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Good practices

Poor conduct out in the open

Three Canadian research agencies have decided to change their rules about confidentiality in order to make it possible to publicly reveal the names of researchers condemned in procedures that investigate poor scientific conduct. CIHR (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), NSERC (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) and SSHRC (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) plan to demand that researchers that are given funding sign a statement of consent allowing their name to be revealed if any  rules of integrity are breached. “We believe that the introduction of consent will further strengthen Canada’s reputation regarding responsible research conduct,” stated the heads of the three agencies in a release, according to the website of the journal Nature. As Canada has strict privacy laws, the agencies have been accused of a lack of transparency in episodes involving poor conduct. Recently, NSERC was unable to divulge the names of researchers condemned for poor conduct, including one who listed a series of fictitious articles in his curriculum vitae, because the change is not retroactive. Another novelty is that the institutions will be required to appoint commissions to investigate poor conduct “with no real or apparent conflicts of interest.” These are to include “at least one outside member that is not currently affiliated with the institution.” This requirement is more specific than that currently in force in the US agencies, which limit themselves to regulating conflicts of interest.