PublISHED ON 30 April 2018

UpDATED ON 03 May 2019

How we avoid conflicts of interest

When researchers review other researchers’ applications for research grants in a peer review process, there is a risk of a conflict of interest, that is, suspicion of a bias. Conflict of interest situations can also arise during other stages of the handling of applications. To counteract any disqualifying conflict of interest, everyone who works with applications must follow the Swedish Research Council’s conflict of interest policy and guidelines.

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.

The Swedish Research Council’s conflict of interest policyPDF (pdf, 210.7 kB)

The Swedish Research Council’s guidelines for the management of conflicts of interest PDF (pdf, 320.9 kB)

MORE WITHIN THE SAME SUBJECT AREA

No matching pages