On Campus

Academic integrity system is 'awful'

CMAJ wants major reforms for investigating scholarly misconduct

Canada’s leading medical journal is calling for major reforms in how academic misconduct is investigated and how the guilty are sanctioned. An editorial published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), argued that there are few checks in place to preserve academic integrity, paving the way for major violations of scholarly principles.

The Journal’s editors cite high profile cases such as Montréal researcher Roger Poisson who “falsified information to recruit ineligible patients for a trial of treatment for breast cancer.” The editorial also states that their are numerous, lesser known, cases involving “conflicts of interest, misrepresentation of authorship and manipulation of reports.” Universities, who typically investigate their own researchers, are ill-equipped to weed out misconduct because of an “inherent conflict of interest” due to “the imperative to keep grant and sponsorship money flowing.”

In an interview with Postmedia, CMAJ editor Paul Hebert called the system “bloody awful” and accused institutions of burying allegations of misconduct.

Hebert and his colleagues want to see an independent panel, such as the Panel on Research Ethics, empowered to investigate all allegations of misconduct, and given the authority to compel researchers to appear before a panel and to demand institutions “provide access to all necessary information to exonerate or find fault.” To ensure “maximum deterrence,” the editors argue that “any new authority must publish names of all individuals involved in serious misconduct, release the outcomes of all investigations and issue regular reports.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.