Safeguarding scientific integrity

November 8, 2013

In order to safeguard scientific integrity within the walls of Wageningen UR, the Executive Board appointed a Scientific Integrity Committee on 2 September 2013. This committee will investigate complaints about violations of scientific integrity and offer advice to the Executive Board.

On 2 September, Professor Frans Brom (chair), Professor Herman Eijsackers, Professor Fons Voragen and Professor Akke van der Zijpp were appointed as members of the Scientific Integrity Committee. They will be supported in their investigations by Wageningen UR staff department employees. To Frans Brom, the committee's chair, the importance of integrity and transparency is clear. 'Scientific integrity is of vital importance for scientific practice. Science depends entirely on cooperation, and research always builds on the work of others. This is only possible if researchers can rely on each other's integrity. Scientific research contributes to the way in which societal issues are dealt with, and this also demands scientific integrity. For this reason, it is important that those of us involved in scientific research apply transparency to addressing complaints about violations of scientific integrity.'

Prevention and punishment

What would be considered a clear violation of scientific integrity? Invention, falsification, plagiarism, a lack of respect for authorship, deliberate incorrect use of methods (including statistical methods) and/or results, culpable negligence in carrying out research and allowing and concealing misconduct on the part of colleagues. The universities in the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) have jointly agreed that they categorically reject and actively oppose these types of violations and that where necessary they will punish this behaviour (see also the VSNU website, available in Dutch only). A National Scientific Integrity Complaints Procedure Model has been drawn up in order to deal with punishing violations. In order to prevent violations, the VSNU code of conduct has been adapted appropriately, and violations will be posted on the VSNU website. Education at the BSc, MSc and PhD levels will also focus on scientific integrity. Increasing the awareness of scientists and scientists in training and enabling open discussion about dilemmas will also help prevent violations.

Complaints procedure

Because Wageningen UR takes responsibility for the research which is carried out within its walls, the organisation has drawn up its own Wageningen UR Scientific integrity complaints procedure (link in Dutch) on the basis of the National Model. Every employee also bears part of the responsibility for the research carried out within the organisation. This responsibility is stated in the complaints procedure in the following words: 'All those involved in scientific education and research within Wageningen UR have a responsibility for maintaining scientific integrity. To this end, the basic principles of professional scientific behaviour must be followed at all times.' Wageningen UR will have the Scientific Integrity Committee investigate well-founded suspicions of misconduct.

Committee and Confidential Counsellors

Anyone who suspects a violation of scientific integrity can submit a complaint to the Committee, if appropriate and/or desirable through the Executive Board, the management council of an organisational component or the Scientific Integrity Confidential Counsellor. The Confidential Counsellors act as an easily approachable point of contact for questions and complaints about scientific integrity. They try to mediate or to otherwise amicably resolve the complaint if possible, advise complainants on follow-up actions or refer complainants to the Scientific Integrity Committee. They report cases of fraud to the Executive Board and advise those involved to report the fraud to the Committee. The Confidential Counsellors submit an annual report to the Executive Board in which they render account for their work activities over the preceding year. The Confidential Counsellors respect due confidentiality in relation to the information of which they have become aware in the performance of their duties. At present, Ellen Kampman and Huub Savelkoul are Wageningen UR's Scientific Integrity Confidential Counsellors.

The Scientific Integrity Committee can be reached via