About TENK's guidelines/TENKin tutkimuseettisestä ohjeistuksesta ja tutkimusrike-epäilyjen käsittelystä

Response of Liisa Räsänen and Erja Moore to TENK’s response regarding our article “Critical evaluation of the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity and of their application" 

Sanna Kaisa Spoof, Krista Varantola, and Pekka Louhila, as representatives of TENK, state that the Finnish institutions take the commitment of fostering research integrity very seriously and follow the instructions meticulously. This is an ideal which has not yet been reached. 

The case summaries in TENK´s annual reports are mostly presented in a very short and superficial way, important details are missing and thus the summaries fail to reach the standard of other authorities that use jurisdiction in the society and publish their case summaries (e.g. Copyright Council).The representatives of TENK do not promise to improve the quality of the case summaries and show no service-oriented attitude when stating that the final documents can be studied at request. 

We have not claimed that TENK should tell the investigating institutions what type of misconduct the case under investigation represents. However, TENK should be able to help the investigators in practical questions, e. g., how to differentiate misappropriation from disregard for the RCR. 

When the Finnish RCR guidelines were revised in 1998, misappropriation was included as the fourth type of fraud in addition to fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. We have been able to find only one case of misappropriation in TENK’s annual reports in 1998–2015 (years 2005 and 2009 excluded due to missing data). Since we do not have the original documents on this case, we do not know the final decision. Cases in which a researcher who is entitled to authorship is omitted from the authors of a publication are not rare and should represent misappropriation, but still, these cases are almost always interpreted as a milder form of misconduct, viz. disregard for the RCR.

It is a surprise for us that in some cases TENK does not possess the same public documents we have been able to obtain.

We certainly rationalize in detail why we disagree with the decisions of TENK or the institutions in the cases we have included.

Representatives of TENK claim that including the grey zone practices in the 2012 guidelines has increased the number of reported allegations and we do not take this into consideration. TENK’s annual reports in 2012–2015 do not contain a single decision from institutions representing a grey zone practice. In the same period, exaggerating one’s merits in a CV was regarded as an irresponsible deed in one TENK’s statement and in another statement TENK recommended that the university investigates an alleged case of exaggerating the CV.

Incorporation of the third category of “Other irresponsible practices” in addition to fraud and disregard for the RCR in the 2012 guidelines has created confusion. The guidelines mention that in their most serious forms other irresponsible practices may fulfill the criteria of an RCR violation. We do not understand the purpose of this third category containing miscellaneous actions ranging from fraud to grey zone. It is good to have knowledge of various manifestations of the grey zone, but deeds representing questionable research practices should not be listed together with the RCR violations which have been defined and characterized earlier in the guidelines.  As examples of  other irresponsible practices the guidelines mention guest and ghost authorships (ghost authorship defined in the official English translation “by taking credit for work produced by what is referred to as ghost authors”), exaggerating one’s achievements in CVs and publication lists, delaying or hampering other researcher’s work, maliciously accusing a researcher of RCR violations, misleading the general public by presenting deceptive information concerning the results or the scientific importance of one´s scientific work, and expanding the bibliography of an article to artificially increase the number of citations. This confusing category of other irresponsible practices needs to be revised and grey zone practices separated to its own category. Our criticism towards the “Other irresponsible practices” was omitted from the final version of the manuscript because it was getting so long for a commentary.

The sentence in TENK´s response “The claim that 45.1% of the researchers involved in the investigation processes are unhappy with the guidelines and the processes is not based on facts” is a straw man argument. We make nowhere such a baseless claim. A survey study among the researchers would have been required to obtain information on their personal views, which we did not do. We only state that in 45.1% of the cases one party, usually the initiator of the allegation, has appealed to TENK, and this illustrates a high degree of dissatisfaction among the complainants. We have not regarded processes and cases as the same. When counting the number of cases we have regarded it as one case when an allegation involving several researchers has been investigated in more than one institution and also as one statement from TENK when it has issued joint statements to the institutions. When a researcher has requested TENK’s statement in different issues, we have regarded these as separate cases. For example, a researcher requested TENK’s statements in an authorship dispute and due to suspecting one team member of exaggerating scientific merits in an application for a post.

For sure, there is in most cases one dissatisfied party after the investigation has been completed. However, there is a clear message in our article that the dissatisfied party is very commonly the initiator(s) of the allegation.

Lastly, we wish that the representatives of TENK follow themselves the principles of their own guidelines when issuing statements in public and are accurate, meticulous, and honest in their responses.

 Liisa Räsänen, MD, PhD, and Erja Moore, PhD, 21 October 2016

Julkaisimme hiljan Liisa Räsäsen kanssa artikkelin, jossa käsittelemme Tutkimuseettisen neuvottelukunnan (TENK) ohjeiston Hyvä tieteellinen käytäntö ja sen loukkausepäilyjen käsitteleminen Suomessa määritelmiä ja menettelytapoja ja tarkastelemme järjestelmän toimivuutta primaaritason päätöksistä tehtyjen valitusten yleisyyden (n. 45%) ja esimerkkitapausten avulla. TENKin ohje on tuttu, tai ainakin sen pitäisi olla tuttu kaikille korkeakoulutuksen ja tieteellisen tutkimuksen piirissä toimiville. Artikkelimme on vapaasti saatavilla ja luettavissa, tässä linkki: Critical evaluation of the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity and of their application. Lehti on Research Integrity and Peer Review 1:15, 2016. 

Käytäntönsä mukaisesti lehti pyysi vastineen kirjoitukseemme TENKin edustajilta, ja heidän vastineensa on oman artikkelimme perässä. Kirjoitimme vielä vastineen vastineen sen jälkeen, kun TENKin vastineesta luimme virheitä ja huomasimme huolimattomuutta. Lehti välitti vastineen vastineen TENKille ja artikkelin referoijille, mutta lehti ei julkaise enää vastineen vastineita sivuillaan. Julkaisemme sen nyt tässä blogissa, teksti tässä yllä. Mielenkiintoisin TENKin vastinetta koskeva kommenttimme lienee tekstistämme tehty selkeä olkiukko-argumentti. 

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