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AAU Handbook

Policy of the AAU Practice Committee

Published: 09.10.2019 (Last revised: 06.11.2019)

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Content

1.Competence, actors and types of cases

1.1. The overall responsibility for addressing breaches of good scientific practice rests with the Rector (cf. Statutes for Aalborg University, section 30 (14)). Thus, the Rector sets the policies, rules and procedures for investigating with breaches of good scientific practice at AAU and establishes a cross-organisational committee, the AAU Practice Committee.

1.2. The AAU Practice Committee is tasked with reviewing allegations of suspected questionable research practice related to a scientific product produced as part of research conducted at Aalborg University but that was dismissed by the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct or is outside the scope of the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct. Furthermore, the AAU Practice Committee must forward any allegations of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism that are within the scope of the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct for further investigation; the AAU Practice Committee must also forward allegations unrelated to research at AAU to other research institutions. The AAU Practice Committee must provide a statement to the Rector, after which the relevant line manager determines any sanctions and handles other relevant follow-up.

1.3. The responsibility for handling other cases of suspected questionable research practices (cases in which there is no scientific product) rests with the research managers and the various organisational units at AAU (such as the AAU PhD Office, the VBN Editorial Office, Grants & Contracts, etc.), that handle administrative tasks related to research.

 

2.Legal framework

2.1. When evaluating whether there is a suspected breach of good scientific practice, the definitions of scientific misconduct, cases of questionable research practices and scientific products, as set out in the Act on Research Misconduct, section 3, are used.

2.2. Practices at AAU are also based on current standards in the Danish Code of Conduct on Research Integrity, and other current institutional, national and international practices and guidelines on research integrity.

 

3.Suspicion/confidentiality

3.1. The person facing an allegation of a suspected breach of good scientific practice is innocent until proven otherwise. Cases are therefore treated with confidentiality and are referred to in the course of the investigation as "suspicion of..."

3.2. The confidentiality of cases means that only the participants in the AAU Practice Committee meetings and the necessary and relevant staff are involved and informed of case proceedings.

3.3. Cases under investigation are anonymised if used, for example, in a teaching context or referenced in a report to the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct.

 

4.Limitation periods and allegations brought against former staff members or researchers not employed at AAU

4.1. According to the Act on Research Misconduct, research institutions are obligated to forward allegations to the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct if they are covered by the definitions of research misconduct (falsification, fabrication, plagiarism) and if the research is conducted by the institution. By law, allegations of questionable research practice must be investigated by the institutions. Preparatory documents to the Act do not specify a limitation period.

4.2. If an allegation of suspected questionable research practice is presumed to preclude a decision on the existence of questionable research practices, if the costs of the investigation are disproportionate to its importance, or if the case is minimally associated with Denmark or Aalborg University, the AAU Practice Committee – or for cases not covered by the AAU Practice Committee, the relevant research manager - may decide, with justification, to close the case. This may be possible if the case is older. Allegations against former staff members or researchers should initially be forwarded or handled at AAU, but they may also be closed for the reasons stated above.

 

5.Anonymous reports

5.1. According to section 19 of the Act on Research Misconduct, research institutions are obligated to investigate questions of questionable research practice, regardless of whether the issue is reported to the institution by an anonymous or identified source.

5.2. If the allegation cannot be adequately reviewed based on the information provided by the anonymous source, the case may be closed.

 

6.Deadlines

6.1. Allegations of breaches of good scientific practice must be dealt with as quickly as the issue allows and without undue delay. As a rule at AAU, this means that dismissal of a case must take place within 3 months, while investigation of a case should be completed within 12 months. This principle applies to all types of breaches of good scientific practice, regardless of whether they relate to matters to be forwarded to the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct, investigated by the AAU Practice Committee, or handled by the research managers or administrative units at AAU.

Origin, background and history

The policy on handling breaches of good scientific practice was submitted to the Rector by the AAU Practice Committee submitted after consultation with the organisation and review by the Strategic Council for Research and Innovation at AAU (SRFI).

The Rector approved the policy on 30.09.2019 and it took effect thereafter.

Purpose and delimitation

This policy outlines the general framework and principles for handling breaches of good scientific practice at the Aalborg University (AAU).

According to the Act on Research Misconduct [lov om videnskabelig uredelighed], all research institutions, including AAU, have an explicit duty to investigate cases of questionable research practice and to forward cases of suspected research misconduct to the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct.

Breaches of good scientific practice must also – and no less importantly – be investigated in order to ensure that society can continue to trust the research and academic degrees from AAU. Furthermore, increased globalisation and digitalisation mean that questionable or even fraudulent research is spread more easily and thus potentially will have more impact than in the past; it is thus essential to remain vigilant in this area.

Breaches of good scientific practice must be handled in a consistent, transparent and respectful manner at all levels of the organisation in order to ensure security and manageability for all stakeholders (the staff members involved, external parties, etc.).

Finally, knowledge sharing and open dialogue across the university are essential so that investigations of breaches of good scientific practice can provide input on developing the university's standards for good scientific practice. 

Overall framework

Act on Research Misconduct

Contact and responsibility

Questions on the policy may be directed to the Rector's Office at rektorsekretariatet@adm.aau.dk.

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