ÖAWI raises awareness of the standards of Good Scientific Practice among scientists

Practice among scientists and the general public


OeAWI Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice

In April 2015, the Commission revised the „Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice“ (GSP); subsequently, the General Assembly of the OeAWI adopted the document. Many suggestions of the member organizations helped to create the revised document.

This is to show that one can implement research integrity only with the help of all

responsible agencies, among which the Commission for Research Integrity is only one of them. In the upcoming years, the Commission — in collaboration with the member organizations — will devise effective ways to integrate the Guidelines into day-to-day research.

OeAWI Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice
(effective April 2015)

The quality of research is a precious asset for every society. Social progress, economic
value creation, social living conditions and fairness between generations in shaping the
future would all be unimaginable without reliable scientific and scholarly knowledge.
Ensuring the quality of that knowledge is the duty of scientists and researchers themselves.
Because scientific research can be highly specialised and complex, and because there
are various links between science and research, politics, the business world and other
actors in society, self-governance in science and research can only be effective if it is
codified and institutionalised. As an organisation established by Austria‘s research institutions
themselves, the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity (OeAWI) makes an important
contribution to effective self-governance in the Austrian science and research system.

The OeAWI works to raise awareness of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice among
scientists and researchers as well as the general public. It also contributes to ensuring that
violations of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice are identified and remedied. The
organisation also works to strengthen the ethos of science and research, and advocates
adherence to the code of conduct derived from that ethos. Its activities focus on investigating
and preventing misconduct in research and scholarship, not on imposing sanctions
for misconduct. Given that violations of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice
are not necessarily also violations of applicable law, the OeAWI performs its duties as
a complement to – but not in competition with – the legal system. Legislation relevant
to science and research, the principles of research ethics and the Standards of Good
Scientific Practice all contribute equally to ensuring a high degree of integrity in research
and scholarship.

In line with international declarations on integrity in research, this document lays down
fundamental principles of scientific and scholarly integrity and the resulting fundamental
obligations for researchers. On the basis of those principles and fundamental obligations,
it then proceeds to define requirements for the behaviour of scientists and researchers
(Standards of Good Scientific Practice) as well as key forms of research misconduct. In
this context, the OeAWI has based its standards on the current state of international discourse
on research integrity, as the international orientation of science and research also
has an impact on its standards of integrity.

(1) Scientific research refers to work which is committed to the Standards of Good Scien- tific Practice and aims to generate new knowledge. All persons involved in research are obliged to adhere to the principles of integrity in research and scholarship. In particular, this form of integrity involves transparent and sincere communication with other scientists and researchers as well as between scientists/researchers and those who commission their research projects; high reliability in the execution of joint research efforts; impartial judgment and internal independence; a willingness to subject oneself to professional cri- ticism and to respond to such criticism with reasoned argumentation; and the responsible and fair treatment of junior scientists/researchers in particular. Research integrity also in- cludes sincere, comprehensible and transparent communication with the general public in a way that appropriately reflects the complexity of scientific research.

(2) All persons involved in research are to observe the Standards of Good Scientific Practice applicable to their respective fields, to investigate and settle any doubts as to the applicable standards, to avoid research misconduct and to immediately remedy any misconduct detected.

(3) The organisations that conduct scientific and scholarly research as well as the indi- vidual organisational units in which research is conducted (e.g. university/non-university departments and institutes, research teams, centres), are to ensure that the Standards of Good Scientific Practice are communicated consistently, drawing special attention to the risks of research misconduct. The persons responsible for managing research organisa- tions and organisational units are to take suitable and reasonable organisational mea- sures to ensure that the responsibilities for communicating and enforcing the Standards of Good Scientific Practice, including the resolution of any doubts, are unambiguously defined in writing, communicated and then actually observed; this also includes the clear assignment of supervisory duties. The persons responsible for managing the above-men- tioned organisations and units are to ensure the availability of infrastructure that enables adherence to the Standards of Good Scientific Practice; this applies in particular to the retention and storage of data, specimens, or other objects and materials arising from or used to support research. The persons responsible for management are to ensure that the contact information of those persons and groups in charge of enforcing the Standards of Good Scientific Practice and investigating allegations of research misconduct at the research organisation is known and easily retrievable at all times.

(4) Persons who supervise research projects, especially projects related to diploma/ master‘s theses or doctoral studies, are to ensure that the researchers are informed of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice; in this context, it is necessary to ensure a research environment that enables junior researchers in particular to adhere to the Standards of Good Scientific Practice.

The supervision of research projects within the framework of doctoral studies does not relieve the researchers of the obligation to obtain information regularly on how the re- levant research discipline and the relevant research institution interpret the Standards of Good Scientific Practice. The statements of national or international agencies on the Standards of Good Scientific Practice, e.g. statements issued by the relevant scientific/ scholarly societies, are to be taken into account as an aid in interpreting the Standards. The requirements of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scientific and scholarly work are to be taken into account in handling the Standards of Good Scientific Practice.

(5) If there are no indications that researchers are acting in violation of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice, the supervisor of the research project can rely on the expecta- tion that the research project is being carried out in accordance with the Standards of Good Scientific Practice (principle of trust).

(1) The Standards of Good Scientific Practice include, in particular, the following:

1. Precise recordkeeping and documentation of the research process as well as the results in such a way that ensures that the studies/investigations are reproducible; this includes the collection of primary and original data (or raw material) which is transpa- rent, seamlessly recorded and documented; where they serve as the basis for publica- tions, these data and documents (e.g. laboratory notes) are to be stored on durable, backed-up data media at the research institution where they were generated, with due attention to the retention periods applicable to the specific field of research, wherever necessary for the purpose of ensuring the verifiability of the method selected and the findings generated.

2. In the course of preparing research works as well as grant proposals, the transparent and comprehensible handling of other persons‘ ideas, texts and miscellaneous sour- ces, in particular by observing effective citation rules which prevent misunderstandings. Plagiarism is a violation of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice and is therefore to be avoided (cf. § 3 para. 2 no. 3).

3. Avoidance of the re-publication of texts (or parts of texts) previously published by an author without citing the earlier publication.

4. Strict honesty with regard to the research contributions of other persons, in particu- lar by naming persons who made an independent scientific/scholarly contribution or another major contribution as co-authors in grant proposals or in the publication of research findings, and, where possible, by labelling their contributions; mere technical cooperation in data collection or the provision of funding and infrastructure to enable research does not justify co-authorship. The same applies to the mere proofreading of manuscripts without contributing to their content.

5. Observance of the joint responsibility of co-authors for publications and the exclusion of „honorary authorship“, i.e. authorship which is not in line with the requirements of § 2 para. 1 no. 4.

6. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, e.g. in selection procedures or in reviews of research projects and publications.

7. Transparency with regard to the funding of research projects, in particular by naming the persons and/or institutions that support such projects with financial or material contributions, or by disclosing economic interests associated with research projects.

(2) In cases where scientists and researchers who work at research institutions in Austria participate in international research projects, those scientists and researchers are still required to adhere to the Standards of Good Scientific Practice applicable in Austria.

(1) Research misconduct refers to wilful, conscious or grossly negligent violations of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice (§ 2). Violations are deemed „wilful“ when a re- searcher considers a violation of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice possible and accepts that possibility when conducting research. Violations are deemed „conscious“ when a researcher considers a violation of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice not merely possible, but certain. Violations are deemed „grossly negligent“ in cases where a researcher shows blatant disregard for due diligence in a given research context and therefore fails to recognize that s/he is violating the Standards of Good Scientific Practice to a great extent; for example, this is the case where even the simplest, most obvious considerations are not taken into account and the researcher disregards considerations which should have occurred to any person. Critical statements in scientific/scholarly dis- course („honest differences of opinion“) or errors made in good faith („honest errors“) are not considered to be forms of research misconduct.

(2) The following actions in particular are to be considered research misconduct in accordance with para. 1 (first sentence):

1. The fabrication of data, for example the fabrication of research results (measurements, observations, statistics).

2. The falsification of data, for example by manipulating the research process, altering or selectively omitting data which contradict the research proposition, or the misleading interpretation of data with a view to obtaining a desired result.

3. Plagiarism (cf. § 2 para. 1 no. 2), which is defined as the wrongful appropriation of texts, thoughts or ideas from other persons. In particular, it includes the appropriation and use of text passages, theories, hypotheses, insights or data directly, in paraphrased form or in translated form without labelling and citing the source and originator. This also includes the use (including the publication) of others‘ research ideas or plans which come to a researcher‘s attention in a confidential context (e.g. in the course of a peer review or other review procedure).

4. The unjustified refusal to provide access to primary and original data (§ 2 para. 1 no. 1), including information on how such data was obtained, or the disposal of such data before the applicable retention periods have passed (§ 2 para. 1 no. 1).

5. Obstructing the research activities of other scientists/researchers as well as other unfair attempts to damage the scientific/scholarly reputation of another scientist/researcher; in particular, this includes anonymous, non-specific and unjustified allegations of viola- tions of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice.

6. Sabotaging research activities, in particular damaging or destroying experiments, equipment, documents, hardware, software, chemicals or other materials that another scientist/researcher requires to undertake his or her research.

7. Providing inaccurate information in a grant proposal which may place competing scientists/researchers at a disadvantage.

8. Creating disadvantages to the career advancement of junior scientists and resear- chers who have reported potential research misconduct (whistle-blowers).

(1) Research misconduct (§ 3 para. 1 first sentence) can also include involvement in other persons‘ violations of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice, e.g. active invol- vement in the misconduct of others; co-authorship of publications based on falsified data or otherwise generated through violations of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice; or neglect of supervisory obligations. Supervisory obligations (§ 1 para. 3) are neglected in cases where the necessary supervisory measures are not taken, with due attention to the individual responsibility of the researcher and the principle of trust (§ 1 para. 5).

(2) Consenting to being named as a co-author of a publication gives rise to joint res- ponsibility for the publication‘s adherence to the Standards of Good Scientific Practice; in this context, § 3 Abs. 1 is to be observed. Where individual scientists or researchers are named as co-authors of a publication without their consent and where they are unwil- ling to agree to being named as such after the fact, they are expected to raise explicit objections to being named as co-authors to the persons primarily responsible for the publication, to the editorial office of the journal in question, or to the publisher, and to make efforts to ensure that the publication does not appear under their names.

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