Country Report Finland
National Research Integrity Landscape
Finland has a national board with investigatory and opinion-making authority in research misconduct cases, TENK. It serves as a second advisory body only. It leaves the primary responsibility for investigating cases with the research institutions where the alleged incident has occurred. Those which are signatories of the Finnish Code of Conduct also must notify TENK of all cases they become aware of. Moreover, at the beginning of 2017 on TENK’s initiative, the Research Integrity Adviser system was launched. Subsequently, more than 60 organisations, including universities, universities of applied sciences and other research organisations nominated a total of 120 research integrity advisers to, among others, increase personal guidance on research integrity in situations where research misconduct is expected. This number has grown over the years. In 2019, TENK, too, has drawn up a template for reporting allegations of violation of the responsible conduct of research (RCR) to simplify the process for reporting research misconduct and to make the RCR violation notification process easier.
In 1991, a national institutional structure for research integrity was legally established, the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK), by the Decree 1347 of 15 November 1991 of the Ministry of Education and Culture. It was established as a governemental committee. It is supported by a secretariat, consisting of a Secretary General and assistant secretaries which is attached to the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV), offering most of TENK’s infrastructure. TENK is part of the Ministry of Education and Culture and financed by the state budget, but it is fully independent of this Ministry.
TENK wrote the RCR guidelines (= Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland. Guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity), better known as the Finnish Code of Conduct, in co-operation with the Finnish scientific community. The RCR guidelines hold standards of good scientific practice and fundamental principles of research integrity. It aims to serve research institutions with a model for responsible conduct of research. The RCR guidelines apply to all research disciplines. TENK is governed by the Decree 1347 of 15 November 1991 and the RCR guidelines of 2002 and 2012. The latter went into force as per 1 March 2013. Those of 2002 are used for the handling of misconduct cases before this date. By signing the RCR guidelines, a research organisation voluntarily and automatically fall under TENK’s authority. By the end of April 2019, 81 signatories committed to the RCR guidelines. These include all universities, the majority of universities of applied sciences and research institutions and publicly funded research institutions, and also the Academy of Finland, the major funding agency in Finland.
TENK’s missions are (1) to promote good scientific practice, and (2) to act as a second body only in examining issues involving research integrity. TENK considers the promotion of research integrity and the prevention of research fraud as its most important tasks. It does so by (i) issuing guidelines (ii) giving education (iii) stimulating national and international networking (iv) influencing, communications (iv) monitoring the so-called RCR process and giving statements of opinion in research misconduct cases (v) providing general advice (vi) compiling statistics and international monitoring of RCR violations, and (vii) coordinating ethical reviews in human resources. TENK, too, annually organises an Ethics Day for researchers and specialists.
TENK is authorized by the RCR guidelines to investigate and to give opinions in second instance in alleged cases of research misconduct. It does not mediate. TENK started its activities on 1 February 1992.
TENK consists of 10 (Finnish) members including a legal advisor. All have voting rights. Its members must represent the most important disciplines relating to research ethics and research integrity. The Ministry of Education and Culture appoints TENK’s members based on a proposal of the scientific community for a 3-years term that can be lengthened for an indefinite period.
Scope and remit
Regarding general tasks, e.g. promoting research integrity, TENK’s authority applies to signatories and non-signatories. Regarding its investigatory and opinion-making authority, TENK’s scope and remit is restricted in that its authority applies to signatories of the RCR guidelines only, serving as a second advisory body only. So-called suspected RCR violations are investigated and eventually sanctioned in the research institution where the alleged incident has occurred. Before any requests can be submitted to TENK, the RCR process on the local level must have resulted in a decision of the signatory on the alleged research misconduct. Within this scope and remit, TENK (i) is authorized to give statements of opinion on alleged research misconduct and (ii) to act on its own initiative and to initiate a further investigation without a request for a statement of opinion of this signatory. It does not impose sanctions. The party dissatisfied can be the person of the alleged of research misconduct or the instigator of the allegation. The signatory cannot call upon TENK. TENK does not handle anonymous requests. TENK will not handle alleged research misconduct cases of students on bachelor – or master level.
If the person accused of misconduct or the reporter of the allegation is dissatisfied with the outcome or the process of the investigation, he or she can request a statement from TENK within six months. TENK’s procedures is in writing. TENK processes the statement request and asks the parties involved to submit their responses. The person who has requested the statement can comment on these responses. TENK evaluates whether the research organisation has conducted the investigation in compliance with TENK’s RCR guidelines. If so, TENK can comment on whether a violation of the responsible conduct of research has been committed. TENK may also advise the rector to initiate an additional investigation.TENK sends its opinion to the person who requested a statement, to the research institution and eventual other persons involved in the RCR process. TENK must issue an opinion within 5 months after having received the request. TENK’s opinions are binding in that research institutions on the local level need to initiate an additional procedure when recommended by TENK.
Duty of confidentiality
The RCR guidelines do not include a duty of confidentiality. This duty follows from the Administrative Procedure Act. It applies to all parties involved in the RCR process in first and second instance.
Definition of research misconduct
For TENK, in concluding whether there is research misconduct, the RCR guidelines are decisive. Under these guidelines, violations of the responsible conduct of research can be classified into research misconduct and disregard for the responsible conduct of research. Research misconduct refers to misleading the research community including fabrication, falsification, plagiarism and misappropration. Besides, in their most serious forms, disregard for the responsible conduct of research and other irresponsible practices, too, can consitute research misconduct. If not serious, these are classified as disregard for the responsible conduct of research. Violations of professional ethics do not consitute research misconduct if these do not at the same time constitute a RCR violation. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences in opinions.
Opinions and appeal
TENK comments in its opinions (only) on whether the RCR investigation has been conducted in compliance with the RCR guidelines and whether there has been a violation of the responsible conduct of research. Appeal from TENK’s statements of opinion is not possible.
Follow-up and monitoring
Signatories must notify TENK on all alleged RCR misconduct cases of which they have become aware. They, too, must notify TENK on its decisions in the RCR process, including whether (i) it will initiate a preliminary inquiry followed by a hearing, and if so (ii) it will start an investigation including the appointment of an investigation team that will issue a final report addressed to the rector of the research institution. Signatories, too, must send their final decisions to TENK on whether a RCR violation has occurred (as well as to the instigator of the allegation, the person alleged of a RCR violation and others involved e.g. the funding agency). The monitoring after eventual measures taken against the alleged person(s), takes place by the research institution in question.
TENK annually publishes its activities in its Action Plans. Its statements of opinion and the underlying cases of research misconduct are published in anonymised and summarized form in its Annual Reports. These are published on TENK’s website are in the Finnish, Swedish and English language.
For illustrative cases, for example, see:
For further information, see: www.tenk.fi
For questions, send an e-mail to: Sanna Kaisa Spoof, TENK’s Secretary General (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last update: May 2019