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Sanna Kaisa Spoof

Sanna Kaisa Spoof (nee Pesälä)
Born 1962, Lahti

Master of Arts (Finno-Ugric ethnology, art history, archaeology) 1987, Licentiate 1992, PhD (Finno-Ugric ethnology) 1998, University of Helsinki
Docent in Finno-Ugric ethnology, University of Helsinki, 2002–

Secretary General, 1 September, 2010–, Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity
Research and Postgraduate Studies Officer 2009–10, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki
Senior Training Officer 2007–09, Sibelius Academy's continuing education
Secretary general 2001–07, Lahti University Consortium
Research associate 1988–2001, Department of Cultural Studies (the Department of Ethnology until 13 July 1988), University of Helsinki
Researcher 1987, department of research, National Board of Antiquities

Photo: Ruusukuva
Written by Sanna Kaisa Spoof (Tiia Niemelä, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Work for the Advisory Board on Research Integrity

Dr Sanna Kaisa Spoof has been Secretary General of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK) since 2010. The Advisory Board was established by a decree of the Council of State in 1991, so it enjoys a relatively stable position in the changing world of state administration. The chief mission of TENK is to address the ethical issues of scientific research by promoting good research practices, in other words, to prevent and deter academic dishonesty and research misconduct in all its forms.

The Advisory Board comprises ten members, all of whom are respected academics in various fields, with insights into research ethics, academic dishonesty, or field specific research ethics. The members of the Advisory Board are appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture after soliciting nominations from universities and research institutions. In addition, TENK has a small secretariat. TENK is an expert body of the Ministry of Education and Culture, but to maintain its independence it operates outside the Ministry and all universities, polytechnics, and research institutions alike. While functionally independent, administratively TENK is affiliated with the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies.

Directors and officers from the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and its affiliated Advisory Boards (TENK, The Council of Finnish Academies, and The Committee for Public Information) on signing their cooperation agreement in 2013. Photo: TSV.

Dr Spoof says that today the Advisory Board spends most of its time solving cases of academic dishonesty. The framework for the investigations is provided by the guidelines Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland, or the “RCR guidelines,” issued by TENK. Every university and research organisation in Finland has committed itself to following these guidelines and reporting each and every detected or suspected case of dishonesty to TENK. The primary responsibility for investigating a suspected case of academic dishonesty lies with the research organisation or university under whose aegis the research was undertaken, but TENK has advisory and oversight powers.

“Many cases of suspected plagiarism are so obvious that the university can deal with the investigation without TENK having to become involved in the process at all really. If some party to the investigation is dissatisfied with the ruling on the case by the rector of the university, they may request a statement from the Advisory Board. Then TENK will review the case and issue a statement on it. The ultimate power of decision still remains with the university or research organisation involved.”

The guidelines Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity, adopted by every university in Finland.

As Secretary General of TENK, today Dr Sanna Kaisa Spoof is the only civil servant in Finland who concentrates full-time on research integrity focused on responsible academic conduct. She is kept busy answering several daily requests and inquiries on the issue.

Dr Spoof was originally thinking of a museum career, but it was not to be. Before finishing her Master's degree, she was already substituting for a research associate, and after that she had two full five-year terms as research associate. Then she moved on to university administration, and from there it was a short leap to research ethics. Dr Spoof was already intrigued by ethical issues as an associate, since one couldn't avoid encountering them in research and teaching.

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