Investigations

The LARI CRI Rules of Procedure are as noted below (rules of procedure CRI pdf full description) and are subject to revision by the LARI Board. Independent inquiry and investigation in cases of suspected research misconduct are performed according to the principles of Section 3 of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

General procedural principles of the CRI

  • The CRI shall be convened whenever necessary. The Chair may announce a CRI meeting along with the accompanying agenda at any time. The Chair of the CRI is to convene a meeting without delay if a member of the CRI submits a request for such a meeting along with a draft agenda.
  • At least three members of the CRI must be in attendance in order to constitute a quorum. Members are allowed to participate in meetings via Resolutions shall be taken by a simple majority of votes. Where voting results in a tie, the Chair of the CRI shall have the casting vote.
  • If required, the CRI may also make decisions in the form of circular resolutions. Such motions are to be approved by the Chair and sent to all members of the CRI in writing or electronically along with the specification of a deadline for responses at least one week in the future. A motion is considered approved if the required majority of CRI members vote in favour of the motion within the specified period. However, a resolution shall not be considered approved in cases where one or more CRI members request a discussion of the motion, in which case a formal meeting will be scheduled.
  • Written minutes of all CRI meetings are to be recorded by the secretary, drafted and distributed to participants for validation and to those absent for information.
  • The members of the CRI and, more generally, all individuals that have access to information in the framework of the CRI’s proceedings (g. members of LARI secretariat, external advisors and experts) are to maintain strict confidentiality in order to protect all persons involved. The procedures of the CRI shall not be public; in particular, the parties involved in procedures shall not have the right to inspect the CRI’s written records or documents. The CRI members take all reasonable steps to ensure that any information related to their activity is kept in a secure place and in due course is disposed of in a secure fashion.
  • The members of the CRI must declare any personal, professional or financial conflict of interest (real or perceived) that they may have in handling a particular case, g. if they involve close associates or supervisors (actual or former), a member (actual or former) from his organization or company, a first- or second-degree relative of him, or any other person with whom there is or has been close relationship (professional or personal). Conflicts of interest of CRI members must be declared to the Chair of the CRI. If the Chair of the CRI is concerned, he will temporarily vacate the chair to the Vice-Chair of the CRI.
  • The Chair assesses whether there is a conflict of interest (he may consult the other members of the CRI) and takes the necessary steps, which usually consist in excluding the CRI member likely to be affected by a conflict of interest from the entire procedure of the case. A written record must be made of the actual or potential conflict of interest and the steps that were taken to deal with it.
  • If the CRI or individual CRI members come under any pressure whatsoever from individuals or institutions involved in a case, they must immediately notify the Board of LARI, who will take appropriate measures to protect the CRI’s reputation and LARI’s interests.

Detection of alleged misconduct

  • The CRI may be called upon by any person or organisation with legal capacity which has knowledge of suspected scientific misconduct occurring in one of the institutions defined in art. 2.3 of the CRI Rules of Procedure. Such inquiries/reports must be submitted in writing to the Secretary-general of LARI, with due indication of the specific facts of the case and the alleged misconduct. The Secretary-general of LARI informs the Chair of the CRI without delay.
  • The CRI commits to protect the reporting person or organisation (whistleblower protection). it will, in general, only consider anonymous reports of suspected scientific misconduct if it estimates that there are valid reasons for the reporting person to remain anonymous.
  • Further, the CRI may also decide to investigate cases of suspected scientific misconduct on their own initiative after informing the management of the institution in question.

Initial inquiry

  • The Chair of the CRI assesses whether the case falls within the scope of the CRI’s remit, as defined in articles 2.1., 2.2., and 2.3 of the CRI Rules of Procedure. To this effect, he may consult the CRI.
  • The Secretary-general of LARI, in close consultation with the Chair of the CRI, may interact with the person or organization that have reported the case, so as to gather sufficient information to reach a decision on whether the case falls within the scope of the CRI’s remit.
  • If the case falls outside of the scope of the CRI’s remit, the person or organization that have reported it will be informed by the Secretary-general of LARI. No further action by the CRI will be taken.

Launch of a procedure

On the basis of the available information, the CRI may take the following resolutions:

  1. Launch of a procedure by assignment of the case to one CRI member (ideally a member whose area of expertise is most closely related to the case), referred to below as the “member leading the investigation”;
  2. Non-initiation of a procedure, with appropriate justification (g. in cases deemed to be minor); or
  3. Suspension of the case, for example g. in cases where administrative, civil or criminal procedures have been initiated.

The CRI may also refuse to handle cases where the alleged misconduct lies more than ten years in the past.

The CRI will communicate its decision

  • to the Board of LARI;
  • to the person or organization that have reported the case;
  • to the person(s) to whom the allegations refer to;
  • to the head(s) of the affected research institutions(s);
  • to the FNR, in cases where the suspected misconduct occurred in relation with an FNR-funded project or researcher.

In exceptional cases, the CRI may consider it a higher priority to protect the person(s) accused, and resolve to not communicate its decision to launch a procedure to all or some of the parties listed in art. 8.3 of the CRI Rules of Procedure.

Investigation procedure

  • With the administrative support of the Secretary-general of LARI, the CRI member leading the investigation shall first obtain opinions and statements from the persons and/or institutions to which an allegation refers.
  • The CRI may obtain expert opinions from specialists in the relevant field. These experts can assist in an advisory capacity at meetings of the CRI, if it so requests. They are bound to the same confidentiality rules as CRI members ( art. 5.5. of the CRI Rules of Procedure) and must declare any conflict of interest (cf. art. 5.6. and 5.7. of the CRI Rules of Procedure).
  • If a sufficient assessment of the facts is not possible on the basis of the materials submitted, the CRI may request additional statements from involved persons and/or institutions, but also any additional documents and evidence for the good progress of the current investigation. The CRI may also demand a hearing, and/or site visits with interviews.
  • At any stage of the procedure, the CRI may issue recommendations to the head(s) of the involved institution(s) to take actions that are likely to help in the assessment of the case (g. repeating measurements or experiments).
  • At any stage of the procedure, the CRI may issue recommendations to the head(s) of the involved institution(s) to take appropriate protective measures (g. securing data and notebooks, temporarily banning a researcher under suspicion from accessing certain premises) if there is a risk that data or other evidence may be deleted or if there is a risk of retaliation against others (e.g. against subordinates or witnesses).
  • In case of an FNR-funded project or researcher, the CRI may also, at any stage of the procedure, issue recommendations to the FNR to take appropriate protective measures (g. temporary suspension of grant payments).
  • The CRI may resolve to suspend the case at any stage of this procedure in duly justified cases (g. in cases where administrative, civil, or criminal procedures have been initiated).
  • In general, the CRI should aim at completing an investigation within a timeframe of 4 months.

Preparation of CRI opinions

  • Upon completion of the investigation, the CRI member leading the investigation shall compose a summary opinion which contains an assessment of the results of the investigation. This opinion is to be presented to the other CRI members for approval.
  • In cases where other members of the CRI disagree with the opinion, it is to be discussed and amended/supplemented as necessary at the next scheduled meeting of the CRI, and the CRI should decide on a final opinion if possible.
  • Opinions should contain the following information in any case:
  1. Summary of investigation results;
  2. Assessment of investigation results;
  3. Recommended further actions for the parties involved.
  • The opinions must be unambiguous, stating the gravity of the misconduct and contain proper advice, g. on sanctions or on retractions of publications, in order for the sanctions to be fair, proportionate and comparable across similar cases.
  • When assessing the severity of a case, the CRI will take into consideration
  • whether the involved researchers acted knowingly or intentionally, or whether the conduct was simply reckless;
  • the experience and seniority of the involved researchers;
  • whether the case was an isolated event or part of a continuing or prior pattern of misconduct;
  • whether the misconduct had a significant negative impact on the proposed or conducted research activities of other researchers or institutions;
  • the extent to which involved researchers have accepted responsibility for the misconduct by (1) admitting the conduct, and/or (2) cooperating with the research misconduct proceeding, and/or (3) demonstrating remorse and awareness of the significance and seriousness of the research misconduct, and/or (4) taking steps to correct or prevent the recurrence of the research misconduct;
  • whether the involved researchers retaliated against complainants, witnesses, committee members, or other persons.
  • If, in its deliberations, the CRI comes to the conclusion that further investigations would be required in order to come to a final assessment of a case, then the corresponding resolution must also include a description of the additional investigations required as well as a reasonable time period within which the results must be available.

Decision and Communication to involved parties

  • The CRI’s opinion is to be conveyed in any case to the person who or institution which called upon the CRI if that person or institution is directly affected by the allegations submitted, and to the person(s) to whom the allegations referred.
  • In addition, the CRI’s opinion is to be conveyed to the Board of LARI for information purposes.
  • In all cases, opinions are also conveyed to the institution(s) where the misconduct was said to have taken place as well as to the FNR, in cases where the suspected misconduct occurred in relation with an FNR-funded project or researcher.
  • The submission of the opinion shall mark the end of the CRI’s procedure.
  • The CRI may take up again a case that it has already completed if substantial new information or evidence has become available since its completion.