Research Ethics

Research misconduct

Scientific misconduct refers to falsification, fabrication, plagiarism and other serious violations of recognised research ethics norms. These are committed intentionally or with gross negligence in the planning, execution or reporting of research.  

Person med bok
Eivind Senneset/UiB

Main content

Scientific misconduct is defined in Section 8 of the Research Ethics Act. Violation of recognised research ethics norms means violation of general and subject-specific guidelines for good scientific practice.

In this context, the guidelines drawn up by the National Research Ethics Committees will be important.  


Among other things, fabrication means the construction of data, descriptions, information and results. For example, there may be cases where the researcher gives the impression that investigations or experiments have been carried out without this being the case.   

Fabrication may also involve using data and observations that are not in accordance with the methodology description in the research report, or when fictitious results are presented in a research report.  


Among other things, falsification means the manipulation of research material, equipment, methods, processes and changing or omitting data, descriptions, information and results without scientific explanation.   

For example, falsification may involve changing or adapting observations and data so that the result changes.   

Omitting results or facts that are essential to the conclusions can also be classed as falsification. The same applies to the selective use of data or methods so that the final result better fits the theory or hypothesis.  


Plagiarism in a research ethics context means the use of other people’s formulations, figures, tables, results, ideas, methods, processes etc, without this being stated and without references to sources.   

The most common definition of plagiarism is to publish the work of others as one’s own, thus misleading the reader as to who performed the work, for example, written the text.   

Different sciences and disciplines have different publishing traditions, but common to all of them is a requirement to credit others’ and one’s own previous work when building new knowledge and reasoning on this.  

Other serious violations 

 Other serious violations of recognised research ethics norms involve actions that directly or indirectly affect the scientific result.  

Examples of other serious violations of recognised research ethics norms include:  

  • Withholding, misleading or selectively/covertly discarding unwanted results  
  • One-sided or distorted interpretation of one’s own results and conclusions  
  • Misleading use of statistical methods  
  • Misleading or concealment regarding one’s own scientific efforts and/or scientific results, and about how much an individual has contributed. Misrepresentation of author role, etc.  
  • Withholding significant details of methodology  
  • Incorrect information about scientific qualifications in applications, etc.  
  • Destruction of research material to prevent investigations of research misconduct  
  • Withholding significant criticism. In such cases, a researcher should contact relevant research groups in order to clarify the problems in a comprehensive manner.  
  • Reporting research results or methods in a misleading manner  
  • Re-publishing results as if they were new (so-called self-plagiarism)  
  • Registration and storage of results and research material in an inadequate manner  

The lists of which cases are serious and less serious are not exhaustive.  

Questionable Research Practices (QRP)  

Questionable research practice (QRP) is found in the ‘grey area’ between good and illegal research practice, and often involves a form of fraudulent or unethical behaviour that can harm the credibility of research. This might involve:   

  • failing to report data that contradicts one’s own previous research  
  • using other people’s ideas without permission  
  • publishing the same data in multiple publications  
  • changing the research design, methodology or results under pressure from those funding the research  

Publishing and co-authorship  

A main rule regarding co-authorship is that one has received significant contributions in the research and writing process. Different subject areas have their own rules and norms regarding co-authorship.  

Vancouver Recommendations  

Basically, four criteria can define rightful authorship. All must be met, as stated in the recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE):  

  1. Researchers must have made significant contributions to the idea and design or to data collection or analysis and interpretation of data, and  
  2. Researchers must have contributed to the preparation of the manuscript or critical revision of the publication’s intellectual content, and  
  3. Researchers must have approved the final version before publication, and  
  4. Researchers must be accountable and held responsible for all aspects of the work (albeit not necessarily all technical details) unless otherwise specified.  

Be aware of contributions that do not qualify for co-authorship: Guidance, language editing, proofreading, revising the structure of the manuscript, help with figures/tables, help with use of software.  

The National Research Ethics Committees support the use of the Vancouver Recommendations and have guidelines for: