should also include:

The Scientific Integrity Lead should notify the subject of the allegation (henceforth the “respondent”) and invite them to respond in writing. The Scientific Integrity Lead will then provide to the Deputy, in writing, a recommended course of action and the associated rationale, as well as a copy of the Scientific Integrity Lead’s report. Courses of action may include:

  1. no further action
  2. informal consultation, discussion or mediation
  3. formal investigation of the alleged breach(es)

In making a recommendation, the Scientific Integrity Lead should consider the severity of the alleged breach(es) (see Annex 1), the strength of the evidence brought by the complainant, the likelihood of independent evidence being available and the nature of this evidence, as well as the subject’s response to the allegation. Formal investigation of alleged breaches should, in general, be recommended only for the most severe breaches of scientific integrity.

If there is cause for suspicion of malfeasance or malicious intent on the part of the source of the allegation, the Scientific Integrity Lead should indicate this explicitly in their report. The Scientific Integrity Lead should then prepare a separate written report to the Deputy, in which the grounds for suspicion of malicious intent or malfeasance are clearly described. An allegation of a breach for which there are suspicions of malicious intent or malfeasance may itself be considered a breach of scientific integrity, a violation of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, a case of employee misconduct and a case for disciplinary action, or wrongdoing.

Following receipt of the recommendation, the Deputy should decide whether the alleged breach does constitute a breach of scientific integrity and whether to respond to the allegation(s) of the breach(es) under the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy or under some other directive, policy or lawFootnote 1. They should also decide whether:

In deciding, the Deputy should consider the severity of the alleged breach(es); the strength of the evidence brought by the source; the likelihood of independent evidence being available and the nature of this evidence; the subject’s response to the allegation; and the range of potential response instruments (e.g. other directives or policies) available.

The Deputy’s decision, along with the associated rationale, should be included in a brief written report to the Scientific Integrity Lead, the source, and the subject of the allegation. If, in the Deputy’s view, actions such as informal discussion, consultation or mediation are appropriate, these actions should also be described. The Scientific Integrity Lead would then be responsible for ensuring that the specified actions are implemented.

Should the Deputy decide that no further action is required because the allegation of a breach is not sufficiently substantiated, they should ensure that the Scientific Integrity Lead, the complainant and the respondent of the allegation are advised in writing that a review process was established, the matter has been concluded because the allegation was determined not to be sufficiently substantiated; and that no further action will be taken.

9 Formal investigation of breaches

Where the Deputy Minister, on the recommendation of the Scientific Integrity Lead, is of the view that a complaint is of a nature that a formal investigation is merited, they will direct the Scientific Integrity Lead to launch such an investigation.

A formal investigation under the Scientific Integrity Policy–will include other Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s offices and personnel, including union representatives, Values and Ethics advisor, Legal Services, Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) and Human Resources (especially Labour Relations) as required. For example, in decisions about potential disciplinary actions, Legal Services and Labour Relations will be consulted.

Formal investigation committee

An Investigation Committee will be struck by the Scientific Integrity Lead to oversee the investigation and should include no fewer than three members agreed to by the parties, at least one of whom should be from outside the federal government. The Investigation Committee would be responsible to:

The role of the Investigation Committee is to:

  1. develop a factual record by exploring the allegations and available evidence in detail
  2. determine whether there is evidence of additional instances of breaches of scientific integrity (beyond those brought in the initial allegation) sufficient to justify broadening the scope of inquiry

Formal investigation process

On the basis of the evidence brought, the Investigation Committee will make a recommendation to the Deputy as to whether, in its view, one or more breaches of scientific integrity have been committed, the nature of these breaches, and any recommendations flowing from a finding of one or more breaches.

Resulting from the investigation, the Investigation Committee will produce a written report that includes:

The complainant and the Respondent will be invited to submit written responses to the draft report upon receipt of the draft. On the basis of these responses, the Investigation Committee will revise its report to include

  1. consideration of the comments provided by the source and Respondent
  2. the responses themselves
  3. an explicit recommendation to:
    • terminate the investigation with no further action; or
    • terminate the investigation and pursue informal discussion, consultation, mediation or some other action
    • implement proposed remedies.

This revised final Investigation Committee report should be submitted to the Deputy with a copy to the Scientific Integrity Lead, the complainant and Respondent of her decision. Whatever the outcome of the fact-finding stage, the duties of the Investigation Committee should be considered to have been discharged.

The Respondent and source of allegations should be apprised of the proposed membership of the Investigation Committee by the Scientific Integrity Lead, and should be invited to provide comments thereon to the Scientific Integrity Lead within 5 business days. The Scientific Integrity Lead should then finalize the Investigation Committee membership, taking these comments into account, and notify the Scientific Integrity Lead, source, and Respondent of the final Investigation Committee membership.

In addition to selecting the Investigation Committee, the Scientific Integrity Lead is responsible for:

The Investigation Committee should:

The Investigation Committee should provide to the Deputy, in writing, a draft report that includes:

The Scientific Integrity Lead should provide the Respondent and the source with a confidential copy of its draft report, including a copy of, or supervised access to, the evidence described therein. The respondent and source should then have 15 business days to provide a written response to the Investigation Committee draft report.

The Scientific Integrity Lead should then transmit the written response of Respondent and the complainant to the Investigation Committee. On the basis of this information, and any other information it considers relevant, the Investigation Committee shall produce a final version of its report. The Investigation Committee’s final report should include the written responses of the complainant and Respondent as appendices.

On the basis of the final Investigation Committee report and any other information deemed appropriate, including consultation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Legal Services, union representatives, labour relations, and other relevant institutions, the Deputy should decide

  1. which, if any, of the allegations shall be considered to be sufficiently well substantiated
  2. on subsequent actions, if any

If, in the view of the Investigation Committee, no allegations are sufficiently well substantiated

  1. all parties involved in the investigation process (including the Scientific Integrity Lead; the complainant and Respondent and, as appropriate, any other relevant or concerned parties who are likely to have knowledge of the process (e.g. other witnesses)) are advised in writing that the matter has been concluded because the allegation was determined not to be sufficiently substantiated; and
  2. the Respondent is provided with a formal written statement 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, in the view of the Investigation Committee, one or more allegations are sufficiently well-founded, the Respondent, the complainant, and the Scientific Integrity Lead as well as all other relevant or concerned parties, will be provided with:

10 Recourse mechanism

At any stage of the investigation, the complainant and respondent of the allegation, or any other affected or concerned parties, may appeal the decision (to proceed with the investigation or terminate the process) by submitting, a letter of appeal to the Deputy Head (with a copy to the Scientific Integrity Lead). Legitimate grounds for appeal include:

As such, in the letter the appellant should provide evidence that

  1. appropriate procedures were not followed
  2. the investigation failed to consider significant evidence as described in the appeal letter

Should the Deputy Head decide that an appeal is warranted, the complainant and responded will be notified in writing, with copies to the Scientific Integrity Lead and all affected or concerned parties. In such case, a further investigation will be undertaken on the new information provided.

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

Annex 1: Evaluation of breach severity

The determination of the severity of a breach of scientific integrity should be based on an evaluation of:

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