Country Report Lithuania
National Research Integrity Landscape
In Lithuania, the promotion of ethical behaviour in academia is carried out under the principle of shared responsibility, which is divided among a few national public bodies, such as Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures, Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, Chief Official Ethics Commission, Commission for Research Performance Ethics under Research Council of Lithuania and Bioethics Committee. In addition to these, there are also non-governmental organisations which contribute to the promotion of academic (research) integrity – Lithuanian University Rectors’ Conference, Lithuanian Students’ Union and Lithuanian Junior Researchers’ Union. Three of the national bodies – Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures, Commission for Research Performance Ethics under Research Council of Lithuania and Bioethics Committee – promote research integrity. The Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures, part of a national higher education and research system, is co-involved in the implementation of higher education and research policy.
Institutions (Office of the Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures)
Mission(s) and tasks
The Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures (Ombudsperson) contributes to the development of higher education and research quality through diverse interventive and preventive activities, such as handling of alleged violations of academic ethics and/or procedures, having roundtable discussions and other events with academia and other stakeholders, delivering workshops to them, developing recommendations and guidelines as well as carrying out analytical studies. Activities of the Ombudsperson shall be based on the principles of legitimacy, impartiality, justice and publicity.
A person of good repute, having an academic research degree and experience in management is appointed to the position of Ombudsperson. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania (parliament) appoints an Ombudsperson for the term of five years on the recommendation of the Research Council of Lithuania. The same person may be appointed to the position of the Ombudsperson only for two consecutive terms of Office. The owner of the Office of the Ombudsperson is the state. The institution establishing the Office of the Ombudsperson and exercising the rights and duties of the owner is the Seimas.
The Office has 10 full-time positions. Seven employees are contracted as public officers (e.g. advisors and specialists for public administration) and as regular employees (e.g. specialists for technical assistance). Some employees are part-time. Three public officers with educational background in law are appointed to investigate the allegations.
Scope and remit
In order to promote self-regulation of research and higher education institutions (i.e. universities, colleges, research institutes), the Ombudsperson may recommend the whistleblowers to apply to a commission for academic ethics or another dispute resolution commission of the respective research and higher education institution, which supervises the compliance with academic ethics and procedures.
All investigations regarding alleged violations of academic ethics and/or procedures are handled based on the Law on Higher Education and Research and internal documents of the institutions complained. No sanction is applied to any academic misconduct, except for contract cheating.
The investigation of an alleged violation of academic ethics and/or procedures begins with the reception of a complaint and/or evidence. At the initial stage, a preliminary investigation encompasses an analysis of the information/evidence obtained and consideration of prospective actions. If the Office decides that there are no grounds for initiating an investigation (e.g. due to kind of malpractice), the case is forwarded to a related public body. For instance, cases related to mismanagement of funds by university rectors are handled by the Chief Official Ethics Commission; cases related to discrimination in academia is handled by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson. If the Office decides to proceed further with the investigation, details of an alleged violation are specified and the communication with affected stakeholders is initiated. Decision of the Ombudsperson might be of different nature: s/he concludes to terminate the investigation because of the absence of supportive evidence, declares the complaint as unfounded or acknowledges the violation of academic ethics and/or procedures. After the decision is taken, the Office informs the parties involved as well as the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and, where relevant, Research Council of Lithuania.
The Ombudsperson shall examine a submitted complaint and take a decision not later than within 30 days. Due to the complexity of circumstances indicated in the complaint or because additional information must be obtained during the complaint handling, the time limit for investigating the complaint and taking a decision may be extended for up to three months from the date of receipt of the complaint.
Definition of research misconduct
The Law on Higher Education and Research defines academic ethics as the entirety of recognized academic values, ensuring the transparency, academic integrity and justice of the research and higher education process, equality of the parties involved in this process, non-discrimination, responsibility, sustainable use of resources, academic freedom, impartiality of the evaluation of the works, trust, respect and the protection of intellectual property. Undermining of academic ethics is followed with diverse responsibility, such as criminal responsibility for authorship misappropriation, administrative liability for contract cheating.
No explicit definition of research misconduct is provided by laws; however, in the Recommendations for Examining and Investigating Complaints and Reports at the Initiative of the Ombudsperson, depending on circumstances of an investigation, certain violations may be classified as serious or minor. Circumstances of a violation shall be classified depending on their nature, frequency, duration and other circumstances. In addition to this, in the same Recommendations types of violations of academic ethics are listed, such as violations of research ethics and applied research ethics and violations of publication ethics.
Opinions and appeal
The Ombudsperson may recruit independent experts for providing an expertise regarding an investigation.
Any decision of the Ombudsperson might be appealed following administrative proceedings within a month after making the decision. The court might remain the Ombudsperson’s decision in force at partial or full extent as well as make it null.
Follow-up and monitoring
The Ombudsperson might provide recommendations to enhance certain improvements in research and higher education institutions. Afterwards, the Ombudsperson monitors the implementation of these recommendations and finds out difficulties that research and higher education institutions face while implementing them.
Decisions of the Ombudsperson are anonymized. Full-text decisions are made available on the Office’s website within one month if they are not appealed to court. Also, annual reports and open data are publicized on the Office’s website.
Hearings of the Office’s managerial and other questions are usually discussed by the Parliamentarian Committee on Education and Science which are broadcast live and video recorded. All video records are available on YouTube channel.
For further information see https://etikostarnyba.lt/
To submit a complaint, request or questions, contact via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: 16 December 2019