Each individual researcher must follow good research practice. As a researcher, you are responsible for following requirements that are rooted in the ethical norms and values of society. In order for researchers to be able to reflect on and critically review their research, knowledge about relevant legislation and research ethics practice is required.
The definition of good research practice
The overall ethical requirements for how good research should be carried out can be said to define good research practice. Below is an introduction to the subject’s main sources, together with an overview of what good research practice means in practice, with relevant links to further information.
- The Swedish Higher Education Act (riksdagen.se/sv) emphasises that the credibility of science and good research practice must be defended in the work of universities.
- The Swedish Act on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and Review of Research Misconduct (riksdagen.se/sv) defines research misconduct and other relevant concepts, and contains provisions on the responsibility of researchers and research managers (i.e. university colleges and universities) for ensuring that research is carried out in accordance with good research practice. The law also includes information about how research misconduct should be investigated, and about the new National Board for Assessment of Research Misconduct (Npof), which was established in 2020.
- The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (pdf) is mandatory for research funded by the EU Framework Programmes, and is referred to by the Swedish Research Council as guidance in the case of practical, ethical and intellectual problems associated with research (SUHF, 2020: Guidance on dealing with suspected breaches of good research practice (pdf)). The Code is of great importance in Swedish and European discussions on and definitions of what constitutes both good research practice and deviations from such practice.
- The Swedish Research Council’s publication Good Research Practice (vr.se) (2017) discusses relevant legislation and ethical requirements and recommendations against a background of issues that may arise within research work, with the aim of providing orientation, encouraging thoughts and contributing to discussions on responsibilities and challenges within research.
- The University of Skövde’s guidelines for dealing with suspected research misconduct (pdf) and other deviations from good research practice include an overview of how the University deals with suspected deviations from such practice.
- The University of Skövde’s Research Ethics Council is responsible for increasing knowledge about research ethics issues through information, seminars and other training, and for assessing and investigating suspected deviations from good research practice.
Good research practice
The standards of conduct placed on a researcher relate to the role of the researcher as perceived today. However, the Swedish Research Council points out in its report Good Research Practice (vr.se) (2017) that these standards are nevertheless rooted in society’s customary ethical norms and values. The Swedish Research Council (p. 8) therefore summarises its recommendations in a number of general rules, all of which correspond to more general rules for life:
- You must tell the truth about your research.
- You must consciously review and report on the starting points for your studies.
- You must openly report on methods and results.
- You must openly report on commercial interests and other connections.
- You must not steal research findings from others.
- You must maintain good order in your research, including through documentation and archiving.
- You must strive to carry out your research without harming people, animals or the environment.
- You must be fair in your assessment of other people’s research.
The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (pdf) summarises this approach in the following four principles (p. 4):
- Reliability in ensuring the quality of research, reflected in the design, the methodology, the analysis and the use of resources.
- Honesty in developing, undertaking, reviewing, reporting and communicating research in a transparent, fair, full and unbiased way.
- Respect for colleagues, research participants, society, ecosystems, cultural heritage and the environment.
- Accountability for the research from idea to publication, for its management and organisation, for training, supervision and mentoring, and for its wider impacts.
For more specific and concrete examples of good research practice in relation to different aspects of research, see Chapter 2 of the Code.
Misconduct and other deviations
The Swedish Act on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and Review of Research Misconduct (riksdagen.se/sv) defines misconduct as “a serious deviation from good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism that is committed intentionally or with gross negligence in the planning, implementation or reporting of research”.
The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (pdf) (p. 8) defines the concepts in greater detail:
- Fabrication is making up results and recording them as if they were real.
- Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment or processes or changing, omitting or suppressing data or results without justification.
- Plagiarism is using other people’s work and ideas without giving proper credit to the original source, thus violating the rights of the original author(s) to their intellectual outputs.
Other deviations from good research practice, referred to in the Code (pp. 8–9, where they are referred to as “unacceptable practices”) are deviations from good research practice that do not count as misconduct (i.e. they do not constitute fabrication, falsification or plagiarism), but which nevertheless “damage the integrity of the research process or of researchers”. Examples of such deviations, taken directly from the Code (pp. 8–9), include:
- Manipulating authorship or denigrating the role of other researchers in publications (see also the ICMJE’s Vancouver guidelines on authorship).
- Re-publishing substantive parts of one’s own earlier publications, including translations, without duly acknowledging or citing the original (‘self-plagiarism’).
- Citing selectively to enhance own findings or to please editors, reviewers or colleagues.
- Withholding research results.
- Allowing funders/sponsors to jeopardise independence in the research process or reporting of results.
- Expanding unnecessarily the bibliography of a study.
- Accusing a researcher of misconduct or other violations in a malicious way.
- Misrepresenting research achievements.
- Exaggerating the importance and practical applicability of findings.
- Delaying or inappropriately hampering the work of other researchers.
- Misusing seniority to encourage violations of research integrity.
- Ignoring putative violations of research integrity by others or covering up inappropriate responses to misconduct or other violations by institutions.
- Establishing or supporting journals that undermine the quality control of research (‘predatory journals’).
- When dealing with suspected deviations from good research practice at the University of Skövde, see our guidelines for dealing with suspected research misconduct (pdf) and other breaches of good research practice.