Conflicts of interest in the assessment of research applications - General

12/6/2017

It is particularly important for Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) that submitted applications receive a fair and impartial scientific assessment. The principles for this assessment shall be clear and transparent, particularly those concerning the foundation’s treatment of conflicts of interest.

A conflict of interest may exist if circumstances can be identified that call into question the impartiality of a member of the review panel, thus implying the risk that he or she may demonstrate inappropriate partiality.

It is consequently the responsibility of the members of the foundation’s review panels to voluntarily report conflicts of interest in connection with the review of applications. Reporting should be made if processing involves:

  • An application in which the review panel member is included or regarding which the review panel member may benefit or be damaged as a result of a recommendation.
  • Applications from close relatives or related parties of review panel members or in which the application may benefit or damage a close relative or related party of the review panel member.
  • Applications from close colleagues, members of the Committee Member’s own research team or of the review panel member’s closest institutional environment; however, review panel members are not considered to be partial, per definition, as regards applications from, for example, their own institutes or work units.
  • Applications in which particular circumstances are present that may call into question the impartiality of a review panel member in one specific matter. These include such aspects as obvious friendship or dislike; dependency relating to economic circumstances; superior/subordinate relationships; or cases in which a review panel member is involved in an application in a manner that easily arouses the suspicion of partisan assessment.

Conflicts of interest shall be reported by e-mail to the relevant Chairperson, with a copy being sent to the review panel members and relevant Research Secretary prior to the meeting of the review panel. It then becomes the responsibility of the review panel to jointly decide whether a conflict of interest is present in each specific case. Thus, cases are typically not settled by any one individual review panel member.

Any review panel member found to be subject to a conflict of interest shall leave the meeting when the application in which the conflict of interest exists is treated. However, if the Chairperson finds it appropriate, the review panel member reporting the conflict of interest may first be questioned about the circumstances of the application in question.

In addition, review panel members may not apply for research grants in cases in which that member will be selected to review the application. In practice, this means that review panel members 1-4 may not be an applicant or joint applicant for Project or Infrastructural Grants. However, this does not apply to applications concerning Programmes or Research Initiation. An equivalent regulation applies to members reviewing Programme Applications – he or she may not be part of a Programme but may apply for, or participate in, the other forms of support granted by the foundation.

Where applicable, the above principles also apply to the foundation’s board of directors and committees, as well as staff at the foundation’s offices.