Rules for dealing with individual scientific misconduct cases
1. Basic principles for dealing with individual scientific misconduct cases
a) Allegations and suspicions of scientific misconduct shall be dealt with properly and satisfactorily.
b) A person accused of scientific misconduct is to be regarded as innocent until most of the evidence indicates the opposite conclusion (a requirement of a clear preponderance of the evidence). This is to be more clearly defined with reference to prevailing regulations determined by the Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Theology (adopted by the Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees).
c) The procedures shall be such that they ensure the proper progress and handling of the individual case and protect both the accused and accuser in accordance with reasonable data protection considerations.
d) A person who is suspected, against whom allegations are made or who is accused of scientific misconduct is to be notified of this and given the right to see the basis for the claim and to state his/her views, including by refuting allegations that have been made (the principle of the right to be heard).
e) NLA University College gives the parties to proceedings the right to access case documents in this type of case. The rector can decide that access to documents may be allowed once the case has been dealt with by NLA University College. When access is allowed, the documents will be redacted in accordance with prevailing law and in dialogue with the parties.
f) Case proceedings are to comply with normal impartiality rules (cf section 6 of the Norwegian Public Administration Act).
2. Assessment of the basis for initiating an individual case concerning a breach of research ethics and good scientific practice (scientific misconduct)
a) Any complaint/allegation regarding, or suspicion of, a breach of research ethics and good research practice brought against one of the persons mentioned below must be made in writing to the pro-rector for R&D on the following notification form.
b) The pro-rector for R&D shall without undue delay notify the rector that a notification in accordance with item 2 a has been received.
c) Scientific misconduct comprises breaches of research ethics and good research practice that are significant deviations from that which is acceptable in the profession. It includes, but is not limited to, the falsification or fabrication of data, plagiarism and gross negligence during the application phase or while carrying out or reporting on research.
d) The pro-rector for R&D shall assess the basis for the notification without undue delay and at the latest two weeks after receiving written notification. In this assessment, the pro-rector for R&D shall be assisted by two experienced scientific employees of NLA University College. If impartiality considerations or other factors so indicate, the pro-rector for R&D may seek professional advice outside NLA University College. All those informed about the case are subject to a duty of non-disclosure.
f) In extraordinary cases, for example if there is a long-lasting conflict with the pro-rector for R&D, a lack of impartiality or the complaint involves the pro-rector for R&D, the complaint, allegation or suspicion may be reported directly to the rector. In such case, the rector shall assess the basis for the notification without undue delay and at the latest two weeks after receiving written notification. In his/her assessment, the rector shall be assisted by two experienced scientific employees of NLA University College. If impartiality considerations or other factors so indicate, the rector may seek professional advice outside NLA University College. All those informed about the case are subject to a duty of non-disclosure.
3. Treatment of complaints
a) Obtaining facts as the basis for the decision The pro-rector for R&D must ensure that as much light as possible is shed on the case before a decision is reached. Facts must be obtained in writing through interviews/talks with the accuser, accused and others, by obtaining expert opinions within the professional area in which the case has arisen, or in some other way. The pro-rector for R&D and executive officer/emergency team are to be given access to all the materials necessary for a proper assessment of the complaint.
b) Interviews/talks The accuser and accused are to be given access to the material on which the pro-rector for R&D will base his/her assessment, and are to be given an opportunity to refute or add to this. The pro-rector for R&D is to him/herself hold talks with the accuser and accused. Written minutes of these talks are to be kept. The accuser and accused are to be allowed to bring a representative with them to the talks. Similarly, talks are to be possible with other employees, with persons outside the university college that know about the case and with persons who have specialist expertise in the research area where the case has arisen.
c) Obtaining other information Information may also be obtained in other ways, for example by receiving a written report from relevant informants. All correspondence, minutes, records and other written materials are to be treated as confidential.
d) Written report The facts of the case, with a copy of original documents, are to be put into a written report. This is to be dealt with confidentially in accordance with the prevailing standard. The objective of this routine is to ensure that the work and developments in the individual case are documented in an expedient manner and in accordance with prevailing regulations.
4. The further treatment of the case
a) If, based on the facts of the case stated in the written report, the pro-rector for R&D finds grounds for resolving the case in a way that can be accepted by those affected, the case is to be concluded in consultation with the rector. A brief report on the case is to be prepared and sent to the board of directors via the rector.
b) If, based on the facts of the case stated in the written report, the pro-rector for R&D does not find any grounds for resolving the case in a way that can be accepted by those affected, the case is to be prepared for a research ethics committee.
c) When the pro-rector for R&D sends a case to a research ethics committee, he/she is to provide a presentation of the matter that gives a clear picture of the case. A timeline is to be in place, along with a list of documents, see pages 2 and 3 of the notification form.
5. The treatment of the case by the Research Ethics Committee
a) Following a proposal by the pro-rector for R&D, the rector appoints a research ethics committee to assess a case. The Research Ethics Committee is to be appointed in accordance with prevailing impartiality rules and must have at least one member with legal expertise.
b) The Research Ethics Committee itself decides whether a case it has received is to be dealt with on its merits or rejected. If rejected, it is sent back to the pro-rector for R&D via the rector, stating the reason for the rejection.
c) Should the Research Ethics Committee find that the conditions for dealing with a case on its merits have been met, the pro-rector for R&D's report and questions are to form the basis for this assessment.
d) The rules stated in item 3 also apply to the Research Ethics Committee's treatment of the case.
If new information or allegations arise after the Research Ethics Committee has started to deal with the case, these are usually to be referred to the pro-rector for R&D for assessment first.
If there is a need to obtain additional material that is necessary or required for a proper assessment of the case, this material must ordinarily be obtained by the pro-rector for R&D and assessed by that body before being sent to the committee. If required, the committee itself must be able to hold talks with the accuser, accused and others. The accuser and accused must be allowed to bring representatives with them to these talks. The accuser and accused are to be given access to the material on which the committee bases its assessment and an opportunity to refute this.
e) Following a conscientious review of the existing evidence, the committee shall decide whether or not there has been a breach of research ethics and good research practice (scientific misconduct).
f) The committee's assessment and conclusion are to be stated in a written report. This report must contain the following elements:
- An account of the case in the form of a description of the research or activity that led to the notification of possible scientific misconduct and of the reasons for the suspicion.
- An overview of the case documents.
- Impartiality issues dealt with by the investigating group.
- A report on the investigating group's treatment of the case, such as interviews of parties, statements by experts, etc.
- If there are grounds for this, the investigators should make criticisms of the system, pointing out improvement opportunities and preventive measures.
- It is good practice for the accused and other affected persons to be given an opportunity to comment on the report's description of the facts.
- A conclusion, including any dissent. The conclusion is to include a reasoned opinion that, for each item, states the extent to which the misconduct criteria have been met. This also includes an assessment of the degree of seriousness and fault-based guilt. If the suspicions prove to be unfounded, this is to be communicated clearly and published if the suspect so wishes or other factors indicate this should be done.
- The parties are to be informed about their right to appeal.
A decision by a research ethics committee is not an individual decision that can be appealed against to a higher body, but the committee's reasoned statement may be included if the rector or other parties with a justifiable interest wish to bring the case further to the National Commission for the Investigation of Research Misconduct (the Investigation Commission). The case may also be sent to the Investigation Commission if special grounds indicate this should be done.
6. The further treatment of the case after it is dealt with by the Research Ethics Committee
a) A report containing the committee's assessment, conclusion and necessary documentation is to be sent to the rector and pro-rector for R&D and the parties to the case. Following consultations with the pro-rector for R&D, the rector decides whether the received report is to be made note of or sent back to the Research Ethics Committee. If it is sent back to the committee, a reason is to be given for this.
b) If the committee's report is made note of, notification of this is to be sent to the parties. The parties are entitled to respond to the report. Their responses are to be sent to the rector.
c) If the Research Ethics Committee decides that, in a specific case, there has been misconduct or a serious breach of good scientific practice, sanctions may be imposed on the employee. Sanctions may, among other things but not exclusively, relate to a) the withdrawal of or changes to the scientific work, b) the rectification of author citations, c) changes to working conditions, d) the reporting of the case to the public authority that supervises the case area, e) the reporting of any criminal offence to the police.
The imposition of any sanctions is the employer's responsibility. The rector decides whether sanctions are to be imposed and is free to seek advice. Those accused in the case are to be informed of their opportunity to appeal.
d) The parties may appeal against the rector's decision to NLA University College's board of directors. The presentation of the case to the board must contain a summary of the case based on the Research Ethics Committee's report, including an overview of the case documents that must be enclosed with the case. The board is subject to a duty of non-disclosure and receives the documents in an unredacted form.
e) The presentation will be given at a closed meeting. The board's discussions will take place at a closed meeting. The draft decision will be discussed at an open meeting where the parties to the case may be present during the board's discussions on a decision in the case.
f) The board's decision/conclusion in the case is to be sent to the parties and any others entitled to access the case information.
g) The case is to be opened for third-party access and the Research Ethics Committee's report is to be made available in an anonymised (redacted) form.
h) The Investigation Commission is to be informed about the case and its outcome.
The pro-rector for R&D reports annually to the board of directors.
 Based on corresponding regulations at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. http://www.hioa.no/Forskning-og-utvikling/Forskningssamarbeid/FoU-strategi-og-organisering/Forskningsetisk-utvalg/Regler-for-behandling-av-enkeltsaker-knyttet-til-vitenskapelig-uredelighet.
Used with permission.