Researchers, supervisors, principal investigators, research directors, managers and the executive board members of the institution must always strive to ensure that the standards are fulfilled scrupulously. Non-compliance with them undermines professional responsibility, which harms the research process and the relationship between individual researchers, and possibly also trust in and the credibility of the research.
When the executive board of the institution and the committee or officer referred to in [the next section] are considering the case, the following criteria are particularly important:
Sanctions and other measures
If the executive board of the institution suspects non-compliance with one or more standards, it ensures that the case is examined honestly and fairly. If such non-compliance is indeed established after proper investigation, it may be deemed appropriate to impose sanctions or other measures. The nature and extent of these will depend, among other things, upon whether the non-compliance is found to constitute ‘research misconduct’, a ‘questionable research practice’ or a ‘minor shortcoming’. If the suspicion of non-compliance proves unfounded, appropriate remedial measures are taken.
Whenever ‘research misconduct’ is established, the board of the institution must consider whether it is possible and desirable to impose sanctions. Naturally, any sanction must always be appropriate and proportionate. In serious cases, the institution has the powers to impose penalties within its legal powers, such as a formal reprimand, transfer, demotion or dismissal. A person’s authorization to supervise degrees may also be suspended. Furthermore, the institution may deem it necessary to report the matter to the relevant regulatory bodies or to authorities empowered to impose other administrative, disciplinary or criminal sanctions.
Regardless of whether a sanction ought to be imposed, it is always important to consider whether other appropriate measures are necessary. This is especially so in the event of repeated non-compliance or more-than-occasional breaches of the standards. Even when there is no reason to impose sanctions, failure to comply with the standards cannot remain undiscussed. Researchers must always hold each other, their subordinates, their supervisors, principal investigators, research directors and managers accountable, to ensure that quality assurance is improved, that recurrence is prevented and that adverse effects are remedied or mitigated (e.g. by rectifying or retracting publications). The institution’s board should take measures itself or ensure that others do so. In this respect, it may make a difference whether the matter is a case of research misconduct, a questionable research practice or a minor shortcoming. It may also prove necessary for the institution to take preventive individual or general measures to ensure that research practices are improved, compliance with all standards is maintained and timely detection will take place (see also the duties of care).
Complaints and investigations
If research misconduct is suspected, a complaint can be submitted to a relevant committee or officer appointed by the institution. The institution ensures that a scrupulous and fair procedure is in place to deal with any such complaint, including any judgement resulting from it. This procedure is also followed if the executive board of the institution itself considers it necessary to investigate possible research misconduct, even without receiving a complaint.
The following basic principles apply to the consideration and investigation of complaints.