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Academic integrity at VU-VUMC

Scientific research has to be reliable and honest. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Amsterdam UMC Location VUmc (VUmc) are responsible for the protection of academic integrity in education, research and social services.

As a scientist, you may be faced with issues involving academic integrity, such as:

“My name was left off a publication I contributed to.”
“We can’t agree on the order of the cited authors.”
“One of my colleagues is using my work without citing me.”
“I have noticed that my colleague is producing sloppy work.”

To protect academic integrity VU Amsterdam and VUmc subscribe to the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity 2018. Moreover, VU Amsterdam and VUmc aim to ensure all academic staff are up to date on their knowledge of the code of conduct as well as recent developments regarding policy on academic integrity.

Confidential counsellor
A confidential counsellor can help you create a well-informed view on your situation. Although it is not obligatory, consulting such a counsellor may be advisable considering their knowledge of the complaints procedure. There are numerous confidential counsellors at VU and you are free to choose who to approach. Read more about this below.

Complaints procedure VU-VUmc
If you suspect a breach of academic integrity you may use your right to complain, which everybody has. VU-VUmc Academic Integrity Complaints Procedure outlines the various steps to be taken in the event of a complaint, the officers who play a role in this procedure and what you can expect once a complaint has been submitted. Read more about Submitting a complaint and the Academic Integrity Committee (CWI) below. 

Do you have any questions?
On our FAQ page you can find the answers to frequently asked questions. Do you have another question? You can ask the Scientific Integrity Policy Advisors:

  • Nathalie Trifkovic, also secretary of the Scientific Integrity Committee VU-VUmc (CWI): n.trifkovic@vu.nl, 06 38 17 07 57. 
  • José Kiss, also deputy secretary of the Scientific Integrity Committee VU-VUmc (CWI): j.m.kiss@vu.nl, 06 42 19 83 73

More information on academic integrity

  • Confidential Counsellor

    If you have any suspicions that a Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or VUmc academic staff member has violated the academic integrity rules (e.g. through plagiarism or manipulation/fabrication of research data), it is advisable to contact one of the confidential counsellors.

    The confidential counsellor’s role is to advise and/or assist anyone who seeks their support. He/she can discuss the nature and seriousness of the situation with you and advise you on the appropriate course of action. In some cases he/she can explore whether the issue can be resolved through mediation between the parties. The other party can also seek support from one of the other confidential counsellors or from another person of his/her choice.

    Sometimes the confidential counsellor will advise you to submit a formal complaint to the Executive Board of Vrije Universiteit (EB). In this case the EB will refer the complaint to the Academic Integrity Committee (CWI). The CWI procedure is explained under the heading ‘Stage 2’ (below). The confidential counsellor can help you to submit the complaint in the correct manner.

    Four clusters

    The confidential counsellors are grouped per cluster of faculties (Humanities & Theology, Sciences, Social Sciences, Medicine). To ensure a correct assessment of the situation, it may be advisable to select a confidential counsellor from the cluster to which the complaint relates. However, you are free to select a confidential counsellor from a different cluster if you prefer.

    Humanities cluster

    Faculty of Humanities
    dr. Antske Fokkens
    contact by email: antske.fokkens@vu.nl
    visiting address: Main building, by appointment

    Faculty Religion and Theology 
    prof.dr. Faustina Doufikar-Aerts
    contact by email: f.c.w.doufikar-aerts@vu.nl
    visiting address: Main building, by appointment

    Sciences cluster

    Faculty of Science

    prof. dr. Herman Verhoef
    contact by email: h.a.verhoef@vu.nl
    visiting address: W&N Building, room H-120, appointment required

    prof. dr. Frans van Lunteren
    contact by email: f.h.van.lunteren@vu.nl
    visiting address: W&N Building, room U-260, appointment required

    Social sciences cluster

    School of Business and Economics
    prof. dr. Harmen Verbruggen
    contact by email: h.verbruggen@vu.nl
    tel: 020-59 89520
    visiting address: Main building, room 9A-64

    Faculty of Law
    mr. dr. Klaas Rozemond
    contact by email: n.rozemond@vu.nl
    visiting address: appointment required

    Faculty of Social Sciences
    prof. dr. Marjo de Theije
    contact by email: m.de.theije@vu.nl
    visiting address: Main building, appointment required.
    July-Dec 2021: only contact by e-mail (sabbatical)

    Medicine cluster

    VUmc, Faculty of Medicine
    prof. dr. Jan Heimans
    contact by email: jj.heimans@vumc.nl
    visiting address: appointment required

    Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences
    prof. dr. Siebren Miedema
    contact by email: s.miedema@vu.nl
    visiting address: appointment required

    ACTA, Faculty of Dentistry
    dr. ir. J. H. Koolstra
    contact by email: j.koolstra@acta.nl
    visiting address: ACTA building, appointment required

    How to contact the Confidential Counsellors:
    In various buildings, the office area can only be accessed with an authorized pass. This means that not all Confidential Counsellors can be visited without an appointment. In this case, you can always call or send an email to make an appointment.

  • Submitting a complaint

    If you decide to submit a formal complaint, you can do so by sending your complaint to the Executive Board of Vrije Universiteit (EB). The same applies if you wish to submit an academic integrity complaint about a staff member of VUmc. You can submit your complaint by signed letter or email. 

    By letter:

    Marked “confidential”

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
    Executive Board
    Attn: Rector
    De Boelelaan 1105
    1081 HV AMSTERDAM

    By email:

    Marked “confidential”

    p.g.j.oosterhuis@vu.nl  (Paulien Oosterhuis, Rector Secretariat)

    Your complaint must always include your name, position, address and email address. You must also clearly indicate the person against whom you are complaining, explain what the complaint is about, and why you think the complaint is an academic integrity issue. If necessary, you can enclose or attach supporting documentation. If your complaint concerns plagiarism, you must submit both the original source and the section of text that was plagiarized in your opinion. The EB will take receipt of your complaint and forward it to the CWI for assessment and, if necessary, further handling.

  • Academic Integrity Committee

    The CWI deals with the complaint and, after investigating the matter, issues an advisory report to the EB. The EB then makes a decision based on the CWI’s advisory report. Measures are taken if necessary.

    The composition of the CWI is as follows:

    • prof. Jan Struiksma (VU Amsterdam, Faculty of Law), chairman
    • prof. Jan van Mill (emeritus, formerly Faculty of Science, now full professor at University of Amsterdam), member
    • prof. Jon Schilder (VU Amsterdam, Faculty of Law), member
    • prof. dr. Martin den Heijer (VUmc), member
    • prof. dr. Mariëtte van den Hoven (VUmc), lid

    The secretary to the CWI is Nathalie Trifkovic (n.trifkovic@vu.nl, +31 (0)6 38 17 07 57). The deputy secretary of the committee is José Kiss (j.m.kiss@vu.nl, 06 42 19 83 73). The composition of the CWI can vary from case to case.

    Annual reports

    The VU-VUmc Academic Integrity Committee (AIC) reports on its issued advices by means of an annual report. As of 2019-2020, these reports are published online.

    Annual Report AIC 2019-2020

    Admissibility of the complaint

    After receiving a complaint, the CWI sends all parties confirmation of receipt. For the person who is the subject of the complaint, this is usually the first time he or she hears of the complaint. Next, the CWI assesses the admissibility of the complaint by checking whether all formal requirements of the procedure have been satisfied. If the complaint is not admissible, the CWI will advise the EB to declare the complaint inadmissible. The EB will notify the parties involved of this decision.

    If all formal requirements of the procedure have been satisfied, the complaint is admissible and the CWI proceeds to consider the substance of the complaint. Parties are notified of this within four weeks of being informed about the receipt of the complaint.

    If the substantive examination finds that the complaint is against a publication or other scientific work that was not produced or performed under the responsibility of Vrije Universiteit or VUmc, the CWI cannot handle the complaint any further and will advise the EB to declare the complaint inadmissible. In this case, no further investigation is carried out and the parties are not heard by the CWI.

    Substantive examination of the complaint

    If the complaint does concern work that was produced or performed under the academic responsibility of Vrije Universiteit or VUmc, the CWI will proceed to request all relevant documents and parties will be invited for a hearing. A second hearing may be held later in the procedure. The parties receive the reports of each other’s hearings after these have been signed by the person heard and by the committee chairman.

    After completion of the investigation, the parties receive the draft advisory report from the CWI with the request to check this draft for factual inaccuracies. The CWI then issues its final advisory report to the EB. Parties are notified of the EB’s decision and any measures to be taken. The final CWI report is enclosed with this notification.

  • Netherlands Board on Research Integrity (LOWI)

    Once the procedure has been completed, the EB sends all parties a letter outlining its decision. If you disagree with the EB’s decision, you can request the opinion of the Netherlands Board on Research Integrity (LOWI). For more information about the LOWI and its rules and procedures, go to www.lowi.nl.

  • Anonymized Publication

    Substantive advisory reports including the accompanying EB decision are posted in anonymized form on the VSNU website after the LOWI appeal deadline has expired without an appeal having been made by either party.

    If either party has appealed to the LOWI and the LOWI accepts the appeal for consideration, parties must await the outcome of the LOWI procedure. The LOWI presents its opinion to the EB. Based on this opinion, the EB once again makes a final decision. This decision may differ from the previous decision, but not necessarily. The LOWI posts its opinions in anonymized form on the LOWI website. The CWI’s advisory report, together with a summary of the LOWI’s opinion and the second EB decision, are all posted in anonymized form on the VSNU website after completion of the LOWI procedure.

  • FAQ

    1. Will the report about my complaint be published?
    In principle, Vrije Universiteit publishes nothing, except for the anonymized reports on the VSNU website. If a case has been brought to the attention of the media through no action of Vrije Universiteit, Vrije Universiteit may decide to make certain information public. Vrije Universiteit exercises restraint and discretion in this respect.

    2. Can I also submit a complaint directly or must I go to a confidential counsellor first?
    You can submit a complaint directly to the Executive Board. However, it is advisable to contact one of the confidential counsellors first. They can advise you on the correct procedure for submitting a complaint.

    3. Is there also a female confidential counsellor?
    Yes, there are also female confidential counsellors. 

    4. Why is it taking so long to handle my complaint?
    The CWI does its very best to handle every complaint as well and as quickly as possible. Delays can occur because another complaint is given priority or because certain information is found that requires further investigation. The CWI makes no statements about the timelines for handling complaints.

    5. Why was my complaint declared inadmissible, even though I have not been heard by the CWI?
    It is possible that your complaint is admissible, but does not come under the academic responsibility of Vrije Universiteit. This is the case, for instance, if the complaint does not concern a scientific publication or if the publication in question was not produced under the academic responsibility of Vrije Universiteit, but under that of another organization.

    6. Can I also submit an anonymous complaint?
    You can indicate that you wish to remain anonymous to the CWI and EB. Your name, position and contact details must be known to at least one of the confidential counsellors. The confidential counsellors guarantee confidentiality and will never disclose your details.

    7. Where can I submit a complaint about a member of the EB?
    You can submit your complaint to the Supervisory Board of Vrije Universiteit, via the secretary drs. M.A.C. Vermeulen (Annemarie): m.a.c.vermeulen@vu.nl.

    8. I am not a staff member of Vrije Universiteit or VUmc. Can I still submit a complaint against a staff member of Vrije Universiteit or VUmc?
    Yes. The guidelines for submitting a complaint are exactly the same for you as for a staff member of VU or VUmc. It is advisable to contact one of the confidential counsellors first, for instance a confidential counsellor of the cluster of faculties comprising the academic field to which the complaint relates.

    9. I am not a staff member of Vrije Universiteit or VUmc. Can I also go to a confidential counsellor?
    Yes. The guidelines for submitting a complaint are exactly the same for you as for a staff member of VU or VUmc.

    If your question is not listed above, please contact Nathalie Trifkovic, n.trifkovic@vu.nl, +31 (0)6 38 17 07 57.