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What “research misconduct” means

“The researcher is responsible for compliance with good research practice in their research. The entity responsible for research has overarching responsibility for research being conducted in accordance with good research practice.”

Act (Swedish Code of Statutes 2019:504) on responsibility for good research practice and the examination of research misconduct

Research misconduct

In Section 2 of the Act, “research misconduct” is defined as “a serious deviation from good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism that is committed intentionally or through gross negligence when planning, conducting or reporting research.”

The National Board for Assessment of Research Misconduct (Npof) is allowed to investigate only deviations (breaches) of the types covered by the definition of “research misconduct”.

Accordingly, the Board examines fabrication, falsification and plagiarism only. These terms are defined not in the Act but in the preparatory work for it, which states how the Act should be interpreted and referenced. The terms are described in research ethics codes and guidelines, such as The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and the Swedish Research Council’s publication Good Research Practice.

Fabrication: is making up results and recording them as if they were real.

Falsification: is manipulating research materials, equipment or processes or changing, omitting or suppressing data or results without justification.

Plagiarism: is using other people’s work and ideas without giving proper credit to the original source, thus violating the rights of the original author(s) to their intellectual outputs.

For fabrication, falsification and plagiarism to constitute research misconduct, there must also have been a serious breach of (deviation from) good research practice. In addition, the breach must have been committed with intent or through gross negligence.

Severe breach (deviation): fabrication and falsification always, in principle, constitute serious breaches of good research practice. In some cases, such as for a minor infraction on a single occasion, plagiarism should not be regarded as being a serious breach.

Intent or gross negligence: according to the preparatory work for the Act, “intent” means that the researcher must have understood what (s)he has done, while “negligence” means that the researcher should have understood this in any case. “Gross negligence” requires the conduct to be particularly serious or reprehensible. According to the preparatory work, oversights, carelessness or misunderstanding should not, as a rule, be regarded as gross negligence.

Read more about how to interpret the law in the preparatory work for the Act, Government Bill 2018/19:58, introducing a new set of rules to promote good practice and deal with research misconduct.

Link to Swedish Government Bill 2018/19:58, on the Riksdag’s website

Who investigates what?

Entities responsible for research examine breaches of good research practice other than misconduct

Npof examines what is defined in the Act as constituting research misconduct, as laid out above.

Other breaches of good research practice, falling outside the definition of misconduct, are examined by the research principals themselves.

Several higher education institutions (HEIs) describe these “other breaches” as follows:

“Other breaches of good research practice” means deviations from good research practice that do not count as research misconduct but substantially damage, or risk damaging, the integrity of the research or the researchers, and are committed intentionally or with gross negligence in the planning, execution or reporting of research, or of artistic research and development.”

Several different sets of guidelines, codes and definitions are used by the entities responsible for research in their investigations. The following are the most common:

Read more about good research practice at

Ethical Review Authority conducts ethical review of some research

The remit of The Swedish Ethical Review Authority (EPM) is to protect participants involved in research. They do this by examining applications for ethical review of research on humans, but also of research on biological samples and sensitive personal data.

By reviewing research projects correctly and effectively, EPM boosts confidence in Swedish research.

Read more about the Ethical Review Authority.

Ethics Appeal Review Board

The Swedish Ethics Appeal Review Board (ÖNEP) is responsible for reviewing applications for ethical review approval that have been submitted and/or appealed. The Board also exercises supervision of compliance with the Swedish Act (2003:460) on ethical review of research involving humans (the Ethical Review Act).

Read more about ÖNEP.

Do you have any reason to suspect plagiatism, falsification or fabrication?

Have you been reported?

If you have been reported for research misconduct, you can read more here about what to do and how the investigation is conducted.