National Research Integrity Landscape
The Slovak Republic does not have a national commission on research integrity with competence over all university and non-university research institutions. This country report describes the Ethics Committee of the Slovak Academy of Sciences which is the leading non-university public research institution in the Slovak Republic with research institutes all over the country, dealing with cases of research misconduct within its institution and affiliated institutes. Besides, all public universities have a commission for scientific integrity as well to deal with cases of research misconduct within their institution.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS)
The Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) was established in 1953. It is the leading non-university public research institution in the Slovak Republic. The SAS is set up as a complex of 49 public research institutions. The SAS consists of the (i) Presidium (ii) Assembly (iii) Scientific Council (iv) Ethics Committee (vi) Head Office, and (vi) Learned Society. The Academy employs almost 3,000 employees, of which aobut two-third are researchers. It carries out fundamental and strategic applied research in three scientific divisions (I) Physical, Space, Earth, and Engineering Sciences (II) Life, Chemical, Medical and Environment sciences (III) Social Sciences, Humanities, Art and Culture. The SAS is financed from the state budget. Supplementary sources of income include funds from grant agencies on the basis of competition with scientific projects, and from abroad in particular from the EU.
The Ethics Committee of the SAS
In 2006, the Ethics Committee of the SAS was established by the Slovak Academy (SAS). It was established as an advisory body to the Presidium of the SAS. It, however, operates independently of all organs of the SAS and its institutes.
The Ethics Committee of the SAS is governed by the Statute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the SAS Ethics Code. The latter is for internal use and was prepared by the Ethics Committee of the SAS and approved by the Presidium of the SAS. It holds fundamental principles of ethical conduct and research integrity within the SAS and its institutes. It, among others, is based on the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the European Charter and Code for Researchers and the Finnish Code of TENK The responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland. The SAS Ethics Code includes a framework of principles of good scientific practice, including the method of resolving cases of violation of its principles. All research institutes of the SAS have implemented the SAS Ethics Code.
Mission(s) and tasks
The mission of the Ethics Committee of the SAS is to evaluate all aspects concerning ethics and research integrity within the framework of the SAS and its institutes, including resolving correctable violations of scientific conduct in first or second instance, occurring within the SAS or its institutes. It does not organize or give trainings but the Committee’s members may give individual lectures on the structure and role of the Committee in upholding good scientific practice.
The mandate of the Ethics Committee of the SAS is to examine, conclude, resolve (by eventually mediating) on suspected cases of research misconduct within the SAS or its institutes. It may not impose sanctions.
The Ethics Committee of the SAS consists of at least 12 (Slovak) member experts, representing the three scientific divisions of the SAS. All have voting rights. All are appointed by the Presidium of the SAS for a (maximum) 4-years-term.
Scope and remit
The scope of the Ethics Committee of the SAS is restricted to the SAS and its institutes. Its remit is restricted to research misconduct committed by the employees of and within the SAS and its institutes, e.g. its PhD-candidates and researchers and institute management. All (these) employees can submit an enquiry with the Ethics Committee of the SAS. Anonymous enquiries are not accepted.
According to Article VII of the SAS Ethics Code, possible violations of the fundamentals of proper conduct in science shall be resolved by the institute of the SAS at an organisational level, always one level higher than that in which a dispute arose. A violation of the principles of the SAS Ethics Code shall be resolved by the Ethics Committee of the SAS (i) in first instance, if the resolution of a dispute exceeds the competence of the Institute of the SAS (e.g. involvement of two institutes) or (ii) in second instance, if parties to the dispute do not agree with the conclusions adopted by the Institute of the SAS. The enquiry with the Ethics Committee of the SAS must be in writing with regard to the aforementioned under (i): by the Institute of the SAS, and under (ii): by the party who disagrees with the conclusions adopted by the Institute of the SAS. All involved must commit to strict confidentiality. In examining a case, the Ethics Committee of the SAS first will request documentary information of the parties involved, followed by a hearing during a meeting of the Ethics Committee of the SAS. At the end of this meeting, it – without the presence of the parties involved – decides on the case by voting. The resulting opinion is sent to the parties involved. In specific cases (e.g. a decision of the committee is not accepted by one of the parties involved or a consensus between parties cannot be reached or a regulatory decision is needed) the resulting opinion is submitted to the Presidium of the SAS, enabling a regulatory decision of this governing body of the SAS if needed. Where the professional expertise of the Ethics Committee of the SAS is insufficient, it will request confidential support from external referees. Based on the information provided, it will come to a report on the resolution of the dispute which must include measures leading to rectifying the problem if the violation of ethics of scientific conduct was involved.
Definition of research misconduct
Article VI of the SAS Ethics Code states that the following are considered to be conduct incompatible with the fundamentals of ethical conduct in science: ‘falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, manipulating authorship, delaying the work of another researcher, for example, through refereed peer reviewing, maliciously accusing a researcher of research misconduct, and misleading the general public by publicly presenting deceptive or distorted information concerning one’s own results or the scientific importance or applicability of those results.’
Conclusions and appeal
The conclusions of the Ethics Committee of the SAS are based on the framework of the SAS Ethics Code. It is not bound by time limits in writing its report on the resolution of the dispute. Its reports on the resolution of the dispute, including measures leading to rectifying the problem are binding. The report is sent to all parties involved. Appeal from it in principle is not possible: the Ethics Committee of the SAS operates as the highest instance within the SAS, dealing with research misconduct cases. However, in case the Committee’s resulting opinion is submitted to the Presidium of the SAS, appeal in court is possible from the regulatory decisions taken by the Presidium.
Follow-up and monitoring
Follow-up and monitoring on sanctions or measures taken, takes place by the research institution in question which imposed these on the person accused of research misconduct.
The SAS publishes its Annual Reports as from 2007 on its website in the Slovak language. In these Annual Reports there is no mentioning of the Ethics Committee’s work, the number or nature of the cases. The SAS Ethics Code is published on the website of the SAS in the Slovak language. An English version will follow.
Last update: May 2019