The publicly funded agency responsible for policing scientific fraud is keeping secret the details surrounding these researchers.
Their names, where they worked, and what they did wrong is protected under privacy laws.
MY RESPONSE, FOLLOWED BY THE ARTICLE
This is an extremely important article. It opens a door through which more information can flow. Many thanks to reporter Michael Robinson.
If there is a place for making on-line Comments on the article (an obvious place to expand the discussion), I can’t find it. So I will contact people named in the article, and provide the list below of missing CONTEXT.
I suspect that Michael Robinson reported narrowly, on topic, because he is limited by a “number of words” constraint?? I think we need to step up and generate as much discussion as possible on:
IN WHOSE INTERESTS ?, the missing CONTEXT
The need to address CONTEXT is obvious, with only this partial list:
- 2015-11-01 University administers forced to quit – – what’s behind it? (An American example that applies in Canada. A corporatist University means there is a very conscious effort to “manage its image” . Can’t let anything that tarnishes the image get out. Communications Consultants are employed by the U. Spin doctors are taught to arouse an emotional response – – “Privacy” is hot these days. Does not matter whether the press release, the sound bytes stand up to scrutiny. It is not about the rational or democracy).
- 2011-10-15 YouTube: Senate Meeting at University of Saskatchewan addressing conflict of interest of Ms. Nancy E. Hopkins (Cameco, the nuclear industry)
- 2015-09-17 Seroxat (Paxil) study under-reported harmful effects on young people, say scientists. Comment. Makes the point that the fraudsters have to be named; that’s the way our justice system works. Why would it be different for University Professors? (It’s the University’s image, silly!)
- 2015-10-03 Group questions U of S prof’s Monsanto link, The Starphoenix
- 2015-10-04 MBA program at University of Victoria is for Telus employees only. Telus-designed MBA. Ecological Economics.
- 2015-11-02 LISTEN: Enbridge & U of Calgary relationship challenges academic integrity
- 2012-05-21 Heist of the century: university corruption and the financial crisis. Extract from “Inside Job”.
- 2008-07-23 Letter to Dalhousie University re 2 million dollars from Lockheed Martin
- Thinkers of the Day on the Unholy Alliances between Government (public institutions) and Industry
- 2015-04-06 The Big Chill: How Big Money Is Buying Off Criticism of Big Money, by Robert Reich Excerpt:
Philanthropy is noble. But when it’s mostly in the hands of a few super-rich and giant corporations, and is the only game available, it can easily be abused.
Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians.
But no less dangerous is the quieter and more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose, and mobilize action against what is occurring.
- 2015-08-27 How UBC lost a president Excerpt:
The B.C. government had announced last year that it would tie 25 per cent of public funds to the labour-market outcomes of graduates.
Dr. Gupta seemed like the right man for the times. In his 14-year stint as CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, he had helped link up thousands of graduate students and researchers with internships in industry. In 2013, Ottawa rewarded the group with $35-million over several years.
The future UBC president was well connected to the federal government in other ways as well: In 2011, he served as a member of the Jenkins panel on innovation, which recommended closer collaboration between the National Research Council, universities and business.
“We are in a province where everything seems to be oriented toward LNG and pipelines,” one administrator said. “If what you think you need is better representation in government and in the private sector, Arvind [was] a pretty interesting choice.”
- 2015-09-02 Reply to Globe&Mail, “Universities need a new model of governance” by Julie Cafley
From http://sandrafinley.ca/?p=15223 (propaganda)
The elephant in the ivory towers is corporate influence which she does not even mention. That is a very serious omission. It is the vehicle by which the Universities become and are the propagandists.
But why would Cafley be obtuse to the problem? . . . hmmm what is this organization for which she is a Vice-President, Canada’s Public Policy Forum?
http://www.ppforum.ca/ Aaaaah! Take a look. Explains everything. These guys PROMOTE corporate inclusion.
I left a message on Julie Cafley’s voice mail. 613-238-7858 Ext: 229. She did not reply. I need to email her: julie.cafley AT ppforum.ca
I think we have to directly challenge – – well, we actually have to stop – – these people who so blithely sell-out our democracy. Corporatized universities are in the propaganda business. Propaganda is necessary to fascism.
John Pilger understands that. Most of us understand that. Why doesn’t a PhD know that?
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Canadian researchers who commit scientific fraud are protected by privacy law. Toronto Star.
Seventy-eight Canadian scientists have fabricated data, plagiarized, misused grants, or engaged in dodgy scientific practices in projects backed by public funds, a Star analysis has found.
But the publicly funded agency responsible for policing scientific fraud is keeping secret the details surrounding these researchers. The scientists’ names, where they worked and what they did wrong is not made public because that information is protected under federal privacy laws.
A Star analysis of investigation statistics obtained online and through interviews showed the oversight body — the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research — handled 243 cases of alleged research misconduct over the past five years. From December 2011 to May 2016, 68 investigations found individuals or a team of researchers who engaged in questionable scientific practices, the secretariat said. The cases comprise both deliberate and unintentional violations.
In 15 confirmed breaches, the secretariat asked that $895,000 in grant money be returned. So far, $179,000 remains unpaid. Not all researchers found to have committed research misconduct have to give back grant money. Penalties range from a letter of concern to indefinite bans from future funding.
“If you were going to be a fraudulent scientist or plagiarist, or you want to steal grant money, Canada is an excellent place to live,” said Amir Attaran, a professor in the faculties of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa.
By law, the presidents who lead each of Canada’s research funding agencies — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council— have the power to release the findings of these investigations if it is deemed to be of significant public interest, defined as a concern of public health or national security.
But no details of any investigation have ever been released.
“We have always had the authority under the federal Privacy Act to publish details where there is a matter of significant public interest. It is a higher bar and rarely reached. That is why you only see statistics,” said Susan Zimmerman, the executive director of the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research.
She emphasized “the public’s right to know is obviously important as well,” but noted “that needs to be balanced” with a researcher’s right to privacy.
The federal government distributes $2.4 billion yearly to health, engineering and social science researchers across Canada through CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC. When a grant recipient is suspected of wrongdoing, the secretariat relies on universities and other research institutions to conduct internal investigations.
David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said this “system of self-policing” allows universities to investigate themselves.
David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said the current “system of self-policing” allows universities to investigate themselves. (Blair Gable / for the Toronto Star)
“If you have a star researcher who is involved in an allegation, there may be a tendency to not thoroughly or rapidly investigate if there is a possibility of reputational damage to the university,” he said.
Although the written regulations require that at least one person on an investigative committee to have “no current affiliation with the institution,” Robinson argued universities could circumvent this rule by appointing retired professors.
A separate independent panel in Ottawa then reviews the institution’s findings and, in a case of confirmed wrongdoing, suggests a sanction and whether the scientist’s name should be published.
In a joint statement to the Star, Alain Beaudet, B. Mario Pinto and Ted Hewitt — the presidents of the three organizations that give out tens of thousands of grants to researchers each year — wrote that “disclosing personal information requires that the public interest in disclosure clearly outweigh any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure.”
Details such as the institution’s name and the amount of taxpayer money a scientist misused are kept private, they said, because it “could make the individual identifiable.”
The Star has made an access to information request for these records. As a result of this ongoing request, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada declined to comment on this story.
The three presidents said a new rule was introduced by the agencies in December 2011 that made it mandatory for researchers applying for public funding to consent to the publication of their names if they are found to have committed serious infractions. But it often takes years from when grant money is applied for to when allegations of misconduct emerge, meaning no researcher has yet been named under these new rules.
Zimmerman said it will make the name of the first researcher found to have committed serious misconduct under the new rule public next month.
Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has been posting — without names — online summaries of its research misconduct since 2013.
In a 2013 case, evidence of fraud was found in a UBC faculty of medicine researcher’s account.
Four such cases handled by the secretariat have involved the police, but Zimmerman declined to elaborate further because “naming an actual police force could lead to the identification of the involved individual.”
And because the agency doesn’t follow up with police, it’s not known if any of the researchers faced criminal charges.
Academics the Star spoke to said the secretariat’s “secretive” approach corrodes the reliability of Canadian-branded research.
Attaran said Canada’s research community could learn from the “name and shame” approach of the panel and the secretariat’s U.S. equivalent — the Office of Research Integrity. Following a confirmed finding of misconduct, the integrity office publishes online a full report containing the results of its investigations.
“The Americans will denounce research misconduct by name and Canadians won’t,” Attaran said. “This proves that Canadian research is less trustworthy and Canadian researchers are less trustworthy. Period. These are the facts.”
Still, some ethicists argue “too much public disclosure” could ruin careers.
Bryn Williams-Jones, director of bioethics at the School of Public Health at l’Université de Montréal, suggested partial reports — without a researcher’s name but with the details of their misconduct, where it occurred and the type of disciplinary action taken — be released instead.
“Right now, the public does not know if a sanction is reasonable or unreasonable,” he said. “This would give you confidence that severe cases are punished severely.”
Zimmerman noted U.S. authorities operate on a more “narrow” definition of misconduct, restricted to faking and plagiarizing data, while Canada’s research watchdog also looks at issues like dishonest authorship and misuse of research grant funds for personal benefit. She is, however, “in favour of more openness” and is considering the release of censored reports this fall.
Science Minister Kristy Duncan and Health Minister Jane Philpott, who oversee the agencies, both declined to comment and referred the Star to the joint statement provided by the agency presidents.
From fudging data to plagiarism, committing scientific sins carry consequences that can extend beyond simply wasting public money.
“Society also loses out on what could have been groundbreaking research,” said Frances Chandler, president of the Canadian Association of Research Administrators.