In order to avoid conflicts of interest in review panels, the Research Council has established strict internal guidelines. We also seek to prevent less obvious conflicts of interest.
The debate about research funding agencies favouring certain researchers or assessors who support researchers to which they are close crop up from time to time. Such events damage the public's and the decision-takers' confidence in both research and the results obtained.
As a State authority, the Research Council comes under the Administration Law, a law which was formulated in general terms and applies to all authorities. Our activity differs from that of other authorities, since the majority on the deciding bodies are chosen by the researchers who are directly affected by our allocation of research funds.
It is incumbent on all members to report conflicts of interest in connection with the applications they are called upon to scrutinise. In cases where a conflict of interest arises, another reviewer is appointed. This applies naturally also to members on the deciding bodies, i.e. the board and the scientific councils.
In order to prevent conflicts of interest, we at the Research Council need to be constantly aware of how different relationships can influence the capacity to deal with a matter impartially. It is therefore difficult to formulate exhaustive and practicable guidelines which capture all situations of conflict of interest.
The Research Council's work is thus organised so that the review panels not only guard against conflicts of interest in the strict sense but also against unclear and delicate situations. Even if it is incumbent on the individual to report a conflict of interest, the review panels and officials need also to be on their guard.
Examples of conflicts of interest could be where a scrutiniser works at the same institute as an applicant, or has recently collaborated closely with an applicant. A conflict of interest can also arise from antagonism or competition between a reviewer and the person being assessed.