Responsible conduct of research (RCR)

The premise of the RCR guidelines is that promoting the responsible conduct of research and handling alleged violations are primarily the responsibility of the organisations conducting research. When alleged misconduct has been reported and the report has been finalised by the organisation, the party dissatisfied with the ruling may request a statement from Finnish National Board on Research Integrity TENK (see Request for statement).

In order for research to be ethically acceptable and reliable and for its results to be credible, the research must be conducted according to the responsible conduct of research. Applying the guidelines for the responsible conduct of research within the research community constitutes a form of self-regulation that is bound by legislation. Furthermore, the responsible conduct of research is an integral part of the quality assurance of research organisations. From the point of view of research integrity, the premises for the responsible conduct of research are the following:

  • The research follows the principles that are endorsed by the research community, that is, integrity, meticulousness, and accuracy in conducting research, and in recording, presenting, and evaluating the research results.
  • The methods applied for data acquisition as well as for research and evaluation, conform to scientific criteria and are ethically sustainable. When publishing the research results, the results are communicated in an open and responsible fashion that is intrinsic to the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
  • The researcher takes due account of the work and achievements of other researchers by respecting their work, citing their publications appropriately, and by giving their achievements the credit and weight they deserve in carrying out the researcher’s own research and publishing its results.
  • The researcher complies with the standards set for scientific knowledge in planning and conducting the research, in reporting the research results and in recording the data obtained during the research.
  • The necessary research permits have been acquired and the preliminary ethical review that is required for certain fields of research has been conducted.
  • Before beginning the research or recruiting the researchers, all parties within the research project or team (the employer, the principal investigator, and the team members) agree on the researchers’ rights, responsibilities, and obligations, principles concerning authorship, and questions concerning archiving and accessing the data. These agreements may be further specified during the course of the research.
  • Sources of financing, conflicts of interest or other commitments relevant to the conduct of research are announced to all members of the research project and reported when publishing the research results.
  • Researchers refrain from all research-related evaluation and decision-making situations, when there is reason to suspect a conflict of interest.
  • The research organisation adheres to good personnel and financial administration practices and takes into account the data protection legislation.

In addition, researchers also need to comply with the practices listed above when working as teachers or instructors, when applying for research positions or for research funding, as well as when functioning as experts in their field both inside and outside the research community.

Besides research activity, the principles of responsible conduct of research apply to teaching materials, written and spoken statements, evaluations, CVs and publication lists, as well as to societal interaction in both printed and electronic publication channels, including the social media.

Each individual researcher and research group member is primarily responsible for complying with the principles of the responsible conduct of research. Nonetheless, the responsibility also rests on the whole research community: research groups and their principal investigators, the directors of research units and the administration of research organisations.

Universities and universities of applied sciences should ensure that their students are well versed in the principles of the responsible conduct of research and that the teaching of research integrity is integrated into their graduate and postgraduate programmes. Research institutes, for their part, should ensure that research integrity training is available for their staff. Additionally, it is the task of every research training unit to handle questions regarding the responsible conduct of research that are pertinent to the respective field of education as a part of their research training programme. In order to guarantee the practice of the responsible conduct of research, universities and universities of applied sciences should offer continuing education in research integrity to their teachers, to supervisors of theses, researchers, heads of research programmes and to other experts.

Learned societies in Finland can promote the responsible conduct of research, for example, through a peer review system of scholarly and scientific publications. In addition, research funding organisations, such as the Academy of Finland, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), as well as foundations and funds, can also encourage the researchers in the projects funded by these organisations to commit themselves to the responsible conduct of research, and consequently, when feasible, to follow the RCR guidelines in the handling of alleged violations of the responsible conduct of research.

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