Investigation

The Commission for Research Integrity promotes the

adherence to the Standards of Good Scientific Practice

Approach

The Commission for Research Integrity

  • becomes active on request of member organizations
  • advises members in cases of suspected research misconduct with due attention to international developments
  • may be called upon by any individual who is affected by research misconduct connected to Austria

How does the Commission work?

Confidential

The Commission for Research Integrity constitutes an independent body of the association Austrian Agency for Research Integrity (OeAWI). It deals with cases of (alleged) research misconduct connected to an Austrian institution or to a researcher working in Austria. One of the Commission’s most important principles is confidentiality in protecting both the complainants’ and the accused persons’ identities.

Independent

It is central to the work of the Commission that its independence is preserved as guaranteed in the statutes.

The Commission’s members, who are researchers from different fields of expertise, are non-Austrian citizens to guarantee independence from the Austrian research system. Only the member with expertise in Austrian law may be affiliated with an Austrian research institution; this member does not have any voting rights.

Objective

Unrestricted objectivity is an essential institutional provision to guarantee that allegations of research misconduct can be evaluated in a neutral and fair way.

Procedures
1

Inquiry initiated by a complainant

Who can initiate an inquiry?

  • Full members of the OeAWI
  • Any individual who is affected by research misconduct (connected to Austria)
 
How are inquiries to be initiated?
  • in written and digital form to the Head of the Administrative Office (nicole.foeger@oeawi.at)
  • short description of facts and specification of the accusation (ca. 2-3 pages)
 
2

Determining the responsibility by the Commission

Factually:

  • Suspicion of breaches of the OeAWI Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice (Article 3 and 4)

 

Geographically:

  • Strong connection to an Austrian institution
  • Strong connection to a researcher working in Austria

 

Possible rejection:

  • When the alleged misconduct happened more than ten years before the charge is presented
  • If a procedure regarding the alleged misconduct is pending at another affected institution (no parallel proceedings)
3

Investigation by the Commission

  • Obtaining of opinions, statements, and other documents
  • If a sufficient assessment of the facts is not possible, the Commission may obtain expert opinions and/or hold a hearing with the parties involved
  • in justified cases: arbitration procedure with the support of a mediator

 

When other procedures (e.g. civil, criminal or disciplinary procedures) have been initiated in connection with the case in question, the Commission may decide to suspend the case at any stage of the procedure.

4

Assessment by the Commission

Final statement containing the following:

  • Summary of investigation results
  • Assessment of investigation results
  • Recommendation of further actions

 

The Commission’s opinion is to be conveyed to the person or institution affected. It is up to the institution concerned to take further measures and apply sanctions.

Commission
Commission

Members of the Commission

Former Members of the Commission

Prof. Dr.
Ulrike Beisiegel

Chair from June 2009 to December 2010

At that time working at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology II, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Prof. Dr.
Pieter C. Emmer

From June 2009 to December 2015 

At that time working at the Institute for History, Leiden University

Prof. Dr.
Paul Kleihues

From June 2009 to June 2012 

At that time working at the Department of Pathology, University Hospital Zurich

Prof. Dr.
Daniela N. Männel

From January 2011 to October 2017 

At that time working at the Institute for Immunology, University of Regensburg

Univ.-Prof. Dr.
Robert Rebhahn

From June 2009 to April 2012

At that time working at the Department of Labour and Social Security Law, University of Vienna

Prof. Dr.
Gerhard Wegner

From June 2009 to October 2015 

At that time working at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz

Prof. em. Dr.
Peter Weingart

From June 2009 to September 2015 

Chair as from January 2011

At that time working at the Institute of Science and Technology Studies, Bielefeld University

Prof. Dr.
Barbara Wollenberg

From June 2012 to October 2014

At that time working at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and Plastic Surgery, University of Lübeck, Germany

Rules of Procedure

Rules of
Procedure

The Commission for Research Integrity is an organ of the association Austrian Agency for Research Integrity. The Commission shall conduct activities for association members and advise them in all matters related to research integrity, in particular, in cases of suspected research misconduct.

In addition to the regulations contained in the statutes, the Rules of Procedure govern all procedural principles and processes of the Commission for Research Integrity. The Rules also provide information that helps to determine issues of responsibility and procedural steps of a given investigation.

Rules of Procedure
(effective Nov. 2018)

The Commission for Research Integrity is an organ of the Association known as the “Austrian Agency for Research Integrity”. The Commission investigates allegations of research misconduct having a connection to researchers or research institutions with relation to the Austrian research system. The Rules of Procedure regulate the general procedural principles and the investigation procedures of the Commission for Research Integrity in addition to the Statutes.

1.1     The Commission shall be convened at least twice a year. The Chairperson may announce a Commission meeting along with the accompanying agenda at least two weeks in advance in writing or electronically at any time. Equally, the Chairperson of the Commission is to convene a Commission meeting without delay if a member of the Commission submits a request for such a meeting along with a draft agenda.

1.2     At least half of the voting members of the Commission must attend the meeting in person in order to constitute a quorum. An electronic participation is only possible in exceptional and justified cases.

1.3     Resolutions shall be taken by a simple majority of votes. Votes may be assigned to another member of the Commission. Where voting results in a tie, the Chairperson of the Commission shall have the casting vote.

1.4     If necessary, the Commission may also make decisions in the form of circular resolutions. Such motions are to be sent by the Chair to all members of the Commission in writing or electronically along with a deadline of at least ten calendar days for responses. The quorum requirements apply as defined in Section 1.3. However, a resolution shall not be considered approved in cases where one or more Commission members request a discussion of the motion at the next meeting.

1.5     If an allegation constitutes a Conflict of Interest for a member of the Commission, the member must not participate in the consultation and investigation of this issue. A Conflict of Interest must be declared to the Chair of the Commission immediately. In case of doubt the Commission shall decide.

1.6     The identification of research misconduct as a violation of the rules of good scientific practice shall be based on the Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice (Annex I).

1.7     The procedures of the Commission shall not be public; the Commission may allow persons involved inspection into the documents as long as the purpose of the investigation is not at risk.

1.8     In order to protect the persons involved confidentiality is to be maintained by all persons involved in the investigation. The Commission emphasises the duty of confidentiality to all persons and institutions involved in the investigation.

1.9     The results of meetings are to be recorded in the minutes and certified by the Chair.

1.10   The results of Commission investigations are to be conveyed to the persons involved.

2.1     The Commission shall begin all activities with an examination of whether the case falls within the scope of the Commission’s material and geographical competence.

2.2     The Commission is materially competent in cases where, on the basis of the available evidence, the suspicion of research misconduct appears sufficiently justified in accordance with the criteria listed in the Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice (Annex I). Other forms of misconduct in connection with research work, especially mobbing and sexual harassment, do not constitute grounds for the material competence of the Commission.

2.3     The Commission is geographically competent when a case exhibits a strong connection to an institution with relation to the Austrian research system or to a researcher working in Austria.

2.4     If a procedure regarding the alleged misconduct is pending with another affected institution, the Commission may refuse or discontinue the handling of the case.

2.5.    The Commission may also refuse to handle allegations in case where the alleged misconduct lies more than ten years in the past.

2.6     On the basis of its preliminary review, the Commission may take the following resolutions:

  1. Assignment of the case to the Commission member whose area of expertise is most closely related to the case (referred to below as the “member leading the investigation”);
  2. Non-initiation of a procedure, with appropriate justification;
  3. Suspension of the case, for example until a procedure previously initiated by another institution has been completed.

The persons to which a report refers shall be informed of the resolutions listed above after a review and assessment by the Commission. Moreover, the Chairperson of the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity is to be informed of resolutions upon request. The Chairperson shall be obliged to maintain confidentiality in this regard.

2.7.    The Commission is generally obliged to inform all affected full members of the Agency for Research Integrity about resolutions pursuant to Section 2.6. without delay. In justified exceptional cases, however, in order to protect the persons involved the Commission may decide to fulfil its obligations to inform members at a later point in time. In such cases, the Commission must weigh the legitimate interests of the member in question against the legitimate interests of the other parties involved.

3.1     With the support of the administrative office, the Commission member leading the investigation shall first obtain opinions and statements from the persons to whom an allegation refers. If necessary, the Commission may also request additional documentation.

3.2     If a sufficient assessment of the facts is not possible on the basis of the materials submitted, the Commission may hold a hearing with the parties involved and obtain expert opinions from specialists in the relevant field.

3.3     At the suggestion of the Commission member leading the investigation, the Commission may, in justified cases, initiate a procedure for resolving conflicts with the support of a mediator. In cases where a thorough assessment of the facts is not possible on the basis of the information obtained, the Commission member leading the investigation may, in concert with the other Commission members, appoint experts for the specific subject area in question to investigate the allegations in greater depth.

3.4     Persons involved in the investigation procedures must inform the Commission when other procedures (e.g. civil, criminal or disciplinary procedures) have been initiated in connection with the case to be investigated. Regarding such procedures, the Commission may resolve to suspend the case at any stage of the procedure.

4.1     Upon completion of the investigation according to Section 3, the Commission member leading the investigation shall immediately compose a final statement which contains an assessment of the results of the investigation. This opinion is to be presented to the other Commission members for approval with a deadline of ten days.

4.2     In case a member of the Commission requests the issue to be discussed in a meeting, the statement must be discussed, amended/supplemented as necessary and resolved at the next scheduled meeting of the Commission.

4.3     Opinions should contain the following information in any case:

  1. Summary of investigation results;
  2. Assessment of investigation results;
  3. Recommended further actions for the parties involved;
  4. Where required, recommendations about measures beyond the concrete case.

4.4     If, in its deliberations, the Commission comes to the conclusion that further investigations would be required in order to come to a final assessment of a case, then the corresponding resolution must also include a description of the additional investigations required as well as a reasonable time period within which the results must be available.

4.5     The Commission’s opinion is to be conveyed in any case to the person who or institution which called upon the Commission if that person or institution is directly affected by the allegations submitted, and to the person(s) to whom the allegations referred. When the investigation is closed, the Commission informs the Chair of the Board about the outcome of the investigation.

4.6     In all cases, opinions on severe cases of research misconduct must also be conveyed to the institution(s) where the misconduct was said to have taken place if the institution or institutions in question belong to the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity.

4.7     The submission of the opinion in accordance with Section 4.6 shall mark the end of the Commission’s procedure.

Annex I:
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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