Research integrity and research ethics are essential parts of the research process and characteristic features of excellent research in accordance with the highest international standards.
In the following, the FWF provides (1) a general guide for all researchers, (2) describes its procedure in cases of suspected violations of the guidelines for good research practice, (3) documents suspected violations of the guidelines for good research practice, and (4) affirms its commitment to responsible animal testing in research and education.
1. Guidelines for standards of good research practice and principles of research ethics
In October 2020, the Austrian Higher Education Conference drew up guidelines for standards of good research practice and principles of research ethics. They are intended as a guide for researchers of all disciplines and are thus also relevant to all applicants to the FWF. Part 1 of the guidelines deals with general principles of research integrity and research ethics. Part 2 lists the ethics committees and research integrity committees in Austria. And Part 3 describes the fields of action for good research practice and research ethics and offers some best practice examples.
2. Guidelines for good research practice regarding applications to the FWF
In the research funding applications to the FWF, applicants are requested to describe all potential ethical, safety-related, or regulatory aspects of the planned research project and the planned handling of them. In particular, they should explain the benefit and the burden of the experiments and the effects these may have on the research subjects. If no ethical aspects need to be taken into account, this must also be stated briefly. In addition, the guidelines of the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity (ÖAWI) for good scientific practice must be observed when submitting applications and carrying out projects.
In cases of suspected violations of the guidelines of good research practice, the FWF will initiate an investigation. The investigation serves the two-fold purpose of 1) punishing actual violations according to the existing rules, and 2) protecting researchers from unfounded accusations.
FWF procedure in cases of suspected violation of the Standards of Good Scientific Practice (pdf, 80KB)
3. Statistics on suspected violations of the guidelines of good research practice
The FWF documents all investigations as well as suspected cases and publishes statistics on them in anonymous form. According to them, from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2020, there were a total of 50 suspected cases in connection with persons who submitted research proposals to the FWF or were involved in them out of more than 30,000 applications. In 21 cases, the investigation showed no evidence of research misconduct. In 29 cases, violations were found and sanctions were issued in accordance with the severity of the violation. These sanctions range from warnings to requests for corrections and proposal bans by the FWF to the termination of projects and the repayment of funds.
As unpleasant as each individual case of research misconduct is, it must be emphasised that the vast majority of researchers are guided by high research and ethical standards.
Suspected violations of the guidelines of good research practice at the FWF from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2020 (pdf, 42KB)
4. Animal testing
The FWF supports the Commitment to responsible animal testing in research and education at Austrian universities and non-university research institutions (pdf, 100KB), which is endorsed by numerous institutions.