New Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

13 September 2018

The new version of the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity will be published today. Recently, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Associated Applied Research Institutes (TO2), Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH), and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) worked together intensively to thoroughly amend and expand the Code of Conduct that has been in use since 2004.

This amendment process, which included a public consultation, was led by a committee chaired by Prof. Keimpe Algra. The Code of Conduct will enter into force on 1 October 2018. Committee chair Prof. Keimpe Algra says, “Research integrity is essential if research is to be conducted properly. This new Code of Conduct ensures that the Netherlands keeps up with international developments regarding research integrity. I am proud that we have drawn up a Code of Conduct that applies to fundamental, applied, and practical research. This new Code of Conduct describes clear standards that researchers in many research organizations can apply to their daily practices”.

A joint code of consuct for academic integrity is very important for research and is fully supported by the universities. One of the provisions in the Code of Conduct stipulates that, in the event of alleged research misconduct, all the relevant research and data will be made available for verification subject to the confidentiality safeguards established by the board of the institution (Section 3.2,  art.12a). The UvA attaches great value to this provision and will therefore refrain from the exception clause in article 12b of 3.2, not making use of the possibility included here, of not disclosing the research, including data, to an investigation into alleged research misconduct. The newly adopted Code will be evaluated in two years' time, and special attention will be paid to the application of article 12b at that time.

Compared with the previous version, a number of striking elements of the new Code of Conduct are as follows:

  • The new Code of Conduct is written in such a way that it can apply to both public and public-private scientific research in the Netherlands.
  • The Code of Conduct specifically allows for collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches, as it takes into account the differences between different institutions. The Code of Conduct defines five principles of research integrity and 61 standards for good research practices and duties of care for the institutions.
  • The institutions’ duties of care are new additions to this Code of Conduct. With these, the research organizations show that they are responsible for providing a working environment that promotes and safeguards good research practices.
  • Moreover, the new Code of Conduct for Research Integrity distinguishes between research misconduct, questionable research practices, and minor shortcomings.
  • The final chapter describes how an institution must address potential research misconduct.
  • On the one hand, the Code of Conduct grants institutions adequate scope to deliver a balanced verdict regarding potential research misconduct, while on the other hand it explicitly states the criteria that play a role in such a scenario.

The final point clearly shows how the Code of Conduct should be viewed: as a helping hand that researchers and institutions can and will apply themselves. Committee member Prof. Lex Bouter says, “This Code of Conduct is a way for participating organizations to demonstrate that integrity is an essential part of their research practice. We want researchers to be able to work in an open environment in which they feel responsible and accountable. Science can only develop further if people can share concerns about dilemmas and discuss errors made. This Code of Conduct is our contribution to that thought.”

Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)

Published by  University of Amsterdam