How is academic ethics regulated in Europe?

On 25 March, in the scientific-practical conference “Lithuanian Administrative Law in the Context of the European Union”, organised by Mykolas Romeris University and its partners, the Ombudswoman Dr Loreta Tauginienė presented how academic ethics in scientific activities and the dissemination of science is regulated in the European Union. She stressed that, while scientific activity and the dissemination of science receive special attention because of the involved public interest, legal norms on academic ethics are lacking because of the autonomy and self-regulation guaranteed to higher education institutions.

It has been noted that when self-regulation and self-correction become ineffective, some countries are setting up mechanisms to oversee research ethics in scientific activity and the dissemination of science. The Ombudsperson gave examples from several European countries – Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway – of the national oversight mechanisms they have put in place. For example, the Netherlands has a Code of Conduct for Academic Practice (2004; since 2018 – Code of Conduct for Research Integrity), Norway has a Research Ethics Act (2006; since 2017 – Act on Ethics and Integrity in Research), Denmark has a Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and Research Misconduct etc. Act. Comparatively, in Lithuania, the first signs of academic ethics were observed in 1991, when the Law on Research and Higher Education of the Republic of Lithuania enshrined the responsibility of a scientist: “A scientist must comply with the norms of scientific and professional ethics”.

The Ombudsperson noted that in Lithuania, the time limits for the handling of complaints are not set taking into account the nature of violations of academic ethics. She also pointed out that all European countries that have established mechanisms to monitor research ethics in science and the dissemination of science also follow good research practice, such as how research is carried out, the choice of appropriate methods for data collection and analysis, the use of knowledge generated by others, the views of international field-specific associations, etc.