Making an RCR allegation public during the process did not constitute disregard for the responsible conduct of research (TENK 2020:10)

Docent A in the field of humanities had been suspected of an RCR violation. Persons who submitted the notification of the allegation had discussed the matter in social media before the end of the RCR process. According to A, the instigators of the allegation had behaved unethically, and the negative consequences to the suspects had been disproportionate.

Freedom of expression and the related scientific criticism, even if strong terms are used, is a fundamental right of science. However, in TENK’s opinion, researchers must conduct themselves according to the responsible conduct of research also in situations of interaction outside the scientific community, including social media, if the context is related to their field of education or research. In their public performances, researchers should use their freedom of expression within the parameters of responsible conduct of research if the matter is related to their work or role as a researcher.

On the basis of the material submitted to TENK, the texts published in social media by the researchers under suspicion included parts that, from the point of view of irresponsibility, were testing the boundaries of responsible research conduct. However, the irresponsible behaviour had not been serious enough to fulfil the conditions for an RCR violation.

Although publishing an alleged RCR violation while the RCR process was in progress was not, in itself, deemed as a violation against the responsible conduct of research, public debate should not jeopardise the impartiality or fairness of the RCR process, or the legal protection of the parties involved.