By now the role of the CA is not uniformly delineated all over Europe or not even mentioned in guidelines and regulations. For example, the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (ALLEA code, paragraph 2.1) states that “research institutions and organizations demonstrate leadership in providing clear policies and procedures on …… the transparent and proper handling of violations” (ALLEA, 2017, p. 5) but the document only describes in general terms which procedures should be followed by an institute when dealing with violations and allegations of misconduct (paragraph 3.2).
In the US, but also at research organizations in Europe, especially in the UK the role of the CA is completely different. In those organizations the Research Integrity Officer (RIO, note the name) is the official who is responsible for administering the institution’s policies and procedures for handling cases of misconduct (Bonito et al, 2012). So the role is further reaching than the one described above. The RIO takes action if he knows or suspects that research misconduct is taking place. Where the CA as described above operates strictly confidential and only takes action with consent of the reporter, the RIO takes a much more active stand and safe guards the interest of the university, the scientific community, or science as an institution. In this respect confidentiality is provided to the extent required (ORI, 2018). Therefore it is very important to clearly outline the exact role of the CA or RIO in official documents and on the website of the research organization in order to prevent misunderstanding.
Mediation between complainant and defendant does not always belong to the tasks and duties of the CA. There is no place for mediation if the case concerns major research misconduct like fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism. However, there is a grey area where the CA could mediate preferably before the scientific misconduct has really occurred. An example of such a situation is disagreement about authorship between a junior and senior researcher. The junior researcher could seek confidential advice from the CA and the two researchers could attempt to come to an agreement with the help of the CA.
Finally, the CA could also play a positive role in the scientific integrity policy of the research institution. CAs have a good insight in the scientific integrity status of the research organization by virtue of their job. Most CAs are required to deliver an anonymized yearly report to the Board of the organization and they could go beyond the facts and proactively contribute to the integrity policy of the institution by giving solicited and unsolicited advice to the board.