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Principles of Academic Ethics (Code of Academic Ethics)

Approved by TTÜ Council Resolution No 44 of 17 October 2017

Date of entry into force: 17 October 2017

TTÜ’s vision for the future is innovative Estonia in a sustainable world. The university realises its vision through science-based education supported by academic ethics and honesty. The university seeks to serve society and to refrain from unethical conduct.

1. General principles

1.1 Anyone who creates new values must respect others’ creation, be it created in written, digital, oral or any other form, and provide proper references to it. Refraining from any academic fraud, including (auto)plagiarism, is an essential requirement in research and studies.

1.2 Research must be novel, based on identifiable sources, avoid information carriers of unknown authors and accurately cited. In the case of doubt whether the information is general knowledge, referencing should be preferred with due respect for the author’s intellectual property rights.

1.3 A researcher must be neutral and must not represent any ideology or express personal political views in his/her work that would conflict with the objectivity of the scientific method. Also, the members of the university who support interdisciplinarity must refrain from superior attitude towards the representatives of other disciplines and must take into account the specificities of research and teaching established historically over time.

1.4 Operating on fictitious methods and false information or data collected in an unethical/unfair manner is academic fraud. Academic fraud includes also creation of any privileges not based on established rules, submission of false information about oneself and others in the process of assessing the results, applying for funding or for a position. This involves also use of resources without the assessor knowing and use of prohibited data.

1.5 Cooperation between scientists and other researchers is welcome but it is prohibited to present someone else’s work under one’s own name. Also, any dishonest deals or cooperation, e.g. in a situation, where an individual’s knowledge and skills are tested, are prohibited.

1.6 A person who notifies of academic fraud has the right to confidentiality. A head of a structural unit who deliberately ignores academic fraud is behaving unethically. The consequences of academic fraud with similar weight must be similar.

1.7 Assessment of research determining the author’s further studies, career or (research) funding must be objective and well-grounded. Research funding, scholarships and grants are awarded based on measurable criteria that indicate the applicant’s knowledge or current contribution on a competitive basis.

1.8 Any disputes and disagreements arising at the university shall be resolved by ascertaining the truth, the actual state of affairs as far as possible. All the parties shall be involved in identification of their errors and mistakes and admit them. Refuting an argument by attacking the other party’s personal qualities (argumentum ad hominem) is unacceptable.

1.9 The university’s learning and research environment must be tolerant towards personal and social diversity of lecturers and students, as well as towards disagreements in studies and scientific research, which may turn out to be complex and severe and may give rise to inconvenient and sometimes even overly difficult questions to the teacher. The problems arising shall be solved by competent disputes on a scientific basis involving equally all the parties who shall be committed to finding solutions to the problems.

2. Academic education

2.1 Academic communication between the teacher and the student shall be based on mutual politeness and respect. Students and teachers must be characterized by honesty and dignity that prevents a teacher or a student from being humiliated or suffering from offences. It is unacceptable to impose one’s views, opinions and pursuits on someone else; knowledge and ideas can be disseminated by persuasion which is based on competence and widely recognized achievements and supported by strong arguments.

2.2 Becoming a student and obtaining university education is a person’s voluntary choice and requires honest, responsible and determined commitment to studies and related research.

2.3 A teacher is independent in teaching his/her course in so far he/she adheres to the prescribed curriculum and the Academic Policies. A teacher shall take into account the changing and developing scientific environment and its effects on the discipline and avoid giving in to non-science-based pressure in his/her professional activities. A teacher’s authority is based on his/her knowledge, communication skills, unity of words and deeds, moral self and personal characteristics. A teacher communicates with students by teaching, by example and by persuading, not by giving orders, prohibiting or punishing.

2.4 A teacher as a supervisor shall communicate with a student in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill, support the student he/she supervises and promote the student’s personal development. A teacher shall adhere to the principles and values of good scientific practice and expect the same from his/her colleagues and students he/she supervises, notify of violations of academic ethics and, in cases of doubt, ask for advice from his/her colleagues.

2.5 A teacher shall protect students from any pseudo-sciences and unscientific predictions and manipulations by well-grounded arguments.

2.6 Non-studies-related and non-research-related communication between a student and a teachers should remain at the level of academic communication.

2.7 Successful research and teaching, including student assessment, must be based on objectivity. Subjectivity and discrimination, as well as showing personal preferences and prejudices is unacceptable. The essential features of academic conduct of teachers and students include demanding and critical attitude toward oneself, one’s abilities and actions. Academic communication is characterised by accuracy, both in the classroom and in the laboratory – in lectures, seminars, practical training, defence committees, conferences, etc.

2.8 Any cheating in academic pursuits, such as copying, submitting purchased work under one’s own name, use of unauthorised resources in knowledge testing is forbidden and punishable in accordance with the gravity of the infringement.

3. Good scientific practice

3.1 Scientists and research organisations shall be guided in their activity, conduct and attitudes by the relevant principles recognized in Estonia and internationally, which lay down the requirements for planning, carrying out, publishing the results of and implementation of research, as well as for the scientist’s position in the scientific community.

3.2 A scientist shall plan his/her research in compliance with the practice in and requirements for the field of research and shall be responsible for ensuring that research is carried out in adherence with the established principles of research ethics, standards and regulations.

3.3 When planning research (goals, methodology, applying for funding, ethical and legal requirements), a scientist shall assess the positive and negative effects of the research on any party related to the research (the natural and cultural environment, society, research community, research organisation involved in the research).  In setting the goals, a scientist shall consider whether the research is justified, and in selecting the methodology, whether it is suitable for achieving the goals. In planning research, a research organisation shall respect the scientist’s freedom in setting goals and choosing the methodology, promote open and research-based science and make sure that all scientists have open and equal access to funding information.

3.4 When carrying out research, a scientist shall consider how to treat the persons involved in the research, how to ensure the safety of research, and what principles of scientific processing of data to apply. A research organisation shall make sure that research is carried out safely and the persons handling hazardous materials, organisms and equipment have the required knowledge, skills and tools. A research organisation shall support responsible management of data and objects of research.

3.5 Upon publication and implementation of the results of research, a scientist shall take into account the interests and rights of all the scientists and cooperation partners, who have contributed to the research, in regard to their authorship, intellectual property and recognition. A scientist shall agree on authorship with the persons who have contributed to the publication, recognize the third persons who have contributed to preparation of the publication, take into account recommendations and restrictions on publication. Upon publication, a research organisation shall support honesty, fairness and transparency in determining authorship and in recognition.

3.6 A scientist as a reviewer and expert shall ensure impartiality, high quality and timeliness of his/her actions and confidentiality of the research results he/she has become aware of. In case of conflict of interests, he/she shall remove himself/herself from the position of a decision-maker, assessor or expert.

3.7 A scientist as a scientist in a scientific community shall promptly disclose any conflicts of interest related to his/her research, notify the journal or publisher of all the financial and other interests and personal relations affecting reliability of the research. A research organisation shall knowingly avoid conflicts of interest in electing or appointing a person to a position, distribution of resources and recognition of scientists and shall provide favourable conditions to scientists for reconciling and balancing their roles and responsibilities and shall ensure a safe work environment and equal treatment of all of its employees.