Integrity and ethical practice in conduct of research

Understand and follow principles of academic integrity

Academic integrity and research ethics are essential to success in the coursework and research components of graduate studies. Learn and follow the rules established at McGill and through governing organizations to ensure compliance with regulations on research ethics. You should also become familiar with the debates about issues in academic integrity.

 

Academic integrity

Academic integrity is a broad term that includes research integrity and research ethics, as well as appropriate behaviour in non-research settings, such as avoiding plagiarism, cheating and copyright infringement.

Policies on academic integrity are available on the Office of the Dean of Students website.


Research integrity - concerned with good research practices and conduct

Research integrity includes:

  • intellectual honesty in proposing, performing and reporting research (e.g., avoiding fabrication or falsification of data);
  • accuracy in representing contributions to research proposals and reports;
  • fairness in peer review;
  • collegiality in professional interactions, including sharing of resources;
  • transparency in conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest;
  • protection of human participants in the conduct of research;
  • humane care of animals in the conduct of research; and
  • adherence to the mutual responsibilities of investigators and their research participants.
     

Research ethics – concerned with the treatment of human participants in research

According to the Tri-council policy statement on ethical conduct for research involving humans, there are three core ethical principles for any research involving human beings.

  1. Respect for persons: respecting autonomy and “protect[ing] those with developing, impaired or diminished autonomy”.
  2. Concern for welfare: protecting the welfare of participants, and, in some circumstances, promoting that welfare in view of any foreseeable risks”.
  3. Justice: treating people fairly and equitably

There are also ethical considerations when using animals in research. For more information on this, see the Animals in research and teaching page.
 

Mandatory online tutorials for students and supervisors

  1. All incoming graduate students at McGill are required to complete an online academic integrity tutorial on Minerva before registering for courses (Student menu → Academic Integrity Tutorial).
  2. All McGill students, faculty or staff acting as the principal investigator, or the supervisor of a student principal investigator, of research involving humans must complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement 2 (TCPS2) online tutorial prior to submitting an application to the Research Ethics Board.

Some programs may require additional training, such as a Responsible Conduct of Research course.

McGill resources on integrity and ethics

Policy documents regarding research integrity and ethics at McGill can be found in the Research Policy and Guidelines section in the University Regulations and Resources.

Resources:

  1. FairPlay, an online resource discussing common issues in academic integrity, including plagiarism
  2. Resources and workshops on integrity and ethical conduct offered through SKILLSETS
  3. This website for researchers, which contains information on research ethics, integrity, and intellectual property
  4. The regulation on the conduct of research

In case of research misconduct, the Research Integrity Officer at the Office of the Vice-Principal Research and International Relations is available for consultations based on the Regulations concerning investigation of research misconduct.

See the Resources page for additional information on academic integrity and research ethics from outside McGill.

Supervisors should account for international variations in research ethics training

Different countries have distinct policies and guidelines as well as procedures for overseeing research practices. Therefore, international students or students who have gained research experience abroad may enter McGill with different views of the ethical practices of research.

Supervisors can support their supervisees by ensuring they understand McGill’s policies and disciplinary practices related to the ethical conduct of research.

  1. Ensure that all students are given a set of textual and/or online resources related to the ethical conduct of research.
  2. Introduce students to the Singapore statement on research integrity, which defines global principles and can be translated from English into many different languages.
  3. Ask students to consider how other countries' guidelines and practices might lead to different decisions. Such a strategy can be particularly useful for incoming students with international experience as well as students who will be travelling abroad for field work, since they may find that individuals there hold different views of ethical practice than the ones they need to sustain.

What is the difference between misconduct and questionable research practices?

In the context of research, integrity refers to honesty, accuracy, fairness, transparency, and humane treatment of human and other animal subjects. Behaviours such as plagiarism and falsification of data are misconduct and are legally actionable, whereas some behaviours that may not meet the criteria for misconduct are questionable and worth discussing and debating.

 

Misconduct

Questionable research practices

Influences the reliability of research, and is legally actionable

May or may not influence the reliability of research

Misconduct includes falsification, fabrication and plagiarism (e.g., Fanelli, 2009; Johnson & Ecklund, 2015).

 

Questionable research practices are difficult to define, as there is a lack of consensus on what is appropriate and new situations are constantly arising (Banks et al., 2016; de Vries et al., 2006).
 

Examples include (Fanelli, 2009; Banks et al., 2016):

  1. excluding observations or data points based on a hunch that they are inaccurate;
  2. presenting post hoc results as if they were hypothesized; and
  3. inappropriate attribution of authorship credit.

It is essential that students do not perceive ethical practice as purely about gaining ethical clearance, coming instead to see it as justifiably guiding day-to-day practices as well as interactions.

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

Back to top