Guidelines for Misconduct and Fraud at UTU

Decision of the Rector 19 December 2012.

1 Background, Purpose and Application Field

Ethicality is one of the essential values at the University of Turku. For the staff and students, this requires honesty, equity, objectivity and agreeing with good scientific principles and conventions. Acquiring credits by dishonest methods is unethical. In addition, student’s true competence is not measured. The purpose of these rules is to prevent misconduct and fraud as well as producing guidelines on how to proceed when misconduct or fraud occurs.

These guidelines are applied to degree studies at the University and, when appropriate, also to non-degree studies, Open University studies and adult education studies. The guidelines are partly applied to exchange students, for whom the procedure table (Table 1) also includes specific instructions. For degree students of other universities, the premise is that the rules of the home university are applied. However, the University of Turku decides on how to proceed with the studies conducted at the University of Turku.

For doctoral studies, the guideline produced by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics on good scientific practice is applied. The detailed guideline can be found at the website of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics (https://www.tenk.fi/en). Fraud suspicions on doctoral studies outside the actual research are processed according to this guideline. Plagiarism detection software is used for degree studies as well as postgraduate studies. Instructions for its use are found in chapter 5.

If the student of the University of Turku is guilty of misconduct while studying at another university, the issue will be processed at the University of Turku according to this guideline, based on the report from the other university. To ensure student’s legal protection, possible consequences at the other university will be considered.

If misconduct occurs at the student selection phase, the director of the selection committee or corresponding unit is responsible. The applicant will be rejected, but no other sanctions are applied.

2 Ethical Rules

2.1. Good Scientific Practice

The University of Turku is committed to follow the guidelines of good scientific practice and procedures for handling misconduct and fraud in science, compiled by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics. The directions can be found on the website of the organization (https://www.tenk.fi/en).

2.2. Promoting Good Practice at Studying

In addition to research, the directions of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics are applied to teaching and studying. Especially postgraduate students should get acquainted with the directions. However, ethics of science as a concept is applied to the whole academic community.

Promotion of good practice should be taken into consideration already at the beginning of studies. Good practice of each discipline and ethical rules of academic study are distributed to students. The University should ensure that the essential information is available for students and teachers also outside the corresponding courses. Concerning teaching and study guidance, students need to get necessary instructions on legal methods. Group tasks need special attention: boundaries of legal and illegal teamwork need to be clarified to students. Teachers should intervene immediately if they encounter misconduct.

University student is required to take independent charge of obeying the ethical rules. The student is assumed to be aware of the general law and basic principles of what is illegal in studying (cheating in exam, plagiarism etc.). The student needs to get acquainted with the available instructions and to ask for guidance in case of unclear issues.

3 Violations of Ethical Rules

Violations of ethical rules are classified to misconduct and disregard of good scientific practice, and in more severe cases, academic fraud. The descriptions are based on the directions of good scientific practice compiled by the Finnish Advisory Board of Research Ethics and the Code of Academic Integrity compiled by the Aalto University.

3.1. Misconduct

Misconduct in science is manifested as negligence and irresponsibility in research. Examples of misconduct in science include understatement of other researchers' contribution to a publication and careless or misleading reporting of previous research findings.

3.2. Fraud

Fraud includes deliberate and dishonest acts that aim at presenting a false image of own or other person’s competence. Different manifestations of fraud are illustrated below:

Cheating on Exam

Using any forbidden methods or tools in an exam situation is considered cheating. Examples of this are discussion, viewing other person’s answers and taking an exam on behalf of another person.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism includes presenting someone else's article or other text, or parts thereof, as one's own. In addition, unauthorized copying of graphs or source code may be considered plagiarism.

Part of scientific work is to make use of prior research. Good command of earlier research of the discipline demonstrates learnedness. An appropriate citing technique is a basic requirement in university studies. However, the author must also make a contribution. Inappropriate citing is considered plagiarism when the source material is being deliberately covered by misleading or lacking citations.

Autoplagiarism

Autoplagiarism means reusing author’s own previous research and referring to it as new. The act becomes fraudulent when the citation is vast and the earlier source has been deliberately left out. Concerning own previous research, original sources need to be cited similarly as when referring to others’ work.

Fabrication

Fabrication means presenting fabricated, non-existent data to the research community. In individual courses, fabrication may refer to deliberate production of false conclusions as true.

Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation (or falsification) means intentionally altering or presenting original findings in a way which distorts the result. Misrepresentation and fabrication are forms of fraud that may occur in report and research tasks.

Misappropriation

Misappropriation occurs when someone presents other person’s findings without permission, for example in a group work situation.

4 Consequences of Violations

According to the University Regulation, study attainments obtained by fraudulent means are failed. In addition to this, the dean or another person assigned by the faculty may issue an oral or written caution for the student. The Universities Act (45 §) states the official disciplinary methods available for the University:

The decision to give a written warning to a student shall be made by the rector of the university and the decision on suspension by the board of the university.

Student who assists another student in conducting a fraudulent act may be punished similarly.

Table 1 presents the most typical situations of misconduct and fraud as well as consequent measures in order to harmonize the practice within the University. The list is not exclusive. When applying, severity of the act should be considered. As variation by case may also occur, the list includes alternative methods of action.

A suspicion of fraud or misconduct that arises after the crediting of the study attainment may also lead to revocation of an earlier decision and disciplinary methods. The directions of the Finnish Advisory Board of Research Ethics are applied also to dissertations that have already been graded.

Table 1: Forms, procedures and sanctions of misconduct and fraud.

Table 1: Forms, procedures and sanctions of misconduct and fraud.

5 Electronic Plagiarism Detection

According to the Universities Act (2§), the universities are bound to be organized in a manner that respects the ethical principles of research, education and teaching and good scientific practice. Commitment to these principles should be visible in all activity. Ensuring the origins of study attainments and published research results is a part of quality assurance of education and research. At the University of Turku, it is enhanced by plagiarism detection procedure that is based on global data search and comparison.

5.1. Plagiarism Detection in Dissertations

Dissertations at the University of Turku undergo an electronic originality check, using the plagiarism detection system. This ruling is applied to licentiate and doctoral theses since 1 January 2013. As for theses at Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, the electronic originality check will be initialized 1 August 2013. The supervisor of the dissertation is also responsible of the originality check. Dissertations that have undergone the check receive a special mark.

5.2. Plagiarism Detection in Other Study Attainments

Electronic plagiarism detection is recommended to be used also in other forms of study when it serves the principle of ethical practice in science. Plagiarism detection is not a separate activity, but a tool to help normal guidance and grading process.

Electronic plagiarism detection is recommended also for scientific publications. The publisher of a publication series can set a prerequisite that an originality check is needed in order to grant permission for publication. This prerequisite needs to be declared in the publication data of the series. A certificate of a check is then attached to the script of the publication.

In addition, electronic plagiarism detection may be applied to check the study materials compiled at the University.

5.3. Rights and Liabilities of the Student

The use of the plagiarism detection system is a part of the grading of the study attainment. However, the text cannot be recorded in the database without the consent of the student. By allowing the text to be recorded, the student promotes ethical research and protects own work from misconduct. The consent is archived in connection with the mark of the study attainment.

In group work tasks, electronic plagiarism system may not be applied only to a part of the group. If the teacher suspects any group member to be guilty of plagiarism, plagiarism detection needs to be applied to the work of the whole group.

 

5.4. Process of Suspected Plagiarism

Graph 1: Process of suspected plagiarism.  The roles are described in chapter 6.

Graph 1: Process of suspected plagiarism. The roles are described in chapter 6.

6 Procedure in Case of Misconduct or Fraud

6.1. Student’s Legal Protection

Good administrative practice must be obeyed when processing violations. It is highly important that the issue is processed without delay and that the student is heard before any consequences are decided. The student may bring a support person to personal hearing or other meeting set by the University regarding the issue. The processing is not public, but the decision documents usually are. While processing, the issue is informed only to parties involved and to those who may provide additional information. The student needs to be informed of the progress of the process.

6.2. Progress

Table 1 and Graph 1 describe the procedures in cases of misconduct and fraud. This paragraph describes each role in the process. The descriptions are based on the Code of Academic Integrity compiled by the Aalto University. 

Teacher

In this context, teacher refers to the teacher in charge of the course / the supervisor of the dissertation. A suspected violation in transfer of credits shall be processed in the same manner, when appropriate.

The teacher shall report a suspected violation to the investigator of the faculty or corresponding unit. In unclear cases, the teacher informs the student first and gives the student a possibility to explain either in writing or orally. If the teacher evaluates the case as minor negligence or misunderstanding, s/he guides the student on correct working methods and returns the reviewed assignment. The teacher may not, however, fail the study attainment based on fraud unless it has been determined by an investigation (see table 1 and graph 1). The teacher informs the investigator if the possibility of misconduct or fraud in science cannot be ruled out. The teacher gives his/her own written account of the issue to the investigator. In such cases, the study attainment will not be graded until the investigation has been completed. If the student is found guilty of fraud, the teacher must fail the study attainment. The student may appeal against the failure.

Even when an investigation is underway due to suspected fraud of a student on the course, the teacher must evaluate the study attainments of other students in accordance within the maximum time specified in the rules.

Invigilator of the Exam

The invigilator of the exam shall intervene with any suspected cheating or other violations against guidelines issued on examination proceedings. In obvious cases if cheating, the invigilator instantly informs the student of his/her observations, advises the student to leave and the exam is failed. If the student does not dispute the violation, investigation is not necessary. A notification to the investigator is sufficient. On the base of legal protection, the student may also in these cases appeal for change in the grading after the results are published. In cases of unclear suspicion of cheating, the invigilator informs the student after the exam and reports to the responsible teacher. The invigilator records the observations, the explanation of the student and the measures taken and his/her won written account of the events.

Investigator

The investigator is the head of student and academic affairs of the faculty or other expert at the study administration with the duty of investigating violations of academic integrity. The investigation involves guiding the teacher and other parties on the procedures, collection of documents involved, organizing hearings, informing the parties and preparing the matter for decision by the dean. The investigation is carried out in the faculty in which the suspected violation occurred. The investigator can also independently make a decision in ordinary cheating cases. He may then hear the dean as well. If fraud is detected and the study attainment is failed but no sanctions are handed, the student is given an oral or written remark.

Dean

If the case is brought to the dean, s/he decides the follow-up measures based on the account prepared by the investigator.

If the dean, based on the investigation, deems that the suspicion was unfounded or the violation minor, s/he returns the study attainment to the teacher for evaluation.

If the dean deems that the student has used fraudulent means, the study attainment is failed and the student is given an oral or a written caution. In case of major violations, the dean decides on initiating disciplinary measures. At least the recurrence and severity of the fraud should be considered in the decision.

In case of fraudulent research activity, the dean proposes to the Rector that the procedures of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics should be initiated. In such cases, a decision on the initiation of a disciplinary procedure can only be made after the conclusion of an inquiry.

Rector

The procedure defined in the guideline of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics is applied, when the dean proposes the initiation of the procedure to the Rector. Rector and the unit of Human Resources are responsible of the sanctions. The unit of Human Resources also provides a hearing, when necessary.

The Rector decides on whether the procedures of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research should be initiated.

The Rector decides on warning the student in a manner stated in the Universities Act. If a warning is considered as too minor a consequence for the violation in question, the Rector may propose a fixed-term suspension of the student to the board.

After processing the issue, the Rector or the board will resubmit the issue to the faculty. The study attainment is evaluated or failed, and other necessary measures are taken.

7 Compiling and Restoring Documents

The phases of the process are recorded down in the minutes, initiated by the investigator. Essential issues processed at the hearings are written down on a separate memo that is signed by the parties. Documents are stored in the faculty archive. Minutes and possible decisions on further measures are informed to the student, teacher, dean and other relevant parties. The decision is informed also to the dean and the investigator of the student’s home faculty, if the student comes from another faculty.

Decision documents are public unless personal details concerning the student or evaluation of the student’s study attainments are mentioned.

 

8 Announcements to the Partner University

Reporting process of the violations of ethical rules needs to be informed to all new partner universities or otherwise ensure that the incoming students are familiar with the process. In principle, all violations are reported to the home university. International Office is responsible of the announcement. As for the faculty, informing the International Office is sufficient. Sanctions of a joint degree student may also be reported to the partner university if this procedure has been agreed to. The unit or person responsible of the sanction also decides on the reporting process.

9 More Information

 

Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK): Good Scientific Practice and Procedures for Handling Misconduct and Fraud in Science:

http://www.tenk.fi/sites/tenk.fi/files/HTK_ohje_2012.pdf (page 30 ff.)

UTU: Ethical guidelines for learning.