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Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The scope of research and complexity of cases at UHN has made us a national and international
source for discovery, education and patient care.
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Today the Toronto Star published an article based on the recent retraction of two scientific papers. In this context, it is helpful for everyone to understand how UHN handles concerns that are raised about research conducted at UHN.
Throughout the global academic and research community, there are implicit and explicit standards for conduct of research. All research and academic organizations receive occasional reports that these standards have been violated in some real or perceived manner. Consequently, all research focused organizations including UHN have evolved policies and procedures for education and training in research practice as well as policies to address concerns that are raised internally or externally about the conduct of research.
UHN, as an academic medical centre, has a large research contribution to society driven by a UHN research community that publishes more than 3000 scientific and clinical papers annually. In the context of our significant research efforts, issues arise that span a spectrum from sloppy record keeping to plagiarism to inappropriate alteration of data. We take each allegation seriously. We have a process of inquiry, and, if warranted, investigation. The first step is an inquiry which determines whether there is is significant concern to justify a full investigation. In some cases, allegations are found to be baseless. In other situations where careful investigation reveals that research conduct has not met our standards and policies, sanctions are imposed. These sanctions vary with the incident but may include requirement for enhanced supervision, extra training, or suspension of research privileges. The numbers of such investigations vary from year to year. On average we examine three to four issues annually.
All principal investigators compete for research funds from public and private sources. Research funds have specific conditions for their use and are awarded to the principal investigators who are accountable to the funding agencies for the research described in the grant application. Institutions, including UHN, work with our scientists to ensure that the expenditure of grant funds is done in a manner compatible with the rules of the granting agency. Funding agencies periodically audit the use of funds with the full support of UHN during audits.
UHN's policies and the Tri-Council policy on the conduct of investigations require that funding agencies be notified about investigations and provided with the results of investigations. Our policy is specific on the process for reporting such investigations to scientific journals, collaborating research organizations, funding agencies, and academic partners including The University of Toronto. External agencies, scientific journals, and academic partners determine their own course of action once the results of an investigation have been forwarded to them pursuant to our policy.
Together we at UHN serve Canadian society through extraordinary clinical care, superb educational programs, and through our support of team science, innovation and discovery. We do so through carefully designed checks and balances that enable us to continue to discover and innovate in an environment that depends on trust and the highest standards for conduct of clinical care, research, and education.