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Wanted: Empathic and honest special advisor with broad shoulders

High demands are being made of Health's new special advisor on responsible conduct of research. However, we know that he or she is out there somewhere, says the driving force behind the new advisory function for responsible conduct of research, Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen.

A job description that would quickly put most people off. As special advisor on responsible conduct of research, you must have insight into principles of research ethics and good scientific practice, possess a high-level of integrity, have already had a long and wide-ranging research career, be experienced in (conflict) mediation and possess academic legitimacy, also internationally.

"So we’re not expecting to see so many young candidates," says Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen with a twinkle in her eye. Together with a working group from Health, she has drawn-up the profile of the person who health researchers can turn to for professional and confidential advice. The departments are currently being asked to propose candidates for the position of special advisor.

Professional and independent

The special advisor position is part of the new guidelines on good scientific practice adopted by the senior management team in March. Each faculty must appoint an adviser who should be available if a researcher or other person has questions about research conduct, or if someone needs to discuss a suspicion of scientific dishonesty.

"The special advisor is not a substitute for the research group or the head of school. However, there may be a need to find a person who is sufficiently impartial or independent of the research environment, so someone can get a clarification of the problem or suspicion that they have," says Lise Wogensen. 

International sparring

During the process of defining the special adviser's functions and powers, the working group has looked around the world. Two years ago, experts from Norway, Germany, Canada and the USA with special knowledge about responsible conduct of research, plagiarism and the psychology of research cheating, participated in a two-day workshop in Aarhus at which the initial foundations for the AU guidelines were laid down. Additional inspiration came from the University of Copenhagen, which appointed a special advisor around two years ago. So the scheme that Aarhus University will now establish is well thought out, according to Lise Wogensen.

"We have not been burdened by any major cases of violations of good scientific practice, but during the preparation of the guidelines we became aware of the need for a “neutral” person who could confidentially discuss any grey areas. Even though there were a set of rules for how you should deal with dishonesty or suspicion of dishonesty, what was missing was simply that personal and informal point of contact,” says Lise Wogensen.


 Joern Hounsgaard

The University of Copenhagen’s special advisor: My most important role is mediation

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen has had a special adviser for two years. Read the interview with Professor Jørn Hounsgaard about his experiences as a “Specially appointed person” (in Danish). (link)

What tasks will at Aarhus University’s special advisor have: 

  • All employees will be able to get confidential advice and guidance on the current rules for responsible conduct of research.
  • The advisor will contribute with instruction on research integrity and responsible conduct of research, as well as keeping up to date in the area.
  • The advisor will present an annual, anonymised report to the Committee for Responsible Conduct of Research, which will cover the enquiries etc. received during the year.
  • The advisers are independent of the university management.
  • If the advisor receives information on the violation of good scientific practice, the advisor must inform the person in question of how he or she should report this suspicion. In the event of suspicion of serious violations, the advisor must themselves report the suspicion.

The name of Health's new special advisor will be published before the summer holidays. After recommendation from the academic council, the dean will appoint the special advisor.

Read the guidelines for responsible conduct of research at Aarhus University here


Further information

Lise Wogensen Bach
Vice-dean for Talent Development, Health, Aarhus University
D: + 45 8715 2012
M: +45 2548 8522
Email: lwb@au.dk