Canada funding agency bans researcher for fraud, and in first, reveals her name

via WCH
via WCH

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has banned a bone researcher for life following a finding of misconduct. And in a first, the agency has named her, in their report out today.

The case of Sophie Jamal may be familiar to Retraction Watch readers, as we covered it in October of last year following reporting by The Toronto Star. JAMA retracted a 2011 study by Jamal and colleagues in December, as we reported, and she resigned her positions at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and the University of Toronto.

Jamal, according to the an investigating committee at WCH:

  • manipulated study data with the intention of supporting the underlying hypothesis of research studies;
  • intentionally manipulated electronic datasets and presented them as raw data to investigators;
  • falsely accused a research assistant of having carried out the manipulations;
  • failed to correct the errors once the problems were discovered;
  • shared manipulated rather than primary data with colleagues;
  • deleted records that were to form part of WCH’s forensic investigation;
  • failed to retain research data to a standard appropriate to the discipline; and
  • impeded an institutional investigation.

The CIHR permanently banned Jamal from federal funding — including from Canada’s two other federal science funding agencies — on May 4. She will also have to pay CIHR back the costs of her grants.

Until today’s announcement, Canada had declined to make the names of sanctioned researchers available, citing confidentiality rules. As Post Media’s Margaret Munro told readers back in 2011, agencies typically released heavily redacted reports — one of which had enough information in it to allow us to figure out who was involved. As the Toronto Star reported last week in an investigation of cases from the last five years:

[A] new rule was introduced by the agencies in December 2011 that made it mandatory for researchers applying for public funding to consent to the publication of their names if they are found to have committed serious infractions. But it often takes years from when grant money is applied for to when allegations of misconduct emerge, meaning no researcher has yet been named under these new rules.

Officials said they would be naming the first such case soon.

The move toward transparency — which we certainly applaud — puts Canada in rare company. While the U.S. Office of Research Integrity — but not the U.S. National Science Foundation — reveal the names of those sanctioned for misconduct, most countries’ funding agencies do not.

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5 thoughts on “Canada funding agency bans researcher for fraud, and in first, reveals her name”

  1. Confidentiality serves what purpose when it protects wrong doing? Some criminals’ names are put in the paper and even those charged with crimes that have not been proven. Yet, other criminals, especially professionals, are often kept anonymous, protected and shielded from prosecution. There really is a double standard of justice.
    I’m glad Canada has started to do the right thing. You take the money, you pay the price publically if you are guilty of misconduct. What do you want to bet the rates of misconduct go down in Canada.

    1. No, I don’t think so…few people think they will be caught, let alone publicly named! Being banned for life, on the other hand, will stop serial misconduct going forward.

  2. Canada is actually putting the interests of the victims above the interests of the perpetrators for a change? Wow. I’m surprised and impressed.

  3. Lifetime cross-agency bans should be the standard in the US as well. Fraudsters do not deserve a second chance. They gave up their right to be scientists when they decided to publish false results.

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