There is one national ethics committee in Finland dealing with the prevention, handling, and investigation of scientific dishonesty,The National Research Ethics Council of Finland. The Council was founded in 1991 and is subordinate to the Ministry of Education. The Council consists of a chairman, a vice-chairman, a secretary general, and eight members who represent researchers, jurisprudence, and ethics. The Council is appointed for three years by the Ministry of Education. In the Decree on the National Research Ethics Council of Finland (1347/1991), the following tasks are assigned to the Council:
• to make proposals and to issue statements to governmental authorities on legislative and other matters concerning research ethics;
• to contribute, in its expert capacity, to resolving issues of research ethics;
• to take initiative in promoting research ethics and discussion on research ethics;
• to follow international development in the field and take an active part in international cooperation;
• to raise awareness of research ethics in the society at large.
As regards the handling of alleged scientific dishonesty, the Finnish research community has adopted an approach different from that existing in other Nordic countries.1 The Finnish system is decentralised.The Council does not itself investigate cases of alleged or suspected scientific dishonesty, but, in 1998, produced Guidelines for the Prevention, Handling and Investigation of Misconduct and Fraud in Scientific Research. According to these guidelines, universities and research institutes are responsible for preventing scientific misconduct and for investigating suspected or alleged cases of scientific dishonesty. The investigative procedure includes an initial inquiry (conducted by the rector of the university or the director of the research institute) followed, if necessary, by a full investigation by a specially appointed committee.The committee reports to the rector of the university or the director of the research institute who will make a decision on implementation of any sanctions and on measures necessary to rectify the consequences of fraud or misconduct. Three principles are considered to be essential in ensuring the fair treatment of all parties: impartiality, the hearing of all parties and the promptness of the process.
The Research Ethics Council is informed of all inquiries and investigations, and receives the final report on each case. If either the researcher involved or the informant is dissatisfied with the proceedings or with the result of the investigation, they can request an opinion from the Council. The role of the Council is advisory, and it does not issue legally binding decisions.
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