Canada’s three federal research agencies (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) are committed to supporting and promoting the responsible conduct of research. To this end, they have developed the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (“RCR Framework”), which sets out the responsibilities and corresponding policies for researchers, institutions, and the Agencies. Together they help support and promote a positive research environment.
The Agencies have tasked the Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research (“the Panel”) with considering allegations of breaches of the Framework by reviewing institutional inquiry and investigation reports. The Panel is an independent volunteer body of researchers and institutional administrators affiliated with various academic institutions or organizations across Canada. The Panel recommends recourse, if appropriate, to the President of the Agency whose funds are involved. The President is the final decision making authority. To reduce the risk of bias in decision-making, both the Panel and the Presidents make their determinations based on anonymized documents.
In accordance with the Agencies’ Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information, researchers and applicants are required, at the time of application for Agency funds, to consent to the disclosure of personal information in the event they are found to have engaged in a serious breach of Agency policy. For more information on the Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information, please visit the Agencies’ Frequently Asked Questions.
The Agencies may also publicly disclose information related to a serious breach without consent, if “in the opinion of the head of the institution, the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure” (Privacy Act, 8(2)(m)(i)).
Canada is one of only a few jurisdictions in the world that discloses personal information related to a breach of responsible conduct of research. The Agencies have implemented this process to strengthen the responsible conduct of research in Canada and to increase transparency.
July 19, 2016 - Dr. Jamal
Name: Dr. Abida Sophina (Sophie) Jamal
Institution(s): Women’s College Hospital; University of Toronto
Nature of the breach: Intentional manipulation of study data
Background: The Women’s College Hospital (WCH) appointed an Investigating Committee to conduct an investigation into allegations it received in February 2015 regarding studies conducted by Dr. Jamal. These studies were supported, in part by, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
The Investigating Committee concluded that Dr. Jamal:
- manipulated study data with the intention of supporting the underlying hypothesis of research studies;
- intentionally manipulated electronic datasets and presented them as raw data to investigators;
- falsely accused a research assistant of having carried out the manipulations;
- failed to correct the errors once the problems were discovered;
- shared manipulated rather than primary data with colleagues;
- deleted records that were to form part of WCH’s forensic investigation;
- failed to retain research data to a standard appropriate to the discipline; and
- impeded an institutional investigation.
The research in question involved human participants. WCH found no evidence that the health of participants was negatively affected. WCH notified participants by registered letter that they may have received inaccurate information about the research.
WCH submitted the Investigating Committee's report to the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research in October 2015. The Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research considered the report and made recommendations to the President of CIHR in February 2016.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has since retracted the following article: “Effect of Nitroglycerin Ointment on Bone Density and Strength in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Trial,” published in its February 23, 2011 issue.
Dr. Jamal resigned from her positions at WCH and the University of Toronto while the investigation was in process.
Recourse: On May 4, 2016, the President of CIHR decided to declare Dr. Jamal permanently ineligible to hold, participate in, or apply for CIHR funding or funding from the other two federal research agencies (NSERC or SSHRC) or any Tri-Agency programs; and permanently ineligible to participate in Agency review processes. She is also required to reimburse CIHR for the funds spent on the study.
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