Ethics & Intellectual Property

Academic Honesty

All members of the University community share the responsibility for the academic standards and reputation of the University. Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the development and acquisition of knowledge. Academic honesty is a condition of continued membership in the university community.

Academic dishonesty, like other forms of dishonesty, is misrepresentation with intent to deceive or without regard to the source or the accuracy of statements or findings. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University; it is, furthermore, unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.

Student Conduct

Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect and individual safety. The code of student conduct is intended to define students' basic responsibilities as members of the academic community, to define inappropriate student conduct and to provide procedures and penalties to be invoked and applied if they engage in such unacceptable behaviour. Each student is responsible for his/her conduct which affects the University community.

The University code of academic honesty and good conduct is contained in Policy S10.01.

Policy Authority: Vice-President, Academic and Provost

Associated Procedure(s): 

  • S 10.01 Student Academic Integrity Procedure
  • S 10.01 Forms of Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct (Schedule A)

1.0       PREAMBLE

1.1       Academic integrity is a cornerstone of the development and acquisition of knowledge, and a commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.  Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception – acts which violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others. The terms “academic integrity” and “academic honesty” are used interchangeably in this policy.

1.2       Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty and free inquiry.

1.3       Each student is responsible for their own conduct as it affects the University community.

1.4       All members of the University community share the responsibility for the academic standards and reputation of the University.  Upholding academic integrity is a condition of continued membership in the university community.

1.5       Academic dishonesty is contrary to the values of the University, and unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly.  Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.

1.6       Students must be treated fairly before being penalized for academic dishonesty or academic misconduct. They are entitled to information about the alleged wrongdoing and to provide a response.  The decision-maker must be impartial.  An internal Board is established to adjudicate matters of student academic discipline and there is a body of final appeal, as required by the British Columbia University Act.

2.0       PURPOSE                                                

2.1       The purpose of this policy is to define: students' basic responsibilities as members of the academic community; inappropriate student behaviour, whether deliberate or inadvertent, in relation to academic and scholarly activities; and principles for student discipline in academic matters.


3.1       This policy covers the conduct of students involved in any kind of University-related academic and scholarly activities.

3.2       This policy covers matters of academic dishonesty and academic misconduct in University-related scholarly activities, including activities involving SFU alumni when the matters occurred prior to graduation and were unknown at the time of graduation, or involve the misrepresentation of their credentials from their scholarly work at SFU.

3.3       The forms of academic misconduct and academic dishonesty set out in this policy include attempts to engage in misconduct or dishonesty, as well as aiding and abetting misconduct or dishonesty.


4.1       Academic Advantage
refers to a situation that may result in a student gaining an unearned or unfair benefit in their academic matters, such as their academic work, academic record, or academic progress.

4.2       Academic Dishonesty
refers to an act or omission that occurs within or as part of a course and contravenes the standard of academic integrity.

4.3       Academic Integrity
refers to the values on which good academic work must be founded: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.  Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception.  Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.  The terms “academic integrity” and “academic honesty” are used interchangeably in this policy.

4.4       Academic Misconduct
refers to behaviour, not related to a specific course that contravenes the standard of academic integrity.

4.5       Academic Unit
refers to an academic department, school, or program; in some cases, the academic unit will be the Faculty, e.g. Faculty of Education.

4.6       Applicant
means the party initiating a case before the UBSD.  For example, a student who asks for a review of a decision made by the instructor, the Chair, or the Registrar is the “applicant”.  The other party in a UBSD case is known as the “respondent.”

4.7       Chair of a Department
means the head of the academic unit or a person authorized by the head of an academic unit, and includes the Chair of an academic department, the Director of a School, or the Director of a Program.

4.8       Instructor
means the course supervisor and includes faculty members, sessional instructors, and course supervisors for distance education courses.

4.9       Scholarly Activities
include work or material, in any media and format that is submitted as part of credit and non-credit courses, projects, essays, theses, research, practicums, internships, and co-op work placements.

4.10     Student
includes any of the following: a person who is applying for admission to the University; an undergraduate who has been enrolled for one or more of the last three (3) terms, including the current term, and is eligible to continue; a graduate student who is enrolled at the University in the current term and is eligible to continue; a graduate student who is not enrolled in the current term but is eligible to enroll at the University when the approved leave ends; a visiting, exchange, or special audit student who has been admitted to the University for the purposes of taking courses, or to take part in an approved research term; or a person enrolled at the University in a non-credit program or course.

4.11     University Community
means all students and employees of the University, and all people who have a status at the University mandated by legislation or other University policies, including: research assistants, post-doctoral fellows, members of Senate and the Board of Governors, volunteers, visiting and emeritus faculty, and visiting researchers.

5.0       POLICY

5.1       Notification of Standards of Academic Honesty

5.1.1 Students are responsible for ensuring they are familiar with the generally accepted standards and requirements of academic honesty (e.g. as published in the University Calendar).  Ignorance of these standards will not excuse a student from consequences, including penalties, for academic dishonesty.

5.1.2 Instructors are responsible to inform their students at the beginning of each term if there are additional specific criteria for academic honesty that pertain to a class or course (e.g. the format for acknowledging the thoughts and writings of authors acceptable to the underlying discipline, and the acceptable level of group work, use of an editor or tutoring service, and/or online resources).

5.1.3 A draft paper, proposal, thesis, or other assignment may be subject to a penalty for academic dishonesty, providing the instructor or supervisor informed the student(s) before the work was submitted that drafts are subject to academic honesty requirements.

5.2       Academic Integrity Requirements for Students

5.2.1 Any action that contravenes the standard of academic integrity is prohibited, including any act of dishonesty, falsification, misrepresentation, or deception in one’s academic work.

5.2.2 All forms of academic dishonesty that occur within or as part of a course are prohibited. See Schedule A for examples of academic dishonesty.

5.2.3 All forms of academic misconduct that are not related to a specific course are prohibited. See Schedule A for examples of academic misconduct.

5.2.4 It is a violation to help others or attempt to help others engage in any forms of academic dishonesty or misconduct.


6.1       Complaints of student academic dishonesty or academic misconduct may be resolved under the policy without penalty.  Designated University officials such as a Chair of a Department, course instructor, or the Registrar may impose penalties in certain circumstances.

6.2       In determining whether academic misconduct has occurred, it is not necessary to show that a student has achieved an improper academic advantage or benefit.  Some acts of plagiarism or collusion, or other acts of academic misconduct, may not actually confer an academic advantage or benefit.

6.3       The University Board on Student Discipline (UBSD) provides an impartial forum for a complete examination of student allegations of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct.  The Tribunal will provide students with an opportunity to respond in a timely manner to allegations of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct and, if appropriate, will recommend a course of action to the President, or to the Vice-President, Academic and Provost if the President has already played a role in the case.

6.4       When the University imposes a penalty on a student for academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, the student may appeal to the Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (SCODA).  SCODA is the standing committee of final appeal for students in matters of academic discipline as mandated in the University Act.

6.5       The UBSD and SCODA will adhere to principles of procedural fairness and natural justice.  The appropriate standard for a decision in this process is proof on the balance of probabilities.

6.6       A support person may accompany a student to any meeting concerning academic disciplinary matters.  Students may also consult the University Ombudsperson for assistance.

6.7       In deciding upon the appropriate penalty to be imposed for an act of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, consideration must be given to the following factors:

6.7.1   the extent of the academic dishonesty or academic misconduct;

6.7.2   whether the academic dishonesty or academic misconduct was deliberate;

6.7.3    the importance of the work in question as a component of the course or program;

6.7.4    whether the act in question is an isolated incident or part of repeated acts of academic dishonesty, academic misconduct, and/or non-   academic misconduct; and

6.7.5    any other mitigating or aggravating circumstances.


7.1       The Vice-President, Academic and Provost has oversight of this policy.

7.2       The Registrar is responsible for implementing and monitoring the operational aspects and procedures for this policy.

7.3       The Registrar, Academic Integrity Co-ordinator, Academic Integrity Advisors, Chairs, and Instructors are jointly responsible for administering the procedures under this policy.

7.4       The University’s Academic Integrity Advisory Committee provides advice to the Registrar on matters related to the policy and associated procedures.

8.0       REPORTING

8.1       The Registrar must maintain a statistical summary of cases handled through their office each year, and this data must be included in the Annual Report to Senate on Student Discipline Matters.

8.2       In addition to the data referred to in section 8.1, the Annual Report on Student Discipline Matters must contain a summary of the UBSD Tribunal's findings, the President's decisions, SCODA's decisions and the penalties imposed.  This report must be accessible to the University community and must be submitted to Senate for information except where the Tribunal, SCODA, or the President determines that cases or parts of cases should not be disclosed.  The Summary must not disclose the identities of the parties.  A set of decisions that does not disclose the identities of the parties must be maintained in the office of the Secretary of the UBSD and be available for review upon reasonable notice.


9.1       The legal and other University policy authorities that may bear on the administration of this policy and may be consulted as needed include but are not limited to:

9.1.1          University Act;

9.1.2          University Board on Student Discipline (S 10.02);

9.1.3          Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (S 10.03);

9.1.4          Retention and Disposal of Student Exams and Assignments (I 10.09);

9.1.5          Fair Use of Information and Communications Technology (GP 24); and

9.1.6          Student Conduct Policy.


10.1     The information and records made and received to administer this policy are subject to the provisions of British Columbia’s Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the University’s Information Policy series.  To the extent possible, the information and records will be treated in a confidential manner, in compliance with the Act and with applicable University policies.

10.2      A University employee who is involved in addressing or investigating a case of alleged academic dishonesty or academic misconduct must:

10.2.1      make every reasonable effort to protect personal information and maintain confidentiality;

10.2.2      collect the minimum information about individuals that relates directly to a case of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, which is considered to be supplied in confidence;

10.2.3      use the information about individuals only for the purposes of, or those consistent with, addressing the situation, investigating, or taking action;

10.2.4      limit disclosure of information about individuals to those within the University who need to know to perform their duties; and

10.2.5      disclose personal information in all other circumstances only as permitted under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

10.3         The University may disclose personal information where appropriate, including where:

10.3.1      it is needed to prepare or obtain legal advice for the University;

10.3.2      it uses the information for the purpose for which it was obtained or compiled or for a use consistent with that purpose (for example, where it is necessary to fulfill its duty of procedural fairness); or

10.3.3      an employee needs the information to perform their employment duties.


11.1     Information and records made and received to administer this policy are evidence of the University’s actions to respond to academic dishonesty or academic misconduct.  Information and records must be retained and disposed of in accordance with a records retention schedule approved by the University Archivist.

11.2      The Registrar must destroy any record of a student’s alleged academic dishonesty or academic misconduct that may be held in the Office of the Registrar if the UBSD or SCODA determines that the discipline of the student was unwarranted.


12.1     This policy will be reviewed once every five (5) years.

13.0     AUTHORITY

13.1     This policy is administered under the authority of the Vice-President, Academic and Provost.


14.1      Questions of interpretation and application of this policy will be referred to the Vice- President, Academic and Provost and the University’s General Counsel, who will jointly make a decision, which will be final.


15.1     The associated procedure for this policy is:

            Student Academic Integrity Procedure (S 10.01 - Procedure)

            Forms of Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct (S 10.01 - Schedule A)


In most graduate programs, the student completes original scholarly research as part of the graduate program. The generation of new knowledge through scholarly research is one of a university's main functions in society. In most cases, the research is reported in a thesis which is presented and defended at the end of the program.

In some Master's programs, the research component is more limited in scope and the work constitutes a project or two extended essays, which are presented and examined, either through a formal defence or a review of the written work, at the end of the program. In some other Master's programs, a research component is contained in the course work and there is a final Field Examination based on the areas covered by the coursework.

Students have an obligation to make the results of their research accessible (above and beyond distribution of the thesis) to an appropriate audience through publication. The form of publication will vary according to the discipline and level of the program but may include books, journal articles and conference presentations.

In exceptional circumstances, the results of the research may be withheld temporarily because of pending patents or licences or because of financially sensitive information. In no case may the results be withheld indefinitely. Please see Graduate General Regulation 1.11.3 and University Policy R10.01: External Research Grants and Contracts, clauses 4.6-4.8.

Research Support

Financial support for a student's research is usually provided by the student and/or by the Senior Supervisor, through research grants and contracts.

The major granting councils — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) — encourage such use of grants received by faculty members under their research grants programs; both the costs of the research itself (e.g. equipment, supplies, travel) and research assistantships for the student may be supported. Faculty members are encouraged to apply to external funding agencies for grants to support their research and the research of students working under their supervision.

Some departments have modest programs of awards to support travel by graduate students to perform research and/or to attend conferences to report on their research.

Ownership of Intellectual Property

The result of research is the generation of new knowledge. The "ownership" of that new knowledge, especially when it is knowledge with commercial implications and/or results in scholarly publications, is a sensitive issue. The question of ownership in the context of the student-supervisor relationship is often complicated by the close collaboration between supervisor(s) and student during the course of the research. It is further complicated by the fact that the University and possibly an outside agency provide resources (e.g. space, library, equipment, supplies) in support of the research.

At Simon Fraser University, unlike many other universities, the person (student, staff or faculty member) who generates patentable new knowledge is the owner of that knowledge; the University makes no claim on it, unless the University is asked to help with the patenting of the idea [see Policy R30.02]. The main federal and provincial agencies which support university research through research grants (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR and SCBC) also make no claims on the results. On the other hand, copyrightable new knowledge (e.g. books and software) is usually owned jointly by the author and the University; consult Policy R30.01.

Research contracts with government agencies or private companies often stipulate that the rights to commercial exploitation of a discovery belong in full or in part to the sponsoring agency. Because it is University policy that the rights to a patentable discovery belong to the discoverer(s), the University will approve contracts containing such stipulations, as long as they do not restrict the ultimate publication of the results (see Graduate General Regulation 1.11.3).

Please see R30.03: Intellectual Property Policy for full details.

Graduate Students and Intellectual Property

The question which is most likely to cause difficulty is the calculation of the degrees of "ownership" held by the student and by the supervisor(s) who are involved in the research. There are no University regulations governing this area and research contracts normally do not differentiate among the University researchers as to which of them retain the rights not claimed by the sponsoring agency.

It is therefore very important that students and their supervisors reach agreement, in advance, on the principles under which the "ownership" of patent and license rights and the authorship of resultant publications will be decided. Because of the uncertainties intrinsic to research, it is often not possible to agree in advance on the rights to specific discoveries.

There is very wide variation among the disciplines in the style and nature of supervision and in the degree of involvement of the supervisor(s) in the research. Therefore, it is not possible to provide further guidance that would be generally useful; some departments have their own policies in this area and students should consult the graduate program chair.


All research plans involving human subjects must receive ethics approval. See policy R20.01. Copies of the policy, procedures and forms for this review may be obtained from the Office of Research Services.

Research at SFU is conducted under the general authority of the Vice President, Research who administers several relevant University policies; for further information on these policies, consult the Office of the Vice President, Research.

See also: Online Ethics Tutorial

  • Policy R20.01
    Ethics Review of Research Involving Human Subjects governs all research involving human subjects (participants). Specific approval by the University Research Ethics Board is required prior to start of any such research project (funded or unfunded) in this area by any researcher associated with SFU.
  • Policy R20.02
    Biosafety Committee governs all research involving recombinant DNA and other biohazards. Specific prior approval and monitoring by the appropriate person or committee (please consult the full policy) are required for any research project or program in these areas at SFU.
  • Policy R20.03
    Treatment of Animals in Research and Teaching applies to all such research and requires prior specific approval by the University Animal Care Committee.   Animals are defined as non-human, living vertebrates.
  • Policy R20.04
    Radiological Safety applies to all research involving radiological materials and requires prior approval.
  • Policy R30.01
    Copyright Policy acknowledges the exclusive proprietary right of all graduate students to their own thesis products. Rights to other materials may be vested in the University or may be jointly owned by the originator and the University. This policy is under review at the time of writing.
  • Policy R30.02
    Patent Policy recognizes that patent rights to any invention made by faculty, staff or student on University time belong to the inventor unless there is a contract to the contrary.   This very generous policy is designed to provide an incentive for research, development and innovation.
  • Policy R30.03
    This policy replaces policies 30.01 and 30.02.  However, any intellectual property created on or before July 21, 2004 use the older R30.01 and R30.02 policies.  The enterprise of training students in performing scholarly activities in the pursuit of new knowledge necessarily results in the generation of intellectual property.  All students and their supervisors should refer to this policy as a first exposure to understanding their roles, rights, and responsibilities regarding intellectual property.
  • Policy R50.02
    Personnel Funded from Research Grants includes the stipulation that Research Assistants and other persons hired under research grants and contracts are employees of the principal investigator (PI), not of the University.   Terms of appointment are determined by the PI, consistent with relevant legislation.
  • Policy R60.01
    Integrity in Research and Misconduct in Research lays out the expectations of the University on all researchers and provides a mechanism for investigating allegations of misconduct which include falsification and fabrication of data, failure to acknowledge the contributions of others to the research and failure to comply with the provisions of the R20 policies described above. Allegations of misconduct in research should be directed to the Office of the Vice President, Research.
  • Policy GP 37
    Conflict of Interest: As a place of learning, the University encourages its faculty, staff and students to be broadly involved in professional interests and activities compatible with the University’s mission, values and commitments. Occasionally, the best interests of the University and the personal interests of its Members may conflict, or may be perceived to conflict.

All researchers are expected to maintain high standards of integrity, including:

  • careful planning of research protocols to ensure that these effectively address the questions being posed and that the methods of analysis are appropriate;
  • rigorous attention to integrity in obtaining, recording and analyzing data and in reporting the results;
  • high standards of rigor and integrity in interpreting the results of research;
  • rigorous attention to citing the contributions of others (see also the section below on the ownership of intellectual property);
  • using unpublished work of others only with permission and due acknowledgment;
  • respecting the confidentiality of information gained through the peer review process.