Role of the Confidential Advisor on Scientific Integrity

Written by Anne Marie Kuijpers-Jagtman, Confidential Advisor for Academic Integrity, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Scientific honesty and adhering to the principles of good scientific practice are essential in the work of every researcher (Radboudumc Research Code, 2017). Nowadays the importance of education in the principles of good scientific practice is understood and training for junior and senior researchers is provided in most graduate schools. Nevertheless, a researcher may want to seek independent advice concerning questions and suspicions around academic integrity. The PRINTEGER consensus statement describes that all research organizations should have a research integrity ombudsperson (Forsberg el al, 2018). Other names that are used for this official are Confidential Advisor on Scientific Integrity (CA), Integrity Officer, Research Integrity Advisor, and others.

Many research institutions and organizations have appointed Confidential Advisors on Scientific Integrity (CAs) who may assist researchers by providing advice about academic integrity issues, complaints and procedures. CAs may be university based or department/graduate school based (local CA).

There is no universal description of the role of the CA and tasks, duties and powers may vary between countries and organizations. The following example description is taken from the Regulations for Integrity in Science and Scholarship of the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2015):

a)  The CA acts as a point of contact for questions and complaints about academic integrity.

b)  In the event of a complaint the CA may mediate between complainant and defendant, if he should see cause to this, or otherwise try to resolve the complaint amicably.

c)   If there should be any cause, the CA may explain to the complainant how to file a complaint to the Executive Board of the university.

d)  The CA will only act on behalf of the complainant or the defendant with their consent. The CA may not act on behalf of the complainant and the defendant at the same time.