Research misconduct

Last updated 19.3.2024

Violations of good research practices breach the principles of research integrity. They damage the quality and credibility of research and undermine research collaboration and authorship.

These actions may also be against the law, in which case they are investigated also in official or judicial procedures. Differences of opinion and disagreements over theories, methods or interpretations of results are part of academic discourse and generally not RI violations.

An RI violation meets one of the following criteria:

  • Serious intentional activity that violates research integrity
  • Activity in which research integrity has been seriously neglected due to indifference or carelessness when principles of RI could have been followed
  • Activity in which research integrity has been seriously neglected due to ignorance and unawareness of RI principles and guidelines in force

The severity of RI violations is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the practices and traditions of the research discipline in question. The assessment criteria include the scope of the actions, their recurrence, scientific significance and harmful consequences.

In the Finnish system, violations of good research practices are divided into two categories:
research misconduct and disregard for good research practices. Violations can take place at any stage of the research process. Allegations of research misconduct and disregard for the RI are dealt with through the procedure of handling alleged violations of research integrity. This is referred to as the RI process.

Research misconduct

Research misconduct distorts and falsifies research-based knowledge. It misleads the research community, decision-makers and the general public, decreases the value of research results and outputs, and damages the appreciation of academic research. Furthermore, it causes harm for researchers and research participants.

In Finland, research misconduct is categorised into fabrication, falsification and plagiarism in accordance with international practice. Allegations of research misconduct are investigated in the RI process on a case-by-case basis. The assessment takes into account the above definition of an RI violation and the examples of the assessment of severity, as applicable.

Fabrication refers to presenting fake observations, research data or results. For example when the observations presented in a scientific publication do not correspond to the methods described.

Falsification means the manipulation of research findings. By falsification of observations, the results of the research are distorted. Deliberate data selection or omission can also result in falsification. Falsification can occur in publications, manuscripts intended for publication, teaching materials and funding applications.

Plagiarism, or unacknowledged borrowing, means using someone else’s work or research ideas without permission or reference. Plagiarism also infringes on the rights of the original authors. Plagiarism can be direct, modified or paraphrased.

Plagiarism includes presenting or using as one’s own another researcher’s text or sections of text, research plans, manuscripts, articles, results, materials, research ideas, observations, programme codes, translations, diagrams, images or other visual material without appropriate reference to the original.

Disregard for good research practices

Violations of good research practices that do not constitute research misconduct are referred to as disregard for good research practices according to the established practice in Finland. Whether the disregard for good research practices is serious enough to be classified as an RI violation is assessed on a case-by-case basis in the RI process. The assessment takes into account the definition of an RI violation presented in section 4.1 of The Finnish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and, where applicable, the examples of the assessment of severity.

Disregard for good research practices manifests itself as gross negligence and carelessness during the research process. Disregard may include:

  • Failure to request relevant permits, decisions and/or statements (e.g. official permits, data permits, research permits, decisions on the disclosure of data, ethical review statements by ethics committees)
  • Failure to comply with data permit and research permit decisions or the statements issued in the ethical review process
  • Inappropriate use of research data or materials or failure to comply with research data agreements
  • Inadequate documentation and storage of research results and data
  • Inappropriately delaying or otherwise hampering the work of other researchers
  • Inadequate or inappropriate references to previous results
  • Omitting the name of a co-author who has made a significant contribution
  • Denigrating or deliberately neglecting to mention other researchers’ contributions
  • Manipulating authorship by other means, such as adding guest authors or
    honorary authors who have not contributed to the work in question or by
    taking credit for work done by ghost authors
  • Misleading the research community, research funders or the general public over one's research
  • Exaggerating or changing one’s research achievements or merits
    e.g. in a CV or its translation or a list of publications
  • Self-plagiarism, i.e. republishing one’s own work without reference to the original publication
  • Inappropriate interfering with the RI process or harassment
    of those involved in the RI process

Further information on desregard for good research practices can be found in the RI guidelines (PDF).