Country Report Estonia
National Research Integrity Landscape
Estonia does not (yet) have a national (institutional) structure for research integrity. Cases of research misconduct are handled by ad-hoc committees of universities i.e. research institutions. In general, there is no transparency on the procedures followed and the arguments that underlie its decisions taken. Initiatives have been taken, though, by national organisations, among which the Estonian Research Council (ETAg), to come to a national (institutional) structure for research integrity in Estonia.
Inititiatives for the establishment of a national (institutional) structure for research integrity
The first initiative was taken by the Estonian Research Council (ETAg), the main research funding organisation in Estonia. As from 2014, ETAg represents Estonia in the ENRIO. ETAg initiated the creation of a document of research integrity in 2016 by forming a working group that included representatives from the Estonian Research Council, the Estonian Academy, and the Ministry of Education and Research. It entrusted the drafting of the text to the working group of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Tartu, which had earlier already started writing the research integrity document for the University of Tartu, combining the two initiatives. In 2017, both working groups finalised the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity organizing national consultation rounds. According to the preface of the Code, it is meant to complement the Code of Ethics of Estonian Scientists of 2002 and is needed because of developments in research that brought forth new themes and perpectives not reflected in the code of ethics. The models used for the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity were the Danish Code of Conduct for Reseach Integrity (2014) and the (2017 revised) European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. The Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity aims to support knowledge about, acceptance and entrenchment of research integrity in the Estonian research community. For the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, see:
A second initiative was taken on 1 November 2017, when the Centre for Ethics of the University of Tartu in cooperation with the European Commission, the Ministry of Education and Research, and the Estonian Research Council organized an international symposium in Tallinn. At the seminar of the Forum of National Ethics Councils, 23 signatories joined the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity Agreement, including private and public research institutions, universities, (institutions of) the Estonian Academy of Sciences, the Estonian Research Council and the Ministry of Education and Research. By signing, the signatories confirm that they respect the main values of research and the principles of actions described in the text of the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity on the one hand, acknowledging the responsibility of individual researchers and research organisations and financers of research on the other, based on the thought that researchers can only behave ethically when conditions are proper created at the level of the organisation and the system. Moreover, the signatories promise to observe, disseminate, promote and apply the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity in their institution. Furthermore, to do everything in their power to prevent misconduct, to uncover and to deal with cases of research misconduct appropriately and to apply the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and to draw up the rules of procedure for dealing with cases of research misconduct to ensure the credibility of research and equal treatment of members of different research institutions. The Estonian Conduct for Research Integrity is created as a framework only but gives clear guidelines, in that (1) the research institution creates clear guidelines for reporting on possible breaches of principles of research integrity and defines clearly who should be approached in the case of suspicions and questions (2) the research institution establishes the order of dealing with suspicions of breaches, agrees on sanctions and ensures that the procedures are fair, impartial and transparent. If breaches, including accusations made in bad faith, are discovered, the research institution applies sanctions agreed upon in relation to the person who breaches research integrity or presents a bad faith accusation (3) the research institution protects bona fide whistleblowers, ensures the confidentiality of dealing with possible breaches and protects the dignity and inviolability of private life of all the parties involved (4) the research institution reacts to ascertained breaches immediately, considering the severity of the breach, the earlier conduct of the transgressor, and differentiating between deliberate breaches and honest errors, and (5) the research institution ensures access to information about earlier proceedings and ensures that public information honours the privacy and human dignity of all parties.
As from 2018, Estonia is represented in the Mutual Learning Excercise (MLE) on Research Integrity. This program is initiated by the European Commission in which 14 countries exchange good scientific practices to learn from one another and for Estonia a means to also get ideas for the establishment of an Estonian institutional structure for research integrity.
Last update: May 2019