Adopted by the university board on 13.06.2012
These guidelines relate to basic principles and proceedings when dealing with individual cases in the event of suspected scientific misconduct or breaches of good scientific practice. These guidelines are a supplement to the legislation and national guidelines applicable at any time to the field and case management.
The most relevant laws (with associated regulations) and guidelines/legal guidelines are the Research Ethics Act, the Work Environment Act, the Public Administration Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Personal Data Act, Guidelines for preparation of local state notification procedures (FAD) and Guidelines for notification of matters worthy of criticism in the workplace (Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority/AID). Hedmark University of Applied Sciences also has a range of separate documents which specify rules or guidelines linked with research ethics. The university’s strategic plan includes the following specification of the university’s values: Hedmark University of Applied Sciences shall be characterised by: … a research environment which is critical, independent and research ethically-aware in its search for new knowledge. The university’s ethical guidelines state that: Hedmark University of Applied Science will be an institution which provides a good ethical framework for the development of knowledge in that the university’s employees: - carries out R&D work in line with good scientific practice and in accordance with laws and regulations. The university also has its own research ethics guidelines which specify ethical standards for research, and the university’s “Guidelines for the notification system” include relevant procedures for also following up issues involving a suspected breach of research ethics principles.
1. Basic principles for handling of individual cases linked with scientific misconduct and breaches of good scientific practice
a. Scientific misconduct refers to falsification, fabrication, plagiarism and other serious breaches of good scientific practice committed with intent or gross negligence during planning, implementation or reporting of research, cf. Section 5 of the Research Ethics Act.
b. Anyone suspecting scientific misconduct or similar should provide internal notification in accordance with the rules in Section 3 of Guidelines for the notification system at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences. Allegations and suspicions of scientific misconduct must be subject to reasonable and satisfactory processing.
c. Any person who is accused of scientific misconduct must be notified of this and granted the right to view the information on the case, and is entitled to make a statement, including by refuting allegations made (the contradiction principle), cf. the Public Administration Act, Sections 16 to 21.
d. The identity of the person providing the notification must not be revealed to more people than are absolutely necessary for the ongoing proceedings. In each individual case, an assessment will be made of whether – and if so, at which time – the person against whom the complaint has been levelled is to be notified of who has reported the case.
e. The proceedings must be conducted so as to ensure the proper progress and handling of the case in question, and to protect both the complainant and the person against whom the complaint has been levelled in accordance with reasonable regard for data protection. The committee is subject to the rules of the Public Administration Act concerning confidentiality. The Public Administration Act, Section 41, and the rules of administrative law concerning invalidity are applicable in the event of errors in the proceedings.
f. Any person who is accused of scientific misconduct is regarded as innocent until the board has decided that scientific misconduct is applicable. Clear preponderance of probability is required to assume that the person against whom the complaint has been levelled has behaved dishonestly.
g. The Institution is obliged to participate in the restoration of the reputations of people who have been wrongly accused of scientific misconduct. This must take place in cooperation with the person against whom the complaint has been levelled.
2. Assessment of information for commencement of individual cases in the event of suspected scientific misconduct
a. Any complaint, allegation or suspicion of breaches of scientific integrity and good scientific practice made against an employee at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, anyone seeking employment at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, anyone involved in a doctoral programme at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences or anyone who has been awarded or is to be awarded a doctorate at Hedmark University of Applied Sciences must be reported in writing to the principal or university director.
Complaints, allegations or suspicions reported directly to the Research Ethics Committee or to others at the university will be submitted to the university management for initial case management,cf. sections 2 c, d and section 3 below.
b. If an allegation or suspicion relates to a researcher from another institution who is in residence at the university or has other close links with the university, the principle must notify the management at the institution of where the person in question is employed.
c. The principal/university director must assess the grounds for the complaint without undue delay, and at the latest within two weeks of receipt of the complaint. This is performed in consultation with the departmental management in question. The principal/university director must notify the Chair of the Research Ethics Committee, without undue delay, of the fact that a complaint, allegation or suspicion has been received.
d. The principal/university director must investigate various verbal allegations of scientific misconduct at his/her own initiative. This must be done without undue delay and, where appropriate, with assistance from a lawyer and/or experienced scientific employees.
3. Dealing with cases where a complaint has been made
a. The National committee for the investigation of misconduct in research (the Investigation Committee) must be notified of which procedure has been selected for the internal investigation of a case which is not quite clearly unfounded. The principal/university director can also ask the Investigation Committee for advice.
b. The principal/university director must ensure that the case is clarified as thoroughly as possible. Facts must be obtained at interviews/discussions with the complainant, the person against whom the complaint has been levelled and others (internal and external), through acquisition of documents or in other ways. Both the person who reports a suspicion and the person against whom that suspicion is directed must be able to bring a representative/companion to these meetings, cf. the Public Administration Act, Section 12. Written minutes must be taken during these meetings.
c. The principal/university director will be given access to all material necessary for a thorough assessment of the case. If necessary, the university will obtain legal assistance and/or assistance from individuals who possess special expertise in the field of research to which the case relates.
d. The parties to the case must be permitted to view the material which the principal/university director will use as a basis for their assessment and be given the opportunity to refute or supplement this.
e. The facts of the case, with copies of original documents, must be specified in a written report compiled by the principal/university director. If the university management, on the basis of the facts of the case specified in the written report, finds grounds to resolve the case, the case will be concluded and a report on the case will be sent to the Research Ethics Committee. The Investigation Committee will be notified of the outcome. If the university management, on the basis of the facts of the case specified in the written report, finds no grounds on which to resolve the case, the case will be prepared for the Research Ethics Committee.
f. The parties to the case will be notified of the decision of whether to reject or continue to investigate the case, with a brief explanation.
4. Dealing with the case at the Research Ethics Committee
a. The Research Ethics Committee makes its own decision on whether a case is to be formally processed or rejected. If it is rejected, an explanation for this rejection must be given. If it is to undergo formal processing, the Investigation Committee must be notified of this.
b. Members of the Research Ethics Committee who are disqualified (cf. The Public Administration Act, Section 6) must not participate in the proceedings. Any member who is aware of situations which may result in disqualification of themselves or others is obliged to provide information about this. The decision on whether members of the committee are disqualified will be made by the committee itself without the participation of the member in question.
c. If further material necessary or demanded for a thorough assessment of the case needs to be obtained, this material must usually be obtained by the university management and be assessed by this body before being submitted to the committee. The committee must itself be able to hold meetings with the complainant, the person against whom the complaint has been levelled and others if necessary. Written minutes must be taken during all meetings. The complainant and the person against whom the complaint has been levelled must be able to bring a representative/companion to these meetings. The complainant and the person against whom the complaint has been levelled must be permitted to view the material which the committee will use as a basis for its assessment and be given the opportunity to refute this.
d. Following a conscientious assessment of the material available, the committee must conclude whether scientific misconduct is applicable. The assessment and conclusion of the committee must be specified in a written report. This report must include a summary of the documents for the case. The report must also include a summary of the relevant facts used as a basis by the committee and the conclusions drawn by the committee on the basis of these facts. The report will be submitted to the university board.
5. Further proceedings
a. If the Research Ethics Committee has concluded that scientific misconduct is applicable, the principal/university director must take all necessary steps as a consequence of this, including notifying the relevant parties of the conclusion.
b. The assessment of the committee must form a basis for decisions by the university board. Decisions may be made on any staff-related consequences of cases handled in accordance with these guidelines, but the board can also delegate this to the university’s management. Relevant measures may include (this list is not exhaustive):
1. Submission of the case to the Investigation Committee for further action
2. Withdrawal or amendment of the scientific work
3. Correction of specifications by the author
4. Disciplinary penalties, cf. the Civil Servants Act. Section 14
5. Discharge or dismissal, cf. the Civil Servants Act, sections 9, 10 and 15
6. Reporting to the police of any criminal offences
7. Information to the general public
c. The university board must send a report to the Investigation Committee.