Country Report Poland
National Research Integrity Landscape
Poland has a national institutional structure on research integrity in the Science Ethics Commission (also Commission) within the Polish Academy of Science. In 2010, the Academy obtained a mandate to establish a national operating commission within its Academy from Poland’s Parliament. Based on the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010, the Commission is authorized to issue opinions on submitted cases concerning a breach of ethics in science by researchers in Poland. However, in practice, it acts as an advisory body, promoting research integrity, not undertaking specific investigations and rather trying to identify the specific nature of a problem and urging respective authorities to address and solve a given problem. Hence, it leaves the primary responsibility for handling cases of research misconduct with public and private research institutions. Its assignment by the Act of 2010 to develop a national code of conduct for research integrity, in time, resulted in the Code of Ethics for Research Workers of 2012, revised in 2016 (also Code). This Code holds recommendations on good scientific practice and applies to all research workers in Poland. The Code also holds recommendations of procedures for research institutions, including the appointment of a disciplinary officer and a disciplinary committee to deal with research misconduct cases. In time, universities have their own codes and disciplinary committees whereby they may decide to adopt recommendations of the Code. Also other nationwide operating organisations, e.g. the National Science Centre (NCN) play(s) an important role for research institutions in Poland in respect of promoting research integrity. The NCN, a government agency – set up in 2011 and supervised by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education – supports and funds basic research in 3 major areas (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences/Life Sciences/Physical Sciences and Engineering). In March 2016, it established The Rules of Procedure for the Investigation of Alleged Research Misconduct and The Code of the National Science Centre on Research Integrity and Applying for Research Funding. It, too, assigned a NCN Committee on Research Integrity in September 2016. This NCN Committee reviews and resolves allegations of research misconduct in NCN funded research projects, carried out by individual researchers and research teams, both on the domestic and international level, including alleged research misconduct by researchers applying for NCN funds and/or reporting on the final data of NCN funded research. Further than that, it aims to prevent questionable and unacceptable research practices and to raise awareness by offering lectures and workshops on good scientific practice to research institutions, additionally providing advice related to research integrity.
The Polish Academy for Sciences (PAS)
Being a state scientific institution, founded in 1952, the Academy, from the very beginning, functions as a learned society acting through an elected body of top scholars and research institutes. It became a major scientific advisory body through the work of its scientific committees. Its mission is to further the advancement of science in Poland, while adhering to the highest standards of research quality and ethical norms. The Science Ethics Commission is part of the Academy. The Academy’s highest governing body is its General Assembly. The Academy is structured into 5 divisions (i) Humanities and Social Sciences (ii) Biologica land Agricultural Sciences (iii) Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences (iv) Engineering Sciences, and (v) Medical Sciences. By the end of 2018, it has 68 research institutes and employs about 8,800 employees more than one third (about 3,800) whom are researchers. The Academy’s primary funding comes from the state budget.
The Science Ethics Commission (Commission)
The Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010 introduced a national Commission for issues of ethics in science within the Academy. This committee, the Science Ethics Committee (also Committee), was established in 2011 by the General Assembly as part – but independent – of the Academy. It was established as a national advisory collegial body, operating independently of all other organs of the Academy, its institutes and the government.
The Commission is governed by the the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010 and the Code of Ethics for Research Workers (also Code). The Code was prepared by the Commission and enacted by the Academy’s General Assembly in 2011 and revised on 1 December 2016. The Code includes recommendations and defines criteria for good practices and ethical violations in research work and establishes the procedures which should be used in case research misconduct is uncovered. It is based on the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. All research institutes of the Academy have implemented the Code.
Mission(s) and tasks
The wish of the Polish Parliament to introduce a national committee for issues of ethics in science within the Academy, was to establish a national oversight of research ethics and to ensure that serious cases of scientific misconduct were actually dealt with if research institutions on the local level failed to do so. In furtherance hereof, the missions and tasks of the Commission were (1) to promote good scientific practice in Poland, among others, through the Code and by holding periodical meetings in major academic Polish centers with local academic and scientific authorities, discussing current major issues related to ethics in science and research integrity, and (2) to, when needed, issue opinions on submitted cases concerning a breach of ethics in science by researchers in Poland. The Commission does not organise or give trainings.
Based on Article 39 of the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010, the Commission is authorized to deliver opinions on – and to mediate on – matters concerning breaches of scientific ethics by an employee of a higher education institution, scientific unit of the Academy and a research institute referred to in the Act of 30 April 2010 on Research Institutes, including without limitation in proceedings instituted by disciplinary committees. On its own initiative, it may also refer matters concerning breaches of scientific ethics by the employees of the foregoing research institutions to competent disciplinairy committees with a recommendation that preliminary investigation be conducted.
The Commission shall include no more than 9 persons i.e. member experts (professors), representing the academic and higher education community in Poland. A Chairperson presides the confidential meetings. All members are nominated by scientific institutions and universities and appointed by the General Assembly for a 4-years-term that is renewable. All members have voting rights. Administrative services of the Committee are performed by the Chancellery of the Academy.
Scope and remit
The scope of the Commission is nationwide. This derives from Article 39 of the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010 determining the Commission’s remit as described above under the subhead ‘Authority’. Regarding suspected research misconduct in (public and private) research institutions in Poland, any one from the public – in Poland or abroad – may address to the research institution in question or the Commission. Besides, disciplinary committees of (public and private) research institutions in Poland may address to the Commission when they have doubts regarding the classification of research misconduct. The local disciplinary committee should specify in detail what doubts it has. A request must be accompanied by case files. The Commission does not handle anonymous requests.
Requests to the Commission for an opinion on alleged research misconduct must be submitted in writing to its Chairperson. In general, the Commission does not undertake specific investigations in first nor second instance, rather trying to identify the specific nature of a problem and urging respective authorities to address and solve a given problem. On the local level, according to the recommendations in the Code, one must report suspected research misconduct to the Rector of the university or the Director of the institution where the research is conducted. The notification should include the nature of the allegation, detailed justification, signature and contact details of the reporter. The disciplinary officer is responsible for carrying out the investigation, the purpose of which is to determine whether there are grounds to justify the opening of disciplinary proceedings. If the information provided concerns gross violation of ethics in science, the disciplinary officer is obliged to open an investigation. Persons accused of research misconduct shall be immediately informed of the opening of the investigation. Accused party shall be given an opportunity to respond to allegations and provide explanations, and shall be able to seek legal advice. A strict confidentiality in ethics investigation must be maintained and appropriate recordkeeping should be observed. Facts and circumstances should be fully examined and disciplinary and corrective actions should be taken in accordance with applicable laws. Responses should depend on the seriousness of the research misconduct, on the level of intent, on the consequences of the behaviour, and on other aggravating or mitigating circumstances. The investigation should end with a confidential report containg findings and recommendations for further proceedings. The report must be provided to the person notifiying misconduct and to the accused. If a manager of a scientific unit, on the basis of the report, finds the allegation of research misconduct to be unfounded, the case shall be closed and the parties involved in the investigation shall be informed. The accused cleared of misconduct charges should have the right to restore his or her reputation by making the outcomes of the investigation public. If a manager of a scientific unit determines that there was an absence of good faith, he or she will take discplinary action against the person who failed to act in good faith. When a conflict of interest arises at the level of the Rector or the Director, research misconduct should be notified to a higher authority i.e. Supervisory Body. If he or she considers this to be more appropriate, he or she can report the allegations to the Chairperson of Commission, who – when the allegation appears to be well-founded – hands over the case to the manager of the research unit, in which the suspected researcher is employed, to initiate disciplinary action.
Definition of research misconduct
Under Article 4.1. of the Code, gross violations of ethics in science include (i) fabrication (ii) falsification, and (iii) plagiarism. Article 4.2. lists as other inappropriate behaviour, for example, the using of work of others, be that students, doctoral students or co-workers, without adequate financial compensation or sufficient acknowledgement of contributors, or the granting of co-authorship to an individual who did not contribute intellectually to the publication. Article 4.3. further lists as serious violations of fundamental principals of research ethics: failure to report detected misconduct, attempts to cover it up, reprisals on whistleblowers, and violations of due process.
Follow-up and monitoring
Follow-up and monitoring on sanctions or measures take place by the research institutions which imposed these on the accused person of research misconduct. Article 5.2. of the Code recommends that if an investigation by a disciplinary committee of a research institution is conducted on the initiative of the Commission, the information on the outcome of this investigation should be submitted to the Commission without undue delay, pursuant to Article 39 paragraph 2 of the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010. The overseeing institution of the Academy is the Prime Minister of Poland.
Opinions and appeal
The Commission decides on its opinions by majority voting. The Commission’s opinions, if any, are based on the Code, whereby it must decide whether there is, or there is not, research misconduct. It may recommend on measures, however, it cannot impose sanctions. The Commission is not bound by time limits in writing its opinion. It is sent to all parties involved. Appeal from its opinions is not possible. In practice, decisions on research misconduct are taken on the local level. Regarding the possibility of appeal on the local level, the Code determines that local proceedings need to be conducted in accordance with the respective Acts on Science, Higher Education and Research Institutes. These Acts stipulate in detail the manner of conducting proceedings, including the possibilities of appeal against a first instance decision (disciplinary committee), e.g. with the disciplinary commission of the General Council for Science and Higher Education. If sanctions under labour law were applied by research institutions as employers of researchers, appeal is possible to the court.
The Polish Academy of Sciences publishes its Annual Reports on its website, in the Polish and the English language. In the Academy’s Annual Report of 2011, reference is made of the Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 30 April 2010, additionally introducing a committee for issues of ethics in science. The sessions of the latter, however, are all confidential and in the Academy’s Annual Reports there is no mentioning of the Committee’s work or the number or nature of its cases.
For further information on the Science Ethics Commission, see: www.institution.pan.pl
For questions on the Science Ethics Commission, send an e-mail to: Prof. A. Górski, Chairman of the Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last update: May 2019