Scientific integrity policy guidelines: breaches of scientific integrity
On this page
- 1 Effective date
- 2 Context
- 3 Purpose
- 4 Objectives
- 5 Breaches of scientific integrity
- 6 Principles
- 7 Scientific integrity lead
- 8 Allegations of breach of scientific integrity
- 9 Formal investigation of breaches
- 10 Recourse mechanism
- Annex 1: Evaluation of breach severity
1 Effective date
These guidelines take effect on December 1, 2019.
These guidelines are issued pursuant to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy (Scientific Integrity Policy), adopted on December 31, 2018.
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.
These guidelines are intended to support Fisheries and Oceans Canada in:
- promoting compliance with the Scientific Integrity Policy
- informing employees and others of the procedures available to them for bringing forward allegations of breaches of scientific integrity
- explaining and ensuring employees and others understand the process by which allegations are assessed, investigated and adjudicated
- fostering confidence and trust in the procedures for bringing forward, investigating and adjudicating alleged breaches
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.
Investigations of alleged breaches of the principles of scientific integrity should be conducted competently and expeditiously with full regard for the following principles:
- Independence and impartiality: all assessments, investigations and adjudication of alleged breaches should be conducted in a manner that is unbiased, impartial and independent of any political, commercial, client or stakeholder interference.
- Confidentiality: any confidential (including personal) information brought in making an allegation of a breach, gathered as part of an investigation of alleged breaches, or considered in assessing and adjudicating alleged breaches, should be maintained in a manner fully consistent with the Privacy Act, the Employment Equity Act and associated regulations, and in keeping with the federal Code of Confidentiality.
- Openness and transparency: All parties involved in allegations of breaches, or any assessment, investigation or adjudication of alleged breaches, shall be fully informed of all relevant procedures. All information or evidence brought in making an allegation of a breach; gathered as part of the investigation of alleged breaches; or considered in assessing and adjudicating alleged breaches, should be documented. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will ensure that any disclosure of such information or evidence:
- does not satisfy one or more of the exclusion provisions of the Access to Information Act or one or more of the exemption provisions of the Security of Information Act
- does not contravene the Privacy Act or the Employment Equity Act and associated regulations
- does not contravene the federal Code of Confidentiality
- Good faith and fair dealing: All parties involved in allegations of breaches, or any assessment, investigation or adjudication of alleged breaches, shall conduct themselves in a manner consistent with good faith and fair dealing. Fisheries and Oceans Canada should provide the safeguards necessary to instill in employees the confidence to bring forward allegations of breaches of scientific integrity or participate in an investigation without fear of reprisal. Absent evidence to the contrary, it is presumed that all parties are indeed acting in good faith.
- Preference for informal consultation and mediation: In recommending actions or deciding upon appropriate actions, preference should first be given to informal consultation or mediation as a means of fostering scientific integrity among Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s employees.
- Right of union, legal or other representation: Any party involved in allegations of breaches, or in any assessment, investigation or adjudication of alleged breaches, shall have the right to legal representation (at their own expense) at any stage of the process. Further these guidelines in no way replace or abridge any employee rights pursuant to applicable collective agreements.
7 Scientific integrity lead
The Departmental Ombudsperson is hereby designated as Scientific Integrity Lead for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Ombudsperson:
- is the initial contact for all allegations of breaches of scientific integrity
- is responsible for ensuring that all allegations, investigations and adjudications of a breach, and any actions taken as a result of an allegation, are conducted in manner consistent with the principles in s. 6 above
- is informed of every step in the process, and any decisions resulting therefrom
- will provide recommendation(s) to the Deputy Head on actions that could be taken
- may provide advice to any party involved in the process but has no decision-making authority
- will report regularly to the National Union Management Consultative Committee on the number and types of breaches and their resolution
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:
- current Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s employees; or
- non-Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s employees of the federal Government involved in the design, conduct, management, review, communication or use of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s research or science
- individuals and partners from institutions outside the federal government who are expected to respect and abide by the relevant provisions of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy as a requirement of contracts, grants and contribution agreements and the like.
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:
- an assessment of whether the action(s) in question can reasonably be deemed a breach under the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy
- a brief description of the alleged breach(es) and the evidence supporting the allegation(s)
- an assessment of the severity of the alleged breach(es)
If sufficient information on which to base an informed judgment is available from the complainant, the Scientific Integrity Lead’s report should also include:
- an assessment as to whether concerns about a potential breach appear to have been raised in good faith or, alternatively, appear to be malicious, and the basis for this judgment
- an assessment of the availability of independent evidence that might substantiate the allegation(s), and the nature of any such evidence
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:
- no further action
- informal consultation, discussion or mediation
- 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:
- no further action is required
- informal discussion, consultation, mediation or some other action is required
- a formal investigation is required, either under the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy or some other directive, policy or law if applicable
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:
- gather, review and evaluate the evidence gathered (data, information, documents, electronic files, etc., including all documents produced as a result of the allegation)
- as required, interview the complainant of the allegation and the Respondent, as well as any other persons (witnesses) whom the Investigation Committee considers may provide relevant evidence
- as required, consult subject matter experts from within the federal government or from external institutions; and
- obtain a written statement from the Respondent as to whether they admit partial or complete responsibility for the alleged breach
The role of the Investigation Committee is to:
- develop a factual record by exploring the allegations and available evidence in detail
- 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 relevant background information to the case
- a description of the allegation(s)
- the assessment of severity of the allegation(s)
- a description of the steps taken in the investigation
- a description of the evidence gathered during the investigation
- a summary of the interviews with the complainant and the Respondent
- a description of other potential sources of evidence that have not yet been investigated
- any written statement by the Respondent concerning their responsibility for the alleged breach (es)
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
- consideration of the comments provided by the source and Respondent
- the responses themselves
- 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:
- ensuring that Investigation Committee members receive a copy of the final report from the fact-finding stage
- convening all meetings of the Investigation Committee
- providing the respondent with a confidential copy of the Investigation Committee’s draft report and obtaining their response thereto
The Investigation Committee should:
- use diligent efforts to ensure that the process is thorough and sufficiently documented and includes examination of all relevant evidence, including any fact-finding report
- decide whether an expansion of the scope of inquiry is warranted
- interview the source of the allegation(s), the Respondent and any other person who has been identified as potentially having information relevant to the inquiry
- make and retain a record of each interview, provide the record to the persons interviewed for review, and ensure that both the interviews and any associated reviews are included in its report
- diligently pursue all significant issues and leads discovered that are determined to be relevant to the review
- produce both a draft and final report
The Investigation Committee should provide to the Deputy, in writing, a draft report that includes:
- a brief description of the initial allegations, and any other uncovered as part of its inquiries
- a brief summary of the report on the initial allegations, as well as the full-Investigation Committee report as an appendix
- a description of any additional evidence gathered during the investigation
- a statement of finding for each allegation that includes:
- a clear identification of the Respondent
- a brief description of the alleged breach(es)
- the Investigation Committee’s evaluation of the strength of the evidence for (supporting) and against (inconsistent with) the allegation
- the Investigation Committee’s determination of whether, given (c), in its view the alleged breach was committed and, if so, whether it was done so intentionally or unwittingly
- any recommended actions flowing from (d)
- for breaches that the Investigation Committee considers to have been committed, suggestions about measures by which Fisheries and Oceans Canada might reduce the prevalence of, or prevent, future such breaches
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
- which, if any, of the allegations shall be considered to be sufficiently well substantiated
- on subsequent actions, if any
If, in the view of the Investigation Committee, no allegations are sufficiently well substantiated
- 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
- 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:
- a letter which explicitly states that
- which allegation(s) has/have been found to be supported
- the reason(s) for this/these determinations
- any further actions that will be undertaken
- a copy of the final Investigation Committee report
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:
- errors of procedure
- new or additional evidence that was not considered by the Deputy in reaching their decision
As such, in the letter the appellant should provide evidence that
- appropriate procedures were not followed
- 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:
- the potential impact on public health, public security or the environment
- the extent to which it would undermine the public’s perception of a professional nonpartisan federal public serviceFootnote 2
- its deviation from relevant professional codes of conduct or standards of practice
- its likely effect on the research or scientific credibility of, or public trust in, research or scientific information produced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- its potential impact on the research or scientific record and community and the accumulation of knowledge
- whether the breach concerns discretionary actions versus dutiesFootnote 3 under the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Scientific Integrity Policy
- the level of associated intent (e.g. accidental, unknowing or unwitting, wilful, reckless, etc.)
- whether the associated actions appear to represent isolated incidents or chronic or persistent conduct
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