Findings of Scholarly Misconduct at UBC

The university community recognizes the necessity for, and importance of, maintaining the highest ethical standards in the conduct of scholarly activities.

In the following cases, UBC persons were found to not uphold these standards. To demonstrate the university’s commitment to transparency and accountability, anonymized summaries of all findings of scholarly misconduct and the action taken are published annually.

Findings: 2020

There were no reports of scholarly misconduct received in 2020.

Findings: 2019

​2019-01

An investigative committee made several findings involving a faculty member’s conduct with graduate students and in the conduct of their research.  Specifically, the committee found that the faculty member failed to obtain adequate consent from research participants, and failed to appropriately handle confidential records.  The committee noted that the faculty member likely intended to obtain adequate consent and correctly manage confidential records, but that through inadequate oversight of the research, this did not happen. 

The committee also made two findings described as both severe and intentional misconduct.  The committee found that the faculty member breached their obligations to a funding agency by asking several students to read grant applications for which the faculty member was a peer reviewer in order to find ideas that the faculty member could use in their own laboratory.  The committee also found that sections of the faculty member’s PhD thesis contained plagiarized material. 

Action taken: The faculty member’s department is implementing new training material that addresses issues that were relevant in this case.  The findings will be reported to the funding agency in due course.

2019-02

The findings concerned the manipulation of images that appeared in a manuscript submitted to a scientific journal and in a PhD thesis.  It was found that two images were manipulated, and the student admitted to having done the manipulation.  No further investigation occurred under Policy SC6.   

Action taken: The journal rejected the manuscript with no option to revise or resubmit. The student was required to correct all of the errors identified in the PhD thesis, and to have it approved by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and a subset of the student’s PhD examining committee. The student complied with these requirements.  The funding agency has been notified of the outcome of this case.

2019-03

An investigative committee found that a faculty member engaged in self-plagiarism by reproducing prior work without acknowledging that they were doing so. The committee noted the extent of the self-plagiarism to be serious and concluded that the faculty member was careless in with regards to a lack of understanding of the principles which govern scholarly integrity. 

Action taken: The faculty member notified the journal to correct the record regarding their published work and agreed to refrain from re-publishing their own work without appropriate citations.  They were also made aware of resources available at the University related to academic integrity. 

2017-03

An investigative committee found that a faculty member committed scholarly misconduct by misusing research funding. Specifically, grant funds were routinely and specifically used for inappropriate, non-research purposes.  The committee found that this misconduct was widespread over several years, and rather than being a case of negligence, the faculty member clearly intended to use this funding for inappropriate administrative, and in some cases personal, expenses.

Action taken: The faculty member resigned from the university.  The findings have been reported to the funding agency. 

Findings: 2018

2018-01

The findings concerned the conduct of a PhD student who failed to appropriately disclose and manage several real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.  The student was also found to have not used a high level of scholarly rigour and integrity in reporting and publishing data and findings.  In both cases, the findings were found to be of moderate severity and demonstrated careless disregard for the requirements of UBC policy. 

Action taken: The student was expelled from the university.  

2018-02

An investigative committee found that a faculty member collected biological samples from human research participants in an unethical manner, and failed to accommodate the university’s jurisdiction over research involving human participants that was conducted at a university laboratory. The committee also found that the faculty member failed to comply with several university policies related to research, failed to have adequate ethical oversight of research, and failed to comply with a Conflict of Interest declaration vis-à-vis disclosure of new intellectual property to the university. 

In arriving at its conclusions, the committee noted that the faculty member did not demonstrate personal responsibility with regards to understanding and complying with university policies, which seemed subordinate to the importance of the faculty member’s research. The committee also found the faculty member deliberately circumvented certain university processes to further the research.

Action taken: The faculty member is no longer affiliated with the university.  

Findings: 2017

2017-01

The findings concerned the conduct of a clinical research study and a manuscript submitted to a scientific journal for publication.  The investigative committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct related to scholarly rigor in performing research and accurate record-keeping, and supervision of trainees.  The faculty member was the principal investigator on the research study.

Action taken: As recommended by the investigative committee, the faculty member contacted the journal to advise that neither the manuscript in question nor any other from this research project would be (re)submitted for publication.   

2017-02

An investigative committee found that a faculty member was the principal investigator on two published articles, the second of which represented self-plagiarized work.  The committee determined that a trainee who was an author on both papers acted alone in submitting the second paper, without the knowledge or consent of the co-authors.  As the principal investigator, the faculty member was responsible for the publications and was found to have committed misconduct through a failure to adequately and appropriately supervise the trainee.  The trainee was no longer a UBC person at the time the allegation was received. 

The committee noted that the faculty member in no way intended to commit misconduct and that in this circumstance, the misconduct was minor.  The committee acknowledged the active participation and cooperation of all authors in the investigative process. 

Action taken: The faculty member was instructed to retract one of the two papers and to send an explanatory note to the editor of the journal in which the other paper was published to explain the committee’s findings.  The committee recommended that in research projects such as this one, the corresponding author should always be the principal investigator, who is the one most responsible for the content of published work.

2016-04

An investigative committee made one finding of scholarly misconduct involving a faculty member related to published research for which the principal investigator had not sought or received Research Ethics Board (REB) approval.  The committee noted that the faculty member used so-called umbrella REB approvals, rather than obtaining appropriate approval for discrete research studies.  The faculty member admitted that proper REB approvals had not been obtained, and took responsibility for the error.  The investigative committee found that the misconduct was deliberate.  It noted the likelihood that the faculty member disregarded REB submission requirements in order to avoid perceived delays associated with obtaining REB approval, and that the faculty member had expressed this view to students.  

Action taken: At the committee’s recommendation, a review was conducted of the faculty member’s research to determine whether there was other published work that did not have appropriate REB review and approval.  This review yielded only one other publication where REB approval should have been sought but was not.  The faculty member will be provided with additional mentorship and was reminded of the high standards expected with regard to research at the university.  The agency which funded the faculty member’s work was notified of the outcome of this investigation. The agency terminated the faculty member’s active grants and forbade them from participating as a peer reviewer for a period of time. 

Findings: 2016

2016-01

The findings concerned an undeclared conflict of interest and false claims about products that were the subject of a student’s research.  The investigative committee made two findings of serious misconduct with regards to the student’s failure to disclose a financial interest in published research and with regards to unsubstantiated assertions about the products being researched and the use of the university brand to enhance the credibility of the unsubstantiated assertions.

Action taken: The student was asked to inform the journal of the previously undeclared financial conflict of interest in the published work.  The student was suspended from the university for one year, and a notation of the findings of misconduct was placed on the student’s academic transcript.

2016-02

The findings concerned data included in a PhD thesis.  The investigative committee found that the student had committed misconduct in that data in the thesis was fabricated.  The committee noted that the misconduct was the result of negligence and carelessness on the part of the student; the student did not intend to deceive or to commit misconduct.

Action taken: The student was required to correct all of the errors identified in the thesis, and have it approved by a supervisory committee that included one of the two academic members of the investigative committee.  A notation of the committee’s findings will be placed on the student’s academic transcript.  The student was asked to issue formal, written apologies to those in the department who were affected by this misconduct. [/accordion]

 

Findings: 2015

Graduate student, Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program, UBC Okanagan

The findings concerned an article published in a scientific journal. It was the opinion of the investigative committee that the original allegation of scholarly misconduct against the student and the student’s graduate supervisor based on plagiarism could not be sustained.

However, the committee found that the student wrongfully attributed co-authorship of the article to the supervisor and the supervisor was unaware of the publication of the article until notified of the scholarly misconduct allegation. In the opinion of the committee, the student’s failure to do anything about the erroneous co-authorship and false attribution until notified of the scholarly integrity allegation was intentional and constituted scholarly misconduct.

Action taken: The article in question was withdrawn. The student was instructed to write an apology to the journal and, in relation to the student’s thesis, obtain verification of the raw data and analysis and oversight of citations. A copy of the student’s discipline letter was placed in the student’s file. The committee’s recommendations regarding guidance to faculty members who act as graduate student supervisors were communicated to the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 

Faculty member, Faculty of Science

The findings concerned the faculty member’s use of two credit cards as they related to a federal funding program. It was found that the faculty member incorrectly used a department-issued UBC purchasing credit card and a personal Visa interchangeably for both work and personal expenses. As a result, a large number of ineligible expenses were charged to the faculty member’s federal funding program account. It was determined that the faculty member did not deliberately set out to defraud the federal funding program or UBC.

Action taken: UBC replenished the federal funding program account for the ineligible charges. A repayment plan was implemented, with the faculty member repaying the University. The faculty member served a one-month, unpaid disciplinary suspension. UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Faculty member, Faculty of Medicine

The findings concerned figures published in different scientific journals. The investigative committee made 16 findings of scholarly misconduct related to falsification, four findings related to fabrication, four findings related to failure to keep records, three findings related to self-plagiarism, one finding related to lack of scholarly rigour and one finding related to failure to acknowledge contribution. The faculty member was the Principal Investigator and Corresponding Author.

In a separate investigation, the findings concerned the faculty member’s conduct as a CIHR peer review committee member. The investigative committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct: that the faculty member breached the confidentiality requirements of the CIHR Peer Review Manual for Grant Applications and that the faculty member failed to familiarize themselves with CIHR policies. 

Action taken: UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research and, in the first case, also to the Office of Research Integrity. UBC notified the journals in which the publications appeared, the co-authors of the papers and the funders, as necessary. The faculty member is no longer an employee of the university.

Findings: 2014

Graduate student, Faculty of Science

The findings concerned fabrications contained in a paper submitted for publication (the paper was subsequently withdrawn) and unacceptable behaviour in the laboratory setting. The investigative committee made two findings of scholarly misconduct related to fabrication, one finding related to intoxication in the laboratory and one finding related to misuse of laboratory materials.

Action taken: The student was prohibited from using data found to be fabricated and suspended from the university for one year. A notation of misconduct was entered on the student’s transcript (the student may apply for removal of the notation two years after graduation from UBC, or at any time thereafter).

Faculty member, Faculty of Medicine

The findings concerned the faculty member’s failure to give appropriate recognition to the intellectual contribution made by a graduate student in an article. The investigative committee made one finding of scholarly misconduct related to the failure to appropriately acknowledge the contributions of others.

Action taken: UBC required the faculty member to notify the journal of the omission and request publication of an erratum to rectify the omission. The faculty member was banned from acting as a sole supervisor of a graduate student for two years and required to complete a course on graduate student supervision as approved by the Department Head.

Findings: 2013

Faculty member, Faculty of Medicine

The findings concerned the faculty member’s actions in relation to a federal funding program. The investigative committee made findings of scholarly misconduct related to the faculty member deliberately contravening the requirements of the funding program, that the faculty member made false reports to the funding agency, and that the faculty member asked students to pay a portion of the funding they received under the program to the faculty member.

Action taken: A forensic audit, as recommended by the investigative committee, was undertaken by UBC Internal Audit. This audit provided further evidence of financial improprieties in the faculty member’s research accounts. UBC reported its findings and actions to the Secretariat for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The matter was also referred to the Vancouver Police Department. The faculty member is no longer an employee of the university.