On Campus

Will new rules prevent academic fraud?

Canada’s funding agencies define cheating, promise stats

Canada’s three federal research funding agencies have come up with a new plan to stamp out academic fraud. But does it go far enough?

The policy comes just months after the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) was heavily criticized for releasing redacted documents on academic fraudster Fawzi Alrazem, who was caught faking experiments and quit the University of Manitoba for a Palestinian university after his fake results were uncovered. In the documents released to Postmedia News, his name and university’s name had been blacked-out.

The Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research was released Monday, outlining new rules for researchers who get $2.4-billion annually from NSERC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The policy does a good job clarifying what constitutes a breach of a researchers’ duties, with definitions of fabrication, falsification, destruction of records, plagiarism, redundant publications, invalid authorship, inadequate acknowledgement and conflict of interest.

It also spells out what punishments researchers are subject to if they break the rules.

The policy requires universities have “a central point of contact at a senior administrative level to receive all confidential enquiries, allegations of breaches of policies, and information related to allegations.” That will allow the agencies to report statistical data on cheaters on their websites. But it notes that such reporting will be subject to The Privacy Act and “other applicable laws.”

Statistics are a good thing. They will help us determine the size of the academic cheating problem.

But it also sounds like the redacted documents will continue. Without details on who is cheating and where, will the new rules deter future researchers from faking their results?

Looking for more?

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