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Misconduct in research

Misconduct in research

The term research misconduct usually refers to fabricating, falsifying, plagiarizing or stealing scientific data and results, that is, cheating in various ways. During recent years, many cases exemplifying such behavior have undergone review in the media.

As the state and its citizens, as well as commercial interests, require dependable scientific results, while it is also important that the public retain its trust in research, it is a self-evident fact that every researcher should strive after honest conduct. The Higher Education Act states that the trust in science and good research practice shall be upheld by the work of universities. Universities informed about possible research misconduct are obliged to investigate (The Higher Education Ordinance).


The research ethics investigation "Good Conduct in Research" defined fraud broadly as follows: a researcher "intentionally and in a deceptive way departs from scientific requirements or consciously violates generally accepted norms" (SOU 1999:4). A more detailed definition was earlier provided by the former Medical Research Council:

Fraud and dishonesty in research entail intentional misrepresentation of the research process through deceptive actions that fall into one or more of the following categories:

* fabrication of data

* theft or plagiarism of data, for example hypotheses or methods, from another researcher's manuscript, application or publication (without supplying the source)

* misrepresentation of the research process in another way, for example through incorrect use of methodology, dishonest inclusion or exclusion of data, deceptive analysis of data that intentionally misrepresents their interpretation, or dishonesty toward granting authorities (Riktlinjer för etisk värdering av medicinsk humanforskning, guidelines for ethical evaluation of medical research on humans)

The Swedish Research Council and SUHF later suggested the following definition:

Science misconduct includes acting or omission to act in connection with research, so that research results become false or distorted, or so that a person's contributions to the research get misrepresented. To be held accountable, a person must have performed the misconduct intentionally or shown great negligence.

How to report a researcher and what kind of investigation is required, is described on this page.

At the start of 2017, a new organization for investigating misconduct was proposed by a public inquiry, together with a new definition of misconduct. See Ny ordning för att främja god sed och hantera oredlighet i forskning, SOU 2017:10.


Internationally, the European Science Foundation has published several policy briefings on the subject: Good Scientific Practice in Research and Scholarship (policy briefing no 10), and Research Integrity: global responsibility to foster common standards (Policy Briefing no 30), as well as the reports Stewards of Integrity and Fostering Research Integrity in Europe. This work culminated in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

OECD has issued Best Practices for Ensuring Scientific Integrity and Preventing Misconduct. The second World Congress on Research Integrity has formulated a Singapore Statement on Research Integrity. The next Montreal congress made another statement and the InterAcademy Council has issued a report on responsible conduct in a globalized research setting.

How to protect the integrity of the research record is described in the RePAIR Consensus Guidelines.

The peer-review system

To ensure quality in research, review is conducted at many levels: First by the granting authority and often also by a research ethics committee, then by editors and independent peer reviewers upon publication of the results, and finally by other researchers who read the published material. None of this, however, removes any of the researcher's primary responsibility.

Research material should be archived so that it is possible to go back later and test or replicate the research conducted. See pages on publication of research results, as well as handling data and material.

Last updated: 2017-04-19

Rules & guidelines

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CODEX, Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics, BMC, Husarg. 3, Uppsala | Webmaster | About the web site