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 ("the RCR Framework"), which sets out the responsibilities and corresponding policies for researchers, institutions, and the Agencies that together help support and promote a positive research environment.
The Agencies have tasked the Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research (PRCR) with considering allegations of breaches of the RCR Framework by reviewing institutional inquiry and investigation reports. PRCR is an independent volunteer body of researchers and institutional administrators affiliated with various academic institutions or organizations across Canada. PRCR 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 PRCR and the Presidents make their determinations based on anonymized documents.
Since November 17, 2011, researchers and applicants have been 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.
Even without this consent, 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)).
August 23, 2023 - Mr. Adeel Safdar
Name: Mr. Adeel Safdar
Former Institution: McMaster University
Nature of the breaches (as defined in the RCR Framework): Fabrication; falsification; destruction of research data or records; plagiarism; redundant publication or self-plagiarism; inadequate acknowledgement; breach of agency policies or requirements for certain types of research; breach of roles of individuals in addressing allegations of policy breaches.
Background: McMaster University (McMaster) conducted an Investigation and a Hearing to review research integrity allegations it received against Mr. Adeel Safdar in February 2018. A summary of the Hearing Committee's conclusions demonstrated that Mr. Safdar:
- duplicated blots and an image in three research papers;
- plagiarized in a manuscript;
- demonstrated a lack of rigour and failure to follow scientific processes by not being able to produce an original figure;
- failed to maintain and retain research data and records;
- falsely claimed to have successfully developed a protocol and falsified study results;
- failed to comply with animal care and use policies, which negatively impacted animals used in research; and
- did not fulfill their duty to participate in the investigation.
McMaster University submitted the Hearing Committee's report to the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research in January 2022. The Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research considered the report and made recommendations to the President of CIHR in May 2023.
McMaster has ensured that steps have been taken to correct the research record through withdrawal, retraction or editorial expression of concern.
Mr. Safdar is no longer affiliated with McMaster University.
Recourse: On June 23, 2023, the President of CIHR declared Mr. Adeel Safdar permanently ineligible to hold, participate in, or apply for CIHR funding or to participate in Agency review processes.
July 19, 2016 - Dr. Abida Sophina 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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