Ethical guidelines for studying and the processing of academic fraud at the University of Jyväskylä

Rector's decision 17 Jan 2019

 

1. Background, purpose and scope of application

Responsible conduct of research is one of the key ethical values in academic research and education.

The University is committed to following the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK) on the responsible conduct of research (http://www.tenk.fi /htk-ohje). The guidelines also apply to teaching and studying when applicable.

The purpose of these ethical guidelines is to support and steer the JYU community members who participate in teaching and research activities to comply with the Universities Act, the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity and the ethical principles of the University of Jyväskylä when implementing the basic duties stipulated in the Universities Act.

These guidelines are applied to all students who pursue studies at the University of Jyväskylä and to all completed study units, including theses and doctoral dissertations.

The guidelines include instructions for processing fraud allegations and the consequences of fraud as well as the duties of faculties, teachers and students in order to prevent and process cases of fraud.

2. Legislation and other regulations that govern studies

The Universities Act, Section 2, stipulates that “The universities shall arrange their activities so as to ensure a high international standard in research, artistic activities, education and tuition in conformity with research integrity.”

The Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK), established upon a decree of the Ministry of Education, monitors the responsible conduct of research in Finland. The TENK guidelines Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland must be followed in all research and teaching activities at the University of Jyväskylä.

The University Board has confirmed the Ethical Principles of the University of Jyväskylä, which must be followed in addition to the above-mentioned regulations.

2.1. Responsibilities in order to prevent fraud

 

The faculty councils are responsible for ensuring that the curricula of all degree levels include the following:

  • Principles of the responsible conduct of research, including correct referencing technique
  • Basics of copyrights
  • Sufficient data acquisition and management skills.

 

The teacher is responsible for the following:

  • To get familiar with the principles of responsible conduct of research and other guidelines and legislation related to ethical matters
  • To guide the student in accordance with the curriculum
    • in the ethical principles and practices of studying and research
    • in the practices of academic writing, including referencing technique, from the first written work.
  • To make sure the student knows the importance of the responsible conduct of research, the harmfulness of fraud for the whole science community, and the consequences of fraud.
  • To recognise fraud and fraud attempts and intervene in them immediately when noticing them.

 

The student is responsible for the following:

  • To actively study, adopt and observe ethical guidelines and practices as well as other guidelines and practices related to studying and research.
  • In case of uncertainty, to self-initiatively clarify with the teacher or supervisor which actions are ethically acceptable and which are not.

 

3. Fraud in studies

Fraud is a dishonest action or omission with the purpose of giving a wrong picture of your or another person’s skills.

 

Examples of different forms of fraud are listed below.

The division, excluding cheating on an exam, is based on the definitions of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity

Cheating on an exam

Cheating on an exam refers to relying on means or tools that are forbidden in an exam. Examples of cheating on an exam include copying, discussing and taking an exam on behalf of another person. An attempt to cheat is also considered fraud.

 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism refers to presenting someone else’s published article or other text, or part of it, as your own text. Academic plagiarism may also include unauthorised citing of a graph or software code. Plagiarism includes both direct and rephrased copying.

 

Self-plagiarism

Self-plagiarism refers to redundant use of your own work in new study units. In this case, the author does not try to present someone else’s work as his/her own but reuses his/her own earlier work without mentioning it. If a student’s earlier work (text, images, charts, etc.) is used again, the student must refer to the earlier work in addition to the original sources.

 

Fabrication

Fabrication refers to reporting invented observations or results to the research community. Fabrication in studies may include, for example, intentionally presenting an erroneous conclusion as a correct one.

 

Falsification (misrepresentation)

Falsification (misrepresentation) refers to modifying and presenting original observations deliberately so that the results based on those observations are distorted. Fabrication and falsification are forms of fraud that may take place, for example, in reporting and research work related to studies.

 

Misappropriation

Misappropriation refers to the unlawful presentation of another person’s result or data as one’s own research. It may take place, for example, in teamwork.

4. Procedure in case of alleged fraud

 

  • Every teacher, staff member and student is obliged to report any observed case of fraud in studies to the dean of the faculty or the director of the independent institute.
  • All fraud allegations are processed without delay and the student is offered an opportunity to be heard in compliance with https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2003/en20030434 (434/2003), Section 34, and the processing is documented.
  • Sufficient and timely notifying of parties involved is ensured at different stages of the process in accordance with the preparation process described in these instructions and the notifying responsibilities agreed in units.
  • Decisions of the dean or the director of the independent institute, together with their attachments, are filed in the JYU archives, and they are public documents.
  • Decisions made during the processing of an allegation (starting and ending the process) are compiled in statistics.
  • The teacher or other staff member who observed the fraud does not participate in the processing of the matter.
  • If there is reason to doubt that a student has used the output of another student as his/her own with the other student’s permission and cognisance, the matter will be investigated as an alleged fraud of the other student also.
  • The administrative language of the University of Jyväskylä is Finnish. Official documentation is always provided in Finnish and, when necessary, the student receives an unofficial translation of the documents, as a rule in English.

4.1. Fraud allegations related to exams

Invigilator

In a regular exam situation:

  • Removes the student from the exam and informs the student that the invigilator will report the fraud allegation to the examiner.
  • Reports the fraud allegation to the examiner by submitting an account of the allegation and related material (e.g. the observations of the invigilator, a statement of possible witnesses) to the examiner.

 

In an electronic exam, which is invigilated through spot checks with the help of camera and audio recordings. Spot checks are used to see that the person who completed the exam is the same as the person who registered for the exam, and that the student does not commit fraud such as cheating when completing the exam:

  • Reports the fraud allegation to the examiner by submitting a report of the allegation and related material (e.g. the observations of the invigilator, video and audio material, a statement of possible witnesses) to the examiner.
  • In cooperation with the examiner, checks the video and audio material that prompted the fraud allegation before submitting the allegation to the preparatory official.

Examiner

  • Reports the fraud allegation to the dean or the director of the independent institute by submitting an account of the allegation and related material (evidence on the fraud allegation) to the preparatory official.
  • Notifies the student that the fraud allegation has been reported to the dean/director.

Preparatory official

  • Prepares the investigation material of the allegation, including a hearing of the student, to the dean or the director of the independent institute for a decision.
  • When necessary, consults the University’s Legal Services or other experts.
  • Prepares the decision of the dean / the director of the independent institute.
  • Communicates the decision of the dean / the director of the independent institute to related parties: the student, the teacher or supervisor involved, and the student’s faculty or home university.

Dean / director of independent institute

  • On the basis of material collected by the preparatory official, evaluates if the evidence of fraud is sufficient and makes a documented decision in which he/she evaluates if a fraud has taken place and, when necessary, decides on consequences.
  • If the dean / the director of the independent institute, on the basis of the clarification, considers the allegation to be groundless, he/she returns the work to the teacher for evaluation.
  • When necessary, the dean / the director of the independent institute may transfer the matter to be decided by the Rector, if the student is considered to be guilty of serious or recurring fraud. In cases of academic fraud, the University’s Legal Services serves as the preparatory official for the Rector.
  • The Rector may, upon his/her discretion, take an individual case of fraud allegation under consideration even though the dean / the director of the independent institute has not made a notification in writing to the Rector.

4.2. Fraud allegations related to written assignments

Teacher or supervisor

  • Reports the fraud allegation to the dean or the director of the independent institute by submitting an account of the allegation and related material (evidence to support the allegation of fraud) to the preparatory official. For example, in plagiarism allegations the teacher must clearly express the source from which the student’s work seems to be plagiarised and prove connections between the student’s text and the source.
  • Notifies the student that the fraud allegation has been reported to the dean / the director of the independent institute.

Preparatory official

  • Prepares the investigation material related to the allegation, including a hearing of the student, to the dean or the director of the independent institute for a decision.
  • When necessary, consults the University’s Legal Services or other experts.
  • Prepares the decision of the dean / the director of the independent institute.
  • Communicates the decision of the dean / the director of the independent institute to related parties: the student, the teacher or the supervisor involved, and the student’s faculty or home university.

Dean / director of independent institute

  • On the basis of the material collected by the preparatory official, evaluates if the evidence of fraud is sufficient and makes a documented decision in which he/she evaluates if fraud has taken place and, when necessary, decides on consequences.
  • If the dean / the director of the independent institute, on the basis of the clarification, considers the allegation to be groundless, he/she returns the work to the teacher for evaluation.
  • The dean / the director of the independent institute may submit the matter to be decided by the Rector, if the student is considered to be guilty of a serious or recurring fraud. In cases of academic fraud, the preparatory official for the Rector is the University’s Legal Services.
  • The Rector may, upon his/her discretion, consider an individual case of fraud allegation even though the dean / director has not made a notification in writing to the Rector.

4.3. Fraud allegation related to master’s theses and doctoral dissertations

 

Approved master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation submitted for examination

In accordance with  the RCR guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (p. 10):

“These guidelines also apply to the investigations of alleged RCR violations in academic theses submitted for a Master’s degree or a higher academic degree, including the higher degrees in the universities of applied sciences, even when the thesis is not published.

If the approval of the thesis is pending, or the candidate has not yet been granted permission to defend the thesis, the institution can investigate the allegations by following an internal procedure, unless the researcher suspected of a RCR violation insists on an investigation according to these guidelines.”

At the University of Jyväskylä, these guidelines are followed when the issue relates to research ethical problems in a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation that is submitted for examination or approved.

When fraud allegations against doctoral students are not related to scientific research, they are processed in compliance with sections 4.1 and 4.3 of this document.

For rejecting an approved master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, see section 7.

 

Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation submitted for examination

Master’s thesis

If a fraud allegation is made against a master’s thesis during the examination phase, the examination process is interrupted immediately. The dean of the faculty decides on the interruption of the examination process.

Completing the master’s thesis cannot continue until the fraud allegation has been clarified. The clarification follows the process described in the RCR guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity.

Before continuing the master’s thesis, the student must explain to the supervisor how he/she will correct the thesis. The supervisor must ensure that the thesis complies with the responsible conduct of research when it is submitted for examination again.

Doctoral dissertation

An alleged violation of the responsible conduct of research in a doctoral dissertation is always inspected in accordance with the RCR process of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity.

If fraud allegation related to a dissertation is noticed during the examination phase, the examination process is interrupted immediately. The examination is interrupted even though the Faculty Council would have granted the doctoral candidate permission for public examination and decided the date of public examination. The Faculty Council decides on interrupting the examination process.

The preliminary examiner and the opponent are obliged to report observed research ethical problems to the dean of the faculty, for which they have been named as a preliminary examiner or an opponent.

Appendix

5. Plagiarism detection software

The University uses plagiarism detection software. The software must be used to check all bachelor’s, master’s and licentiate theses and doctoral dissertations.

The University of Jyväskylä recommends that teachers use the plagiarism detection software as comprehensively as possible for other assignments related to studies as well.

The teacher who has been the supervisor of the thesis or dissertation is responsible for conducting the check and the interpretation of results. Teachers must be aware that the software does not notice all plagiarised parts.

6. Consequences of fraud and the student’s legal protection

6.1. Consequences of proven academic fraud and deciding on them

Actual and official disciplinary actions are stipulated in the  Universities Act, Section 45. The Act’s stipulations concern only students admitted to degree students and, when applicable, to other students.

The Universities Act stipulates the procedure in matters concerning the forfeiture of the right to study and disciplinary actions, cautioning the student in writing and suspending the student for a fixed period.

If an exchange student or a student from another Finnish university is proven to be guilty of fraud, the home university will be notified.

 

Consequences imposed by deans and directors of independent institutes

Rejecting a study unit

If the dean or the director of the independent institute justifiably considers the student to be guilty of fraud, the study unit is rejected.

After the study unit is rejected, the student must agree with the teacher how he/she can complete the study unit.

Written complaint

The dean / the director of the independent institute may give the student a free-form written complaint that is documented and submitted to the student via the University’s Registry Office.

The written complaint describes the proven fraud and notifies that repeating the fraud can lead to disciplinary actions stipulated in the Universities Act.

The dean / the director of the independent institute gives the student a written complaint in writing also when the Rector or the University Board decides that the fraud they have been informed of is not so serious that it would lead to the disciplinary actions stipulated in the Universities Act. In this case, the matter is returned to be handled and solved by the dean / the director of the independent institute.

 

Consequences imposed by the Rector

If the student is considered to be guilty of a serious or repeated fraud, the dean or the director of the independent institute submits the matter to be processed by the Rector for potential disciplinary actions stipulated in the Universities Act, Section 45.

 

The Rector may return the matter to be processed by the dean / the director of the independent institute if the fraud the Rector has been informed of is not so serious that it would lead to disciplinary actions stipulated in the Universities Act.

 

Written warning

According to the Universities Act, the Rector can give the student a written warning when the student acts in a fraudulent manner or otherwise breaches the order of the University.

The warning describes the proven fraud and informs that if repeated, the fraud may lead to other disciplinary actions stipulated in the Universities Act.

 

Consequences imposed by the University Board

 

Suspension for a fixed period

 

If a deed or negligence is serious when considering the matter as a whole, the University Board, on the basis of the Rector’s presentation, decides whether there are grounds to suspend the student for a fixed period (at the most for twelve months).

Repeating a fraud or plagiarising a thesis in full or substantially are serious offences, which may result in considering if the student should be suspended for a fixed period.

6.2. Hearing the student

In a written hearing implemented in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act 434/2003, Section 34, the student is provided an opportunity to respond to the claims. The matter can be solved without the student’s response if the written response is not submitted in a reasonable time informed in advance.

6.3. Student’s legal protection

A written decision on a disciplinary matter must indicate the aspects that have affected the solution.

The decision must be submitted evidentially to the student who has the right to try to change the disciplinary decision by appealing to an administrative court.

A decision on fixed-term suspension of the student can be put into effect regardless of a complaint unless otherwise ordered by the University or the administrative court.

A student whose study unit has been rejected because of allegedly fraudulent action can make a request for rectification to the Appeals Board within 14 days from being informed of the decision, if not satisfied with the decision.

A student dissatisfied with the rejection of a doctoral dissertation, licentiate thesis and a thesis that is part of advanced studies must make the rectification request to the Appeals Board of the University.

7. The investigation of fraud allegations and the cancellation of the decision of approval for already approved study units

A fraud investigation can also be started after a decision of approval has been made on the study unit, if the fraud allegation only arises at that point.

In some cases, a decision to approve a study unit can be cancelled and made again as a corrective resolution in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.

As a rule, correcting a decision to the detriment of a party requires the party’s approval, and even in such a case, the correction of an error cannot be based on “new evidence … received that may significantly affect the decision on the matter” (Administrative Procedure Act, Section 50).

The Administrative Procedure Act enables that the approval decision of a study unit can be corrected without the student’s consent only if “the decision is clearly based on erroneous or insufficient evidence” and “if the error is obvious and has arisen from the party’s own conduct” (Administrative Procedure Act, Section 50).

The motion for rectifying the decision must be made within five years from the date of the decision (Administrative Procedure Act, Section 52). The rectification of a factual error requires that the matter is processed again in full and that a new decision is given on the issue, including a normal appeal procedure.

If the decision of approval cannot be rectified based on the Administrative Procedure Act, its annulment may be applied for from an administrative court in compliance with the Administrative Judicial Procedure Act, Chapter 11, Section 63.

If the fraud allegation is made only after the approval of the study unit, the procedures for processing the matter must be clarified with the University’s Legal Services before starting a fraud investigation.

 

Keijo Hämäläinen

Rector

 

Appendix:

Table: Forms, procedures and consequences of academic fraud.

 

Distribution:

Registry Office

Faculties

Independent institutes

Vice Rector responsible for education

Director of Student and Academic Services