Sharper focus on misconduct in research
New procedures apply to matters of research misconduct as of the end of the year. A new national agency, the Research Misconduct Board, will be given principal responsibility for investigating matters previously managed by higher education institutions.
The recently installed national board will deal with matters of serious deviations from good research practice, which means fabrication, falsification or plagiarism (FFP) committed deliberately or through gross negligence in connection with planning, performance or reporting of research.
As necessary, a local board at Uppsala University will investigate other deviations that are not covered by the new Swedish Act on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and the Examination of Research Misconduct that entered into force on 1 January 2020.
“The key changes from how these matters were previously handled is that suspected misconduct is not investigated by the university itself, and that reports can be submitted directly to the new agency,” says Stefan Eriksson, the adviser to the Vice-Chancellor for good research practice at Uppsala University.
Independent authority will ensure greater legal certainty
Matters can thus also be initiated directly by the new national board. If, for example, there is a critical discussion of Swedish research ongoing in the scientific community, the board’s authority could allay concerns that matters will be “swept under the rug”.
“We are hoping for a more legally certain process carried out by an independent authority. Matters that are outside the rather narrow definition of misconduct found in the new law will still have to be investigated by the universities, however.”
Matters will also be handled locally
Uppsala University has therefore established the Board for Investigation of Misconduct in Research (NUAF) to investigate other deviations that put the integrity of research or researchers at risk.
“We are planning to meet regularly, but naturally we hope that so few matters come in that we will have to cancel some of the meetings.”
There may be risk of problems defining boundaries between what is meant to be investigated nationally or locally, but matters that are not included in the legal definition of misconduct must nevertheless be handled.
“The government has added a provision to the Higher Education Ordinance which stipulates that higher education institutions must examine suspected deviations from good research practice other than those covered by the new law, so the new local board will be working much as before, but will deal only with violations of good practice that are not defined in the law,” Eriksson explains.
Guidelines on the procedure in the event of suspected deviations from good research practice (Vice-Chancellor’s decision UFV 2019/1612)