FAQs — Frequently asked questions
What is Npof:s remit?
Submission by entity responsible for research
Public access and secrecy
What is Npof:s remit?
Npof has a government remit to investigate whether research misconduct has occurred. Npof was formed by the Swedish Government for the purpose of promoting confidence in Swedish research. Read more about Npof’s remit on the “About us” page.
Npof examines only what the law defines as research misconduct. Section 2 of the Swedish Act (2019:504) on responsibility for good research practice and the examination of research misconduct (“the Act”) defines research misconduct as a serious breach of good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, committed with intent or through gross negligence, in the planning, conduct or reporting of research.
We examine all research conducted at any of the Swedish entities responsible for research that are covered by Section 3 of the Act. Accordingly, some private research, for example, is beyond the scope of the Act. Research in the area of defence and security policy is also exempt.
The Act applies to research carried out by
– higher education institutions (HEIs) where research is the responsibility of the Swedish state, and which are subject to the Swedish Higher Education Act (1992:1434)
– other central government agencies
– the state in the form of limited companies, if the company’s operations are regulated by law or any other statutory instrument, or if the state, as owner or through government grants, under agreements or otherwise, exerts a decisive influence over the business
– the state in the form of foundations, if the foundation’s activities are regulated by law or any other statutory instrument, or if the foundation is formed solely by or jointly with the state, or administered by a central government agency
– municipalities and regions
– limited companies, trading partnerships, economic associations and foundations in which municipalities or regions exert a legally decisive influence
– private education providers that are licensed to issue degrees and/or diplomas under the Act concerning authority to award certain qualifications (1993:792).
Why do you investigate only falsification, fabrication and plagiarism? Who investigates other breaches of good research practice?
The Board is authorised to examine only what it has been tasked to investigate. We are not allowed to go beyond this limit. Our function is to examine what falls within the definition of research misconduct in Section 2 of the Act: a serious breach of good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, committed with intent or through gross negligence, in the planning, conduct or reporting of research.
Other breaches are investigated by the entities responsible for research themselves. Shortcomings in terms of ethical review are examined by the Ethics Appeal Review Board (ÖNEP), while those in healthcare are assessed by the Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO).
Research misconduct is defined in Section 2 of the Act as serious breach of good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, committed with intent or through gross negligence, in the planning, conduct or reporting of research.
The Government Bill for the Act states that the Board should investigate suspicions of misconduct in research activities conducted by any of the entities responsible for research identified in Section 3, even if the research is conducted abroad. If it has been carried out under the aegis of any of these named responsible entities, the question of whether the research has been physically carried out in or outside Sweden is immaterial. When the Board comes to examine the research, it will scrutinise material owned by the responsible entity concerned.
As in research collaborations with Swedish responsible entities that are not subject to the provisions on investigation of research misconduct, demarcation problems may arise in research collaborations with entities responsible for research outside Sweden regarding who has done what and who owns which data. In international research collaborations, too, it is therefore important for the collaborating responsible entities to make it entirely clear which of the partners is responsible for which parts of the research, and who owns which data. (Govt. Bill 2018/19:58, pp. 30–31.)
Submission by entity responsible for research
If research misconduct may be suspected of occurring in a responsible entity’s activities, the entity must submit the case to Npof for investigation. This is laid down in Section 6 of the Act. The threshold for a case submission should be low. If a responsible entity is uncertain whether a submission should be made, the Npof office will always welcome a dialogue.
Pursuant to the wording of Section 6 of the Act, every responsible entity that suspects misconduct in its activities must submit the case to Npof. However, this may be done in various ways and, when this kind of situation arises, the entities responsible for research are welcome to conduct a dialogue on the matter with Npof’s office.
A responsible entity has many different responsibilities that Npof cannot describe here. In terms of its responsibilities under the Act, a number of them are defined. A basic one is that the responsible entities have overarching responsibility to ensure that their research is carried out in accordance with good research practice (Section 5). A responsible entity is also obliged to submit the information and documents regarding the research that the Board requests, and to give the Board access to computers and other equipment used in the research.
Under Section 14, if the Board has decided that research misconduct has taken place, or it is evident from a Board decision that there has been a serious breach of good research practice in the form of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, and it has not been determined whether there has been intent or gross negligence, the entities responsible for research must inform the parties concerned as promptly as possible. These parties include research funders, government agencies, academic journals and other parties affected by the decision. The entity responsible for the research must also inform them that the decision may come to be appealed.
In the same situations as in Section 14, within six months of Npof’s decision entering into force, the entity responsible must report to the Board which measures it has taken or intends to take as a result of the decision (Section 13).
The Act (2019:504) on responsibility for good research practice and the examination of research misconduct (“the Act”) contains no definition of “research”. On the other hand, the Government Bill for the Act contains descriptions of what constitutes research.
The Act contains no definition of a researcher. On the other hand, the Government Bill for the Act contains descriptions of who counts as a researcher.
Section 8 of the Act specifies a “statutory limitation period”. This means that examination of research misconduct may not be based on circumstances predating the initiation of the case by more than ten years. However, this period of statutory limitation does not apply if there are special reasons for an investigation.
Yes, if there are special reasons for an investigation.
The Board appoints expert.
It varies, depending on how complex the case is but also on whether an expert is appointed; whether gaining access to data etc. takes time; whether translation of documents is needed; and much more. A relatively drawn-out case is thus not necessarily more complex to assess in substance. For every case, planning is updated in the course of the process. The Board usually discusses a case at one meeting and then decides on the case at a later meeting.
This question falls outside Npof’s area of responsibility and remit. The answer depends partly on what the entity responsible for the research and the research funders decide.
The decisions are published on the website for the purpose of enabling the research community to learn from previous cases and understand the Board’s reasoning. Our hope is that the decisions will be used to prevent misconduct and other breaches of good research practice.
No. We publish only the decisions on cases of alleged research misconduct that have been examined in substance. Rejection decisions are not published.
The legislator has stated that transparency concerning the cases dealt with by Npof is desirable. Very little information must therefore be kept secret and secrecy does not apply, for example, to the names of complainants (those who report alleged research misconduct) and respondents (alleged offenders). However, with reference to data protection laws, we have opted not to publish these names.
It is not Npof but the entity responsible for the research concerned that determines what steps must be taken pursuant to the Npof’s decision. These may be measures involving labour law, education and more. In our Annual Report, you can read more about what steps have been taken as a result of our decisions.
We notify the respondent and (if we know who it is) complainant, and the entity responsible for the research concerned, of the decision on a case. There are also research funders who regularly request information about our cases and decisions. The mass media also contact us about certain cases. We do not usually write press releases about the cases we investigate, but if a case has a high profile in the media we may, to save time answering questions, choose to issue a press release.
During the process, the caseworker in charge informs you, and we share the case documents with you. If the case is examined in substance, you also get a chance to express your views on it. If you have questions, you are always welcome to contact the caseworker or Npof’s office.
The researcher that the allegation report or case submission refers to is informed, and receives the documents. If Npof has received a report, we also inform the entity responsible for the research. Sometimes new information about which responsible entities are involved emerges during the case process. These entities may therefore not be informed until a later date.
Yes, if it is examined in substance.
Anyone can report directly to Npof. The report does not need to go via the responsible entity.
See the “Report misconduct” page for information on what to include in a report.
Yes, you can, but at the registration stage we ask you to tell us if you intend to do so.
Anyone — including, for example, private individuals, researchers, businesses or other public agencies — can report suspected research misconduct.
Yes, you can.
It is preferable for us to be able to contact you, the complainant, to ask further questions and request supplementary information. We cannot do this and have no way of contacting you if you are completely anonymous. Nor can we inform you of our decision. If you think it is essential to be anonymous, you can send us paper documents (hard copies). If you email us, we will not try to find out who you are, but cannot guarantee that no one will request public documents in the form of log lists or the like that can provide information on your IP address, for example.
The Board’s decisions regarding research misconduct are appealed to the Administrative Court in Uppsala. However, the appeal must be sent to Npof. Note the appeal period. Rulings by the Administrative Court may be appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal in Stockholm, and this court’s rulings are appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court.
Public access and secrecy
In Sweden, the principle of public access applies. One of its implications is that members of the public are entitled to see public documents. However, these documents may contain information that is subject to secrecy and, if so, may not be provided on demand.
When it comes to cases of research misconduct, the legislator has taken the view that openness in the process benefits the research community and promotes public trust in research. In misconduct cases, therefore, only very limited information is subject to secrecy. See Chapter 24, Section 7a of the Public Access and Secrecy Act (2009:400).
Secrecy applies to information about an individual’s personal circumstances unless it is evident that the information can be disclosed without detriment to the individual concerned or anyone close to him or her. Secrecy also applies to details of an individual’s financial circumstances if it may be assumed that disclosure of the information will be detrimental to the individual.
Secrecy does not apply to information about who has raised the issue of misconduct or who is suspected of committing it. Neither does secrecy apply to decisions in these cases.
Why are the names of people alleged to have committed research misconduct (respondents) and those who report such allegations (complainants) not subject to secrecy?
What has to be kept secret and what does not is decided by law, not by Npof itself. The legislator has taken the view that openness in the process benefits the research community and promotes public trust in research. It has therefore been explicitly stated in the secrecy provision applying to misconduct cases that the names of the above-mentioned individuals are not subject to secrecy. See Chapter 24, Section 7a of the Public Access and Secrecy Act (2009:400).
Anyone can request access to documents in a case. This applies to both ongoing and completed cases. In response, the Board then investigates whether material to which access is requested consists of public documents and whether it contains any information that is subject to secrecy.
Individuals who are parties to a case receive all case documents from the Board, as prescribed in the Swedish Administrative Procedure Act (2017:900). As a party, you therefore do not need to make your own request for case documents from the Board: you will receive them from us.
We also convey information about the case to the entity responsible for research that is involved in an ongoing case. We do this, first, because this entity bears its own responsibilities connected with investigating breaches of good research practice and, second, because the responsible entity is often the respondent’s employer and, as such, bears responsibility associated with the respondent for dealing with issues relating to the work environment.
The Board comprises senior researchers. The Chair of the Board is a Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court and a former professor at Uppsala University.
It is the Swedish Government that appoints the Chair of the Board, deputies for the Chair, and the Board members. They are appointed for four years.
It will come out in early June.
Information about these is available in our Annual Report.