Three Motions for Senate Concerning Alleged Research Misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO (8 May 2012)

As submitted to the Senate Agenda Committee on 8 May 2012 for inclusion on the Agenda for 22 May. The first was submitted by Senator Jordan Morelli, the second by Senator Terry Bridges, the third by Senator Mark Jones.  All three motions refer to the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” (27 April 2012). HEQCO is the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, an Ontario Government agency. The principal documents are available on the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) Ontario website.

All three of these motions were rejected by the Agenda Committee (in the absence of its faculty member, incidentally) on 14 May, on alleged and unspecified grounds that “there appear to be facts assumed that are not proven.” The Agenda Committee (whose membership includes the Chair and Vice-Chair of Senate and three other members of Senate) is ordinarily supposed to receive submissions via the Secretary and simply “arrange that all business goes forward to the Senate in properly prepared form” (Rules, VI.22.1). In other words, its function is supposed to be more secretarial than discretionary or dictatorial.  In the special instances where it is permitted to reject a submission, it is required to “report such action to the Senate,” since Senators have a right to challenge the rejection (Rules, III.17).

The Agenda Committee has lately taken it upon itself to reject many Agenda submissions without respecting this rule of deference to the judgment of Senate.  In March alone, it rejected several faculty submissions for the Senate agenda, including questions for the Provost concerning the secret “business case” for development of online learning, and questions for the Principal concerning legal advice for Senate.  In fact, Senate’s need for legal advice dates back to another important occasion in April 2009, when the Senate Agenda Committee prevented two motions, submitted by a faculty and a student member, from reaching the floor of Senate.  The motions in that case would have provided “that Senate abide by the determination of the [Arts and Science] Faculty Board,” which had just passed a motion requiring that its Dean rescind program suspensions that had “not followed the bylaws,” and that he reconsider them “following appropriate procedures as specified by our Faculty Board Bylaws.”  The Agenda Committee’s stated reason for not entertaining these motions of April 2009 was that Senate lacked authority “to dictate to Faculty Boards the implementation of their own procedures”–even though one of the motions in question was explicitly (and both were in spirit) “that Senate abide by the determination of the Faculty Board” (a determination already expressed by that Faculty Board’s “overwhelming” approval of its motion), and even though Senate does have the explicit authority to “determin[e] all matters of an academic character that affect the University as a whole” (“Purpose and Functions of Senate,” sec. 1).  It was on this occasion that the Administration first invited its counsel Diane Kelly into Senate to pronounce that the Deans, as “officers” of the Board of Trustees, have the unilateral authority to make resource-based decisions that influence the academic program of the University,” including decisions that will “have an impact on the academic offerings of the Faculty.” This doctrine was intended to mean, of course, that by invoking “resources” a Dean could make unilateral academic decisions without either seeking input or heeding objections from the Faculty Boards and Senate—notwithstanding Senate’s explicitly provided authority over “all matters of an academic character.”

The Agenda Committee’s assumption of the authority to prevent duly submitted motions and questions from reaching Senate where they can be properly and collegially discussed and voted upon is, in sum, of a piece with our Administration’s usurpation of Senate’s explicitly provided collegial authority over “all matters of an academic character that affect the University as a whole.”

First Motion:

Given that the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has released a “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” (27 April 2012);

And given that the statement advises OCUFA members “that working with HEQCO requires the researcher to surrender all ownership of, and moral rights to, the final product” (p. 2), that “The terms of the HEQCO research contract puts serious constraints on the academic freedom of those who undertake HEQCO-funded research,” and that “care must be taken to ensure that [. . .] researchers understand the terms and conditions of the HEQCO contract,” especially where these researchers are “students and early-career academics,”

I move that Senate endorse OCUFA’s recommendations and take the following practical measures in keeping with its Statement:

that it urge Queen’s Research Services (QRS) and Office of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) to acknowledge OCUFA’s caveats concerning “HEQCO-funded research”; and

that it direct QRS to advise all Queen’s researchers of the nature of HEQCO (and HEQCO-style) research contracts and of the fact that they put “serious constraints on the academic freedom of those who undertake HEQCO-funded research.”

Second Motion:

Given that the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has released a “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” (27 April 2012);

Given the events described in that “Statement” and in documents that it references, i.e., that under a research contract between HEQCO and Queen’s University, the Director of Institutional Research and Planning at Queen’s made “significant changes” to a Report at the request of the Dean of Student Affairswithout the knowledge or consent of the Report’s authors, and that the Report was then published by HEQCO with a disclaimer implying that it was wholly the work of those authors (see OCUFA, “Statement,” pp. 1, 3, and “Research misconduct and HEQCO,” http://cfsontario.ca/en/section/192);

Given that, as OCUFA has expressed it, “changing the conclusions of a research paper without the knowledge or consent of its authors, and then publishing that work under the authors’ names, is unethical practice, and steps should be taken to ensure it does not happen again” (p. 3);

Given OCUFA’s view that “We believe Queen’s University to be primarily responsible for this lapse” (p. 4);

Given OCUFA’s conclusion “that a serious breach of research ethics occurred at Queen’s University” (p. 4); and

Given that these circumstances and OCUFA’s “Statement” are damaging to the University’s reputation,

I move that Senate acknowledge the seriousness of the OCUFA “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” and take the following practical measures toward remedying the present situation and preventing recurrences:

that it urge the Directors of Queen’s Research Services (QRS), the Office of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP), and Student Affairs (SA) to acknowledge “that a serious breach of research ethics occurred at Queen’s”; and

that it urge the Directors of QRS, IRP, and SA to apologize in a public written statement to the primary investigator Jennifer Massey and her co-authors Sean Field and Jeff Burrow.

Third Motion:

Given that the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has released a “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” (27 April 2012);

Given the events described in that “Statement,”  i.e., that under a research contract between HEQCO and Queen’s University, the Director of Institutional Research and Planning at Queen’s made “significant changes” to a Report without the knowledge or consent of the Report’s authors, and that the Report was then published by HEQCO with a disclaimer implying that it was wholly the work of those authors (“Statement,” pp. 1, 3);

Given that, as OCUFA has expressed it, “changing the conclusions of a research paper without the knowledge or consent of its authors, and then publishing that work under the authors’ names, is unethical practice, and steps should be taken to ensure it does not happen again” (p. 3);

Given OCUFA’s view that “We believe Queen’s University to be primarily responsible for this lapse” (p. 4);

And given its conclusion “that a serious breach of research ethics occurred at Queen’s University. The severity of the case requires that the breach be fully investigated by the institution” (p. 4),

I move that Senate acknowledge OCUFA’s “Statement on allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s University and HEQCO” and take the following practical measure in keeping with that statement:

that it direct the Provost to appoint a qualified arms-length expert in research management and research ethics to investigate and report to Senate by September 2012 on points including:

  • Queen’s responsibility for this case of research misconduct;
  • whether this case is representative or anomalous (with particular but not exclusive reference to any other research contracts between Queen’s and HEQCO, whether completed or ongoing); and
  • the best means for preventing recurrences of this or similar lapses in future.
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This entry was posted in Agendas and Agenda Committee, HEQCO, Misconduct, Motions, Rejected by Agenda Committee and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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