Research Integrity Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A foundational commitment of the University is to strive for research and scholarly practices that exemplify honesty, truthfulness, fairness, respect, responsibility and the courage to adhere to these values, according to the International Center for Academic Integrity. More specifically, a commitment to integrity calls for researchers and scholars to:


  • Deal fairly with colleagues and students
  • Adhere to relevant ethical principles
  • Carry out research in an honest and rigorous search for knowledge
  • Interpret findings according to scientific, scholarly and/or creative principles
  • Make results of work accessible
  • Identify affiliations and contributions accurately
  • Retain research records in accordance with relevant protocols
  • Honestly comply with funding agency requirements
  • Be proactive in rectifying integrity breaches

A corollary to this commitment to integrity is that researchers and scholars must also strive to maintain the overall integrity of the research and scholarly enterprise at the University by reporting suspected instances of research or scholarly misconduct to the Vice-Principal Research to request a referral to an advisor who will provide confidential advice regarding the matter, prior to the individual deciding whether to submit a formal written complaint.

Research misconduct, also called breaches of research integrity, is a set of actions that violate the fundamental values that serve to create trust in the processes related to discovering new knowledge and in the scientific or scholarly outputs that result from those processes. Research misconduct is to be distinguished from honest error, from conflicting research findings, or from conflicting approaches to or interpretations of the scientific or scholarly outputs. Here is a list of actions that would constitute research misconduct: 

  • Fabrication of data (making up data)
  • Falsification (manipulating data/equipment/processes to affect data)
  • Plagiarism
  • Financial misconduct
  • Failure to disclose conflicts of interest
  • Failure to comply with ethics or other regulatory requirements
  • Failure to recognize others’ contributions or to obtain permissions
  • Mismanagement of authorship
  • Providing incomplete or false information in applications
  • Submission of same article in multiple venues without notice
  • Destroying records to avoid detection of wrongdoing

In some contexts, the terms integrity and ethics are used interchangeably, that is, they refer generally to moral principles that guide an individual in differentiating right from wrong and in seeking to do what is right. In the University context, research ethics are the principles and practices that balance the rights of research participants with the goals of the research. Research ethics boards provide oversight for ethics education of researchers and for the ethical practice of research with human and animal research subjects. Failure to comply with the protocols associated with the ethical treatment of research subjects would be considered to be a breach of research integrity.

Canadian universities that receive funding from public funders, such as the Tri-Agencies in Canada or the programs supported by the Public Health Service of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, are required to have a policy that promotes and maintains a culture of research integrity.

The policy has three broad sections: 

  • it describes the responsibility of researchers to behave with integrity;
  • it lists examples of research or scholarly misconduct;
  • it describes the process by which an allegation of research misconduct can be made and the process by which an allegation of misconduct will be investigated.

The  Queen’s University Senate Policy on Integrity in Research applies to anyone conducting research who has an active affiliation with Queen’s University, including professors (all categories), administrators, post-doctoral fellows, staff as well as graduate, undergraduate and professional students.

NOTE: If student research is associated with a course number, the integrity issue may be handled in accordance with the relevant faculty policy on academic integrity.

A complainant is an individual who believes there are reasonable grounds for thinking that research misconduct has occurred and brings forward an allegation of research misconduct to the Vice-Principal Research. 

An individual who receives an allegation of research misconduct via the Vice-Principal Research is the respondent. The rights and responsibilities of both the complainant and the respondent are described in detail in the  University Senate Policy on Integrity in Research.

As a complainant, you need to make an allegation of suspected research misconduct in writing to the Vice-Principal Research and you must provide evidence. 

The process can start informally, where a complainant can seek advice from a trained advisor on how to proceed.

Once the allegation is made, the complainant will receive written confirmation of receipt of the allegation.

The respondent is then informed of the complaint, provided with the evidence and is offered an opportunity to respond to the Vice-Principal Research.

Both the complainant and respondent are entitled to have advisors.

During the “inquiry phase,” the Vice-Principal Research must make a determination whether enough evidence exists to consider the complaint of research complaint to be “responsible.”

For example, some complaints of research misconduct are in fact misunderstandings or disagreements, and some complaints are not about research integrity per se but relate to workplace harassment or discrimination and are managed under different policies.

Complainants and respondents are normally asked to meet separately with the Vice-Principal Research during the inquiry phase. If the Vice-Principal Research determines that the evidence does suggest a possible breach of research integrity, the “investigation phase” starts, meaning a full investigation will be conducted by a committee that is constituted according to the rules set out in the policy.

The complainant and the respondent will be invited to meet with the Investigative Committee and /or to provide additional written evidence. Both will receive written notice of the decision to proceed or not proceed to a full investigation. If there is an investigation, both the complainant and the respondent will receive a copy or a redacted copy of the investigative committee’s report.

The University is committed to supporting complainants who make good faith allegations and will put in place appropriate mechanisms to protect them.

A 20-day window exists between the Vice-Principal Research meeting with a complainant and the requirement to send a letter informing the respondent of the allegation to allow arrangements to be made, for example, for an alternate supervisor.

Moreover, complainants are entitled to receive advice from relevant University offices and to be accompanied by an advisor to all meetings.

If you are a member of a bargaining unit, any sanction will be decided in accordance with the provisions of your collective agreement.

If you are not in a bargaining unit, disciplinary measures will be decided by the Vice-Principal Research in consultation with the appropriate administrative head (i.e., the Provost or relevant Vice-Principal).

If you are a student, sanctions will be determined by your Dean.

You have the right to grieve or appeal that the process by which the decision was made is unfair or that the sanction is inappropriate.

The University will take reasonable steps to remove and destroy all documentation located in official files.

The University has an obligation to protect the reputation of its members.

The University will take reasonable steps to protect the confidentiality of the investigative process but has the right to communicate with administrators, witnesses and external agency representatives as needed to conduct an appropriate and fair review of the complaint.

The complainant, the respondent, witnesses and members of the investigative committee are required to sign confidentiality agreements.

Documents will be protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

You are entitled to get advice about the research integrity process from the Dean or his/her delegate in your Faculty.

If you are a member of a bargaining unit, you may seek advice from your union representatives.

You may approach the Office of the Ombudsperson at the University.

You may consult the Vice-Principal Research for procedural advice.

At all stages, you are entitled to be accompanied to meetings by an advisor.

The most recent update of the Tri-Agency Framework (2016) allows for anonymous allegations.

The Queen’s Senate Policy on Integrity in Research aligns with the Tri-Agency Framework whereby anonymous allegations will be considered if the allegation is accompanied by sufficient information to enable the assessment of the allegation and the credibility of the facts and evidence on which the allegation is based, without the need for further information from the complainant.