Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

A new Swedish legal framework for handling alleged misconduct

2017-03-06

Recently, a Swedish Government Inquiry  proposed a new legal framework for handling and investigating research misconduct. A new act is suggested to enter into force on 1st of January 2019. Here, Anna-Sara Lind presents the main novelties in the proposal.

Anna-Sara Lind, Associate Professor of Public Law
Anna-Sara Lind, Associate Professor of Public Law

The Inquiry (SOU 2017:10) defines the term good scientific practice as the collective ethical standard for how good research should be conducted. Even so, there are major differences between disciplines and traditions. Accordingly, a rather broad legal definition of research misconduct is suggested: “Serious breaches of good scientific practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism that are committed intentionally or with gross negligence in the planning, performance or reporting of research.”

The inquiry suggests that a new agency, Research Misconduct Board (RMB), is established under the realm of the Swedish research council, in order to guarantee that possible cases are investigates objectively. This means nationally recognised decisions that could have a mainstreaming effect on how misconduct is perceived. Research performed in the public sphere is included, i.e. all research conducted by authorities, municipalities and counties.

The RMB will, according to the suggestion, rule on the misconduct, but there are no sanctions that follow the ruling. The decision can be appealed to court.

The higher education institutions should report all cases of breaches of good scientific practice and how good practice is promoted in order to prevent research misconduct. Spreading information and knowledge is at the very heart of the proposal as it is suggested that every institution should report these activities annually. The Inquiry suggests that the act will apply retroactively 10 years from the entry into force.

The proposed act still leaves questions unanswered. One is how to handle cases not being classified as fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, another is co-writers’ responsibility. But it is a start for a new way of approaching misconduct.

By Anna-Sara Lind

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