Advisory report on the Dutch Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice

Last modified: May 21, 2017

Background

The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice, which describes the basic principles underpinning sound academic teaching and research, took effect in 2004. Since then, science has undergone significant changes. For example, the amount of data-intensive research continues to grow. Academic integrity has also been a rising topic of concern in recent years, in part owing to a number of major incidents. A number of important reports and books on the subject have appeared during the same period. They include reports by the Algra Committee (Vertrouwen in wetenschap), the Bensing Committee (Correct Citeren) and the Schuyt Committee (Zorgvuldig en integer omgaan met wetenschappelijke onderzoeksgegevens). These reports convinced the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) to make minor changes to the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice. In light of recent advances in science and given the importance of academic integrity, the time has come to look in greater detail at the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice.

 

Remit of the Committee

In late 2015, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU) installed an advisory committee. The committee’s task was to explore the extent to which the current Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice complied with the criteria that should be set for such a code and whether the code should be revised. Specifically, the committee was asked to study:

  1. the relationship between the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Integrity and international codes,
  2. the nature of the code of conduct,
  3. the principles of sound scientific practice,
  4. the advisability of applying the code to applied, practice-based, or private research,
  5. the usefulness of the code of conduct in education and
  6. the design of the code of conduct.

The committee was asked to issue an overarching advisory report on the above points for the boards of the VSNU, the Academy, the NWO and the NFU.

It was also asked to look in detail at a few specific topics: plagiarism, whether the code should include sanctions, and whether anonymous complaints should be considered.

 

Advisory report

The Committee completed its advisory report on 20 June. The report recommends rewriting the current Dutch Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice in accordance with the following guidelines:

  1. Distinguish between and deal with three levels: 1) principles, 2) standards, and 3) violations of integrity
  2. Have the code focus solely on research practices, based on five principles: honesty, scrupulousness, transparency, independence and responsibility
  3. Write the code such that it can secure the support of diverse researchers and organisations that conduct research
  4. Emphasise both individual and institutional responsibilities in the code
  5. Place the emphasis in the code on what are generally acknowledged to be serious violations of integrity, but do not exclude negligent and questionable practices
  6. Address the subject of sanctions without relating these directly to the seriousness of violations of integrity
  7. Create a system in which cases of suspected violations of research integrity are so transparently documented that any future changes to the Dutch code of conduct can be based on actual practice, in accordance with international guidelines.

The complete list of recommendations can be found here.

 

The boards of the VSNU, the Academy, the NWO and the NFU have adopted this advisory report and will set up a new committee to rewrite the code in line with the committee’s advice. The new committee will consist of representatives of the VSNU, the Academy, the NWO, the NFU, the TO2 Federation and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH).

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