Austrian Agency for Research Integrity
The Austrian Agency for Research Integrity was initiated in 2008 by 12 Austrian universities as well as the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF), IST Austria and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) as a registered non-profit society. In the meantime, it has a total of 48 member institutions, in particular all Austrian universities, universities of applied sciences and various non-university research and funding institutions. The agency is exclusively financed by membership fees which are determined by the institution’s size.
ENRIO member since
Association, voluntary based
The agency is responsible for investigating alleged cases of research misconduct in Austria in a professional manner, evaluating the severity of each violation and proposing consequential measures with the first two tasks being assigned to the Commission for Research Integrity, an independent body consisting of distinguished non-Austrian scholars.
Furthermore, the agency is aiming to prevent questionable and unacceptable research practices (at best research misconduct) and to raise awareness by offering lectures and workshops on “good scientific practice” to its member institutions. Additionally, the agency provides advice to its members in all matters related to research integrity. As to research misconduct the agency will publish recommendations of what should be regarded as misconduct and how to detect and prevent it.
The Commission for Research Integrity has neither an arbitrary nor an adjudicative function but offers a neutral and factual platform for investigating thoroughly and impartially (alleged) cases of research misconduct. Any individual as well as any institution in Austria can approach the Commission of Research Integrity which is in case of non-members free to decide whether an allegation is to be pursued.
The Commission for Research Integrity constitutes an independent body of the society “Austrian Agency for Research Integrity” which particularly deals with cases of research misconduct. It consists of six members who are renowned scientists in different fields of expertise. They are nominated by the Austrian Science Board and appointed by the society’s general assembly. The Commission’s members are non-Austrian citizens in order to guarantee independence from the Austrian science system.
The Commission offers a neutral and objective forum to be able to investigate cases of (alleged) research misconduct. Its work is based on the Rules of Procedure for the Investigation of Alleged Research Misconduct and their Annex which are the Guidelines for the Investigation of Alleged Research Misconduct . One of the Commission’s most important principles is confidentiality in order to protect both the whistleblowers’ and the accused persons’ identities.
A private individual or the head of a member organization turns to the Commission with a certain suspicion. Consequently, the Commission verifies whether the enquiry both in terms of locality (connection to Austria) and content (research misconduct) lies in its field of competence. The Commission declines the investigation of problems arising from study regulations or other legal difficulties and cases which date back more than ten years. If the enquiry is put forward by a private individual or an institution which is not a member of the Agency for Research Integrity, the Commission may decline it.
As soon as the Commission initiates an investigation, the enquiry officially starts an investigation. The Commission concludes its work by issuing a so called “statement” which is addressed to the institution concerned. The Commission is not a decision making body and has no legal competence. Hence, its final statement is a recommendation. It is up to the institution concerned to take measures and apply sanctions.
The normative power of the commission’s work results from its impartial and factual reviewing of cases, which makes the commission an important benchmark for research integrity in Austria.
Furthermore, the agency applies its knowledge to the task of preventing questionable and unacceptable research practices (at best research misconduct) and raising consciousness for it. In workshops, the participants discuss cases of research misconduct in small working groups. For universities with international researchers the workshops are also offered in English.
The agency holds regularly a specific Train-the-Trainer programme for lectirers and multiplicators both in German and in English. The main aims are that member organizations are able to provide workshops on good scientific practice autonomously and multiplicators for RI are established.
Promoting Research Integrity
Working group Plagarism
The agency’s administrative office has furthermore launched the national working group “Plagiarism – Control and Prevention”. More than 20 Austrian research institutions take part in its meetings. Its aim to establish in all Austrian institutions of higher education a uniform definition of the term plagiarism in the Universities Act was achieved in 2015 which is a prerequisite for a uniform way of handling cases of plagiarism.
Austrian Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education
In June 2016 the Austrian Agency and the Austrian Student Ombudsman founded the National Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education. The Networks aim is to have a regular exchange among education institutions as well as non-university research institutions that also recruit young scientists. For further information: www.hochschulombudsnetz.at.