Leena Vähäkylä

Research integrity ensures scientific quality

18 Apr 2024

Research integrity is an important part of scientific activity. It’s essential, among other things, in guaranteeing scientific quality. The Research Council of Finland follows the principles of research integrity in research funding. We require that the projects we fund maintain research integrity throughout their lifecycle. The aim is to ensure the high quality of science and research ethics by preventing misconduct.

Research integrity (RI) is a code of conduct for scientists to ensure the ethical acceptability of scientific research and the credibility of research results. It refers to honesty, diligence and accuracy in conducting research, in recording and presenting results and in evaluating studies and their results.

In cooperation with the Finnish scientific community, the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity has prepared a Code of Conduct on RI (PDF), which advises on how to act in situations where violations of research integrity are suspected. It’s a key document in RI activities, and the Research Council of Finland also complies with it.

RI process a way to investigate suspected violations

In cases of suspected violations, scientific organisations committed to RI must initiate the RI process within their own organisation. The aim of the process is to ensure that suspected violations are carefully investigated. It also makes it possible that all organisations committed to the RI code of conduct act in the same way. This is essential for the legal protection of both the complainant and the respondent.

The RI process consists of several steps so that all possible issues are addressed. Each step is carefully documented, and the parties’ right to information is respected. The aim of the steps is also to ensure that misconducts can be investigated and that the respondent is not found wrongly at fault.

While a few RI suspicions are reported to the Research Council of Finland annually, identified RI violations are rare and do not occur every year. If necessary, we will investigate suspicions concerning our funding in accordance with the guidelines prepared by the Board on Research Integrity. Such cases include whether the applicant has misled us in their application or committed an RI violation with our funding.

Some of the suspicions brought to our attention are already investigated at the site of research in question. We will not carry out our own RI process if the suspected violation is already being processed at the site of research concerned by the suspicion.

If a researcher funded by the Research Council of Finland has been found guilty of violating research integrity, we will, if necessary, make a decision to suspend and recover the funding. This is based on sections 21 and 22 of the Finnish Act on Discretionary Government Transfers (PDF). We will not process a funding application if the applicant has been found guilty of research misconduct in the three years preceding the year of the call.

Research ethics are monitored more closely than before

According to the Board on Research Integrity, adopting the principles of open science, data protection provisions, social media and AI applications, as well as the evaluation practices of researchers, have changed the operating methods and environment of researchers. Controversy over the authorship of publications has increased. For this reason, more detailed monitoring and steering of research ethics has begun.

The internationalisation of research has increased the need for guidelines at the national, EU and global levels. As a result, more attention has been paid to research ethics at all these levels. In the EU, All European Academies (ALLEA) has the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (PDF), which was also published last year. In addition, the network of Finnish universities UniPID has its own ethical guidelines, which are followed in international research cooperation with the Global South.

The Research Council of Finland has an RI team that deals with topics related to research integrity and cooperates with the Board on Research Integrity and research organisations.

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