Country Report Spain
National Research Integrity Landscape
In Spain there is no national body on research integrity, although the Law on Science, Technology and Innovation of 2011 referred to the creation of such. In this country report, the Ethics Committee is described of the largest public research institution in Spain, the CSIC, leading in promoting good scientific practices in Spain. This committee deals with ethical conflicts within the CSIC and also drafted the National Statement on Research Integrity. The latter was jointly subscribed on 2 December 2015 by the CSIC, the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) and the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies. By subscribing the National Statement of Research Integrity, universities and research institutions are bound to adopt codes of good practice and promote, define, implement and disseminate clear policies for scientific integrity and make steps to include the principles of scientific integrity as described in this statement in their training programs, establish or identify the bodies responsible for these measures, and develop procedures for the identification, handling and management of scientific malpractice.
The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) is the largest research institution in Spain and the third in Europe. It belongs to the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. Its mission is to foster, coordinate, develop and promote scientific and technological research, of multidisciplinary nature, in order to contribute to advancing knowledge and economic, social and cultural development, as well as to train staff and advise public and private entities. Its activity covers 8 scientific-technical areas (1) Humanities and social sciences (2) Biology and biomedicine (3) Natural resources (4) Agriculturual sciences (5) Physical science and technologies (6) Materials science and technology (7) Food science and technology (8) Chemical science and technology. Currently, the CSIC has more than 120 research institutes and centers, involving almost 14.000 employees of whom 3,000 are staff researchers, and the same number are doctors and scientists who are in training.
The CSIC financing comes in part from the state budget, but most of the research funds come from national and international competitive calls, as well as from collaboration with the private sector.
CSIC’s Ethics Committee
In 2007, the Ethics Committee was established by Royal Decree as a permanent and advisory collegiate body within the CSIC to support its President and Governing Body. Its members are appointed by the Governing Body of the CSIC. The Committee operates independently from other organs and units of the CSIC.
The CSIC’s Ethics Committee is governed by the Royal Decree 1730/2007, its Operating Rules of 2008, revised in 2015, the Code of Good Scientific Practices of CSIC of 2010, the CSIC Manual of Conflicts of Interest of October 2015, and the Spanish National Statement on Research Integrity of December 2015.
Mission(s) and tasks
In accordance with its Statute, the main functions entrusted to the CSIC’s Ethics Committee are to reflect, issue reports and make recommendations on matters related to the ethical and deontological principles concerning research activity. In addition, the Committee performs the ethical assessment of research conducted at CSIC involving ethics issues. Said Committee promotes research integrity and the prevention of research misconduct, deals with ethical conflicts (research misconduct cases and other deviations from good research practices) and with conflicts of interest. Hence, the Committee is responsible for both research ethics and research integrity issues. In line of the latter tasks, the CSIC’s Ethics Committee, in 2010, has drawn up the Code of Good Scientific Practices of CSIC which brings together a set of rules, principles, compromises, declarations and/or recommendations applicable to all research areas with the aim to raise ethical awareness within CSIC. Also, it drafted the CSIC Manual of Conflict of Interest of 2015 and the Spanish National Statement on Research Integrity of 2015. The CSIC Manual of Conflict of Interest is considering more in-depth the different areas of risk within CSIC. The ambition of the National Statement on Research Integrity is the adoption of good scientific practice nationwide. The Ethics Committee further also organises and gives training.
The CSIC’s Ethics Committee is the specialized organ within the CSIC that deals with ethical conflicts. It analyzes the different aspects of the conflict, assesses possible consequences, issues the corresponding agreement and if considered relevant, recommends further action to the CSIC’s President. When appropriate, the Committee request the help of experts. Since the Committee is an advisory body, it is not entitled to impose sanctions. If appropiate, the CSIC’s President can open an informative or disciplinary process. Administrative sanctions can only be imposed in accordance with the principles of legality and prior definition of administrative offences.
The CSIC’s Ethics Committee has an heterogeneous and multidisciplinary composition. It consists of up to 12 members, not all of them belonging to the CSIC. The Committee comprises two subcommittees: (1) Subcommittee on Bioethics: responsible for the implementation of suitable procedures in this field, and (2) Conflicts Subcommittee: responsible for dealing with ethical conflicts which may arise during the research activity. All members have voting rights and are appointed by the Governing Board of the CSIC for a 4-years-term, renewable once. The CSIC Ethics Committee is supported by the CSIC’s Department of Ethics in Research, the Head of the latter acting as Secretary of the Commitee.
Scope and remit
The scope of the Ethics Committee is restricted: the Code of Good Scientific Practices of CSIC of 2010 and the CSIC Manual of Conflicts of Interest of October 2015 apply to CSIC’s staff including its trainees only. The Spanish National Statement on Research Integrity of December 2015, on the other hand, aims to apply nationwide and is already subscribed by also the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) and the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies. Regarding its remit: any individual or institution can bring a case to the attention of the Secretary of the Ethics Committee, whose field of competence, however, is limited to CSIC and its employees. The Ethics Committee may handle anonymous reports if they contain serious allegations and the circumstances of the case make it advisable.
In case of conflicts of interest, based on the CSIS Manual of Conflicts, CSIC staff members who may become involved in a conflict of interest must inform their administrative superior immediately of any and all circumstances that might affect the independence of their actions or the impartiality of their judgement. In addition, they must complete the CSIC Declaration of Conflicts of Interest Form. In research misconduct cases, the claimant/informant must submit a description of the ethical conflict in writing to the Secretary of the Ethics Committee. Likewise, any other CSIC organ or member of the Committee may bring a conflict to the attention of said Committee. In all of the cases, the Secretary will acknowledge receipt of the conflict and register it. The Committee always works under strict confidentiality criteria. In examining a case, the Secretary of the Ethics Committee will first determine whether the Committee is the competent body to address the issue and will provide the Chairperson and the Conflicts Subcommittee with its recommendation. If the conflict handling is dismissed, within seven days the Secretary will notify the informant by email or post. If handling of the conflict is accepted, the Conflicts Subcommittee will interview those involved for their comments. Any claims must be properly substantiated by documents. The Conflicts Subcommittee can also organise private interviews with those in charge of management who might provide relevant additional information. If applicable, experts or specialised commissions will be appointed to analyse the case and provide advice to the CSIC’s Ethics Committee. Following completion of the procedure, the said Committee will agree on a conclusion.
Definition of research misconduct
The following actions, whether intentional or due to negligence, are deemed to constitute research misconduct under the CSIC Code of Good Scientific Practices (a) Falsification of data or test to fit a hypothesis (b) Fabrication of data and discoveries (c) Plagiarism of the work of others. In furtherance hereof, the Code also describes effective mechanisms for fighting this (i) requiring the researcher to submit any new contribution to peer review so other colleagues can check results (ii) disapproval and fight against fraud by the scientific community (iii) coordination among all stakeholders involved in scientific research to ensure the effectiveness of the fight against fraud.
Conclusions and appeal
The CSIC ‘s Ethics Committee is not bound by time limits in writing its resulting conclusion, but it ensures that cases are dealt with rapidly. Its conclusion is sent to the parties involved and to the President of the CSIC simultaneously. If appropriate, recommendations to the President can be raised. The findings of the CSIC’s Ethics Committee on research misconduct are not binding on the President of the CSIC. Notwithstanding, based on the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee, the CSIC President may order informative or disciplinary proceedings, to be conducted in accordance with current legislation. The ruling is communicated to the parties involved including the offence committed, the sanction imposed and the possibility and time for appeal before the administrative court.
The Ethics Committee’s documents are all published on its page on the website of CSIC. Whereas the Ethics Committee must report on its activities to the President of the CSIC, these reports are not published on the website of the CSIC. The CSIC itself publishes its Annual Reports on the website, however, these do not include information on research misconduct cases handled by the CSIC’s Ethics Committee.
Last update: May 2019