Ethical guidelines for teaching and studying

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The Universities Act, Section 2, stipulates that the universities must arrange their activities so as to assure a high international standard in research, education and teaching in conformity with ethical principles and good scientific practices. The values of the University of Eastern Finland are freedom of science, ethicality and justice. The mission of the university is to conduct internationally recognised research and to provide education of a high international standard (strategy of the University of Eastern Finland, 22 March 2010).

Commitment to ethical principles promotes high quality, expertise and reliability. Furthermore, adherence to ethical principles is the benefit of the entire university community and this commitment should be reflected in all activities at the university.

The University of Eastern Finland is committed to complying with the recommendations on good scientific practice given by the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics (TENK). According to TENK, the central characteristics of good scientific practice comprise integrity, general meticulousness and accuracy in research, data recording, presentation and evaluation; ethicality and openness; as well as other sustainable principles typically associated with science.

Violations of good scientific practice:

1) Misconduct in science (examples): understatement of other researchers’ contribution to a publication and negligence in referring to earlier findings; careless and misleading reporting of research findings and the methods used; publication of the same results several times as new; and misleading the research community about one’s own research.

2) Fraud in science, i.e. fabrication, misrepresentation, plagiarism or misappropriation.

Fabrication

Fabrication refers to the presentation of fabricated data to the research community. Fabricated data have not been obtained in the manner or by the methods described in the report. Presenting fabricated results in a research report is also fabrication.

Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation means intentionally altering or presenting original findings in a way which distorts the result (scientifically unjustified alteration or selection of results and omission of results or data pertinent to conclusions).

Plagiarism

Plagiarism refers to the presentation of someone else’s research plan, manuscript, article or text, or parts thereof, as one’s own. Plagiarism may also pertain to oral presentations or ideas, thoughts or inventions presented by someone else. According to Puusniekka & Eskola (2004), plagiarism refers to the submittal for evaluation of an assignment (an essay, report, thesis, etc.) which is not entirely the person’s own work and the original source of the borrowed part is not mentioned in the assignment’s list of references. Plagiarism can be intentional; however, it may also be unintentional. Unintentional plagiarism relates to a student’s unawareness of the norms associated with scientific working. Text can be borrowed and direct quotations can be used, but one must remember to make a reference to the source and author concerned. The majority of problems relating to plagiarism involve inadequate use of references. Each scientific discipline has its own established practices as regards the use of references, and it is recommendable to become acquainted with these when starting to write the first written assignment at the latest.

Misappropriation

Misappropriation means that a researcher illicitly presents or uses in his or her own name an original research idea, plan or finding disclosed to him or her in confidence.

For further information, see www.tenk.fi

Use of the Internet

Network etiquette guidelines, or netiquette guidelines for short, have been drafted for users of information networks. A user should avoid causing any harm to the other users of the network. Moreover, a user should critically assess the information available in the network and to be careful and responsible in all his or her activities in the network. Furthermore, the material in the network is protected by copyright, which means that they cannot be borrowed or copied freely.

Further information on netiquette is available at http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1855 and in the Information Security Guide for Students available on the IT Centre website.

Measures to prevent plagiarism and fraud in science

All members of the scientific community are responsible for adherence to good scientific practice. Superiors are responsible for developing the working environment and creating the prerequisites for ethical activity; teachers and other persons supervising studies-related assignments (theses, laboratory works, etc.) are responsible for introducing good scientific practice to students.

  • The ethical guidelines are actively brought to the attention of students, teachers and researchers.
  • Teachers and researchers take measures to prevent plagiarism and fraud in science.
  • The possibilities for creating new anti-plagiarism tools and using the existing ones are investigated.
  • Students are given guidance relating to research ethics and copyrights.
  • Students are given guidance relating to the use of references.

Ethics in studying

The ethical conduct of the student refers to the student’s completing of his or her courses independently or as an active member of a group. University-level studying requires an independent and persistent approach. The student must be able to master large entities and to understand difficult things. The temptation to cheat or to resort to questionable methods can be great, although the consequences of a more serious violation may lead to getting suspended from the university.

Good scientific practice is something that is learned already during the studies. When working in a group, agreeing on the rules and writing them down diminishes the possibilities for misunderstanding. All members of the group are responsible for the group’s activities, as the unethical conduct of one member will lead to a critical review of the activities of the entire group. A student has the right to comment on a fellow student’s unethical conduct.

Examples of cheating:

  • using notes or other forbidden tools in an exam (cheating in an exam)
  • modifying an assignment that has already been evaluated
  • returning someone else’s assignment as one’s own
  • using the one and the same assignment on more than one course
  • taking a text or a part of a text from the Internet or some other source and using it as one’s own (plagiarism).

Examples of academic dishonesty:

  • completing an exam on someone else’s behalf
  • sending out exam answers or receiving messages during an exam
  • looking at someone else’s exam answers and using them as one’s own
  • finding out exam questions beforehand, e.g., in a paper left in the copying machine by a teacher
  • having some one else complete one’s own assignment or other study attainment
  • stealing or destroying fellow students’ assignments
  • being awarded a grade for a group assignment without having completed one’s own share.

Ethics in teaching

The ethical conduct of the teacher refers to the promotion of his or her students’ learning. This can best be done in an atmosphere built on respect for other people, supportive attitude and trust. Students should be given acknowledgement whenever there is reason to do so. Furthermore, constructive criticism should be given supportively and in a manner which promotes learning. The teacher is aware of being a role model for his or her students.

The teacher observes the principles of good scientific practice in his or her teaching and promotes their adoption among students.

Furthermore, the teacher does not plagiarise / exploit the assignments, ideas, research plans, results, etc. of his or her students.

If the teacher’s conduct towards a student is unethical, the student may bring the matter to the attention of the teacher’s superior, who is obliged to take measures to resolve the matter.

The teacher in question is considered disqualified from participating in the processing of the matter. The grounds of disqualification are laid down in the Administrative Procedure Act, Section 28.

Instructions relating to offences against teaching and research by students

The Degree Regulations of the University of Eastern Finland, Section 31, state the following:

Examiners shall have the right to remove a student guilty of cheating from an exam immediately. The exam of such student will be failed. The study attainment will also be failed in cases where the cheating is discovered only after the exam. Other study attainments can also be failed if the student has committed an offence against teaching or research while completing the study attainment in question.

In compliance with the Universities Act, Section 45, a student who has committed an offence against teaching or research at the university or has otherwise breached university order, may, as a disciplinary measure, be cautioned or suspended for a maximum of one year. The offence or breach shall be brought to the attention of the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned in writing, who shall decide on any further measures to be taken.

In compliance with the Universities Act, Section 45, the decision in regard of a caution to a student shall be made by the Rector of the university and in regard of a suspension by the Board of the university. Before the resolution of the matter, the student shall be verifiably notified of the offence he or she is accused of and given an opportunity to be heard in the matter.

If a teacher suspects a student of an offence against teaching or research, the teacher has the obligation to address the issue immediately and in an appropriate manner. If the discovered offence is minor and the result of the student’s unawareness of good scientific practice, the teacher may give the student advice and instructions. In other cases, the teacher has the obligation to report the suspected offence to the Dean or to the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned in writing.

The student is sent a written notification indicating the offence he or she is suspected of and the student is given an opportunity to be heard in the matter either in an oral hearing or in a statement issued in writing. The request for a statement (template provided as an appendix) or the invitation to a hearing is sent to the student with advice of receipt or in some other verifiable way. If the student is heard in an oral hearing, the event must be documented (e.g. memo, minutes). The student may bring a person to support him or her in the hearing. After the hearing or the issue of the statement, the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned resolves whether an offence has been committed (if not, the matter becomes void) and whether the offence is minor or serious, and what possible further action is needed in the matter.

If the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned considers that a minor offence has been committed, the consequences may include, e.g.:

  • an oral reprimand
  • an order to the student to rectify the written assignment, or
  • failing of the study attainment concerned.

A notification of the consequence given by the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned will be sent to the student and the teacher.

An offence may be considered minor when it is an isolated incident resulting from carelessness or unawareness of good scientific practice, and the damage caused by it is not significant.

If the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned considers, after having heard the student, that a more serious offence has been committed, he or she shall report the matter in writing to the Academic Rector and deliver the documents relating to the matter to the Academic Rector.

The Academic Rector may give the student a written caution, to propose to the Board that the student be temporarily suspended, or to establish that no offence in the matter has been committed.

A decision in the matter taken by the Academic Rector or the Board will be notified to the student, the teacher and the Dean or the Director of the independent institute or service centre concerned, as well as to Student and Learning Services.

The decision can be appealed against by lodging a complaint with the Administrative Court of Kuopio. The decision shall be included with instructions for making an appeal. A decision by the Administrative Court pertaining to a disciplinary action against a student referred to in the Universities Act, Section 45, may not be appealed against.

APPENDICES

Statement request template

Hearing invitation template

Appeal instructions (pdf)