The universities attach great importance to integrity and the ethical aspects of academic research. Monitoring and enhancing academic integrity is indeed essential to the future of our universities. Dutch universities strive to ensure that researchers are able to adhere to the standards for good research practices and actually do so as well. The universities also take violations of academic integrity very seriously, making every effort to prevent and trace instances of fraud. Everyone should be able to trust that academic research meets standards of integrity.
Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity
At the initiative of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Associated Applied Research Institutes (TO2-federatie), the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), a committee drew up a new Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity in 2018. The Code of Conduct has been adopted by all universities and has been in force since 1 October 2018. The Code includes the five principles that form the basis for integrity in research:
In the Code, these five principles are further elaborated into 61 standards for good research practices. The Code also sets out guidelines for dealing with cases where violations of academic integrity are assumed.
The reason for the new Code of Conduct for Research Integrity
The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Academic Practice (Nederlandse Gedragscode Wetenschapsbeoefening) has been in existence since 2004. As academic integrity has continued to be discussed in the years since at both national and international level, the VSNU, KNAW, NWO and NFU boards instituted an advisory committee in 2015 to review the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Academic Practice. In June 2016, the committee recommended that a new revised and improved code of conduct be drawn up.
The aforementioned advisory report can be found here (Dutch only).
Ensuring academic integrity
It is important that researchers can work in an open, safe and inclusive research culture, in which they can discuss the standards for good research practices and hold each other accountable with regard to complying with these. Universities also bear considerable responsibility in this regard. The code of conduct thus sets out the duty of care for institutions with which universities demonstrate that they are responsible for creating a working environment that promotes and safeguards good research practices. This means, for example, that universities should systematically devote attention to the correct way to conduct research in their study programmes for students and researchers. Measures such as periodic research evaluations are used to gauge whether or not universities are making sufficient efforts to safeguard academic integrity. Academic integrity is part of the evaluation protocol (LINK www.vsnu.nl/sep) used for these evaluations.
Procedure for violations of academic integrity
If a violation of academic integrity is suspected, a complaint can be submitted to the academic integrity committee of the university in question. Each university also has at least one confidential counsellor for academic integrity, who can be consulted if anyone suspects a violation has taken place. If a complaint points to a violation of academic integrity, an investigation will be carried out by an integrity committee. If the complaint proves to be well founded, the executive board of the university will determine the consequences. If either the complainant or the respondent does not agree with the decision of the integrity committee and the executive board, they can refer the matter to the Netherlands Board on Research Integrity (LOWI). The LOWI will then issue an independent recommendation to the university's executive board. This infographic illustrates the full procedure.
Publication of processed complaints
The VSNU website provides an overview of the investigations into alleged instances of violations of academic integrity. All details in the documents are rendered anonymous, but the VSNU does publish the name of the university. Each report also includes a description of the complaint, the investigating committee's recommendation to the university's executive board and the executive board's decision. If the case was referred to the Netherlands Board on Research Integrity (LOWI), a summary of the LOWI's recommendation is included as well. It is up to the university concerned to determine how it will issue further communications regarding the alleged violation. In any event, the integrity committee reports on all submitted complaints in its annual report.