The Swedish Administrative Procedure Act and the conflict of interest policy regulate the work
According to the objectivity principle, public agencies must be objective and impartial and protect everyone's equality before the law. The Administrative Procedure Act (Förvaltningslagen, SFS 2017:900) states that:
- A person who is aware of a circumstance that could be assumed to cause him or her to have a disqualifying conflict of interest is obliged to report this immediately to the agency.
- A person with a disqualifying conflict of interest must not take part in the handling of the matter.
- A person with a disqualifying conflict of interest must not be present when the matter is decided on.
The Swedish Research Council has developed a conflict of interest policy and guidelines for managing conflicts of interest. The guidelines describe what the agency must do to prevent, assess and manage conflicts of interest.
Everyone who works with applications – reviewers, decision-makers, and the agency's employees – must know and comply with the conflict of interest policy and the guidelines. Objective and impartial handling of applications is important for ensuring that the best research ideas receive funding.
Examples of where a conflict of interest situations may arise are
- when a reviewer on a panel has themselves applied for a research grant, or when someone closely related to them has made an application, or when they may be affected by the decision in some other way.
- when a reviewer has an ongoing or recently concluded close collaboration with the applicant. A doctoral student-supervisor relationship is always considered to be a conflict of interest situation.
What happens when someone has a conflict of interest?
A person who has a disqualifying conflict of interest must not take part in the handling of an application. This applies to everyone involved with applications. When the application in question is handled by a review panel, a scientific council or a committee, the person with a conflict of interest must not be present. If a member of a review panel has applied for a research grant, another review panel must handle the application.
Conflict of interest situations are always documented – both when there is a disqualifying conflict of interest, and when a conflict of interest situation has been assessed and found non-existent.