NWO Fraud protocol

Every form of fraud is socially irresponsible. Fraud undermines the confidence in the government and the organisations it appoints to award grants. Furthermore, failing to respond adequately to cases of fraud elicits new cases of fraud. Fraud cannot always be prevented, but if a possible fraud comes to light then NWO adheres to the following process.

There are many types of fraud. One type is the unlawful use of funding. In addition there are other issues that are usually referred to by the term fraud. These include forgery, swindling and deception.

The knowledge institutions are responsible for supervising and managing the use of NWO grants. The knowledge institutions therefore bear primary responsibility for informing NWO of cases where scientific integrity has been violated. In addition cases of fraud can also come to the direct attention of NWO or be reported to NWO. In such a case NWO can, in compliance with the National Model Regulation for Complaints about Scientific Integrity of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), submit a complaint to the knowledge institution concerned. Besides the measures that a knowledge institution can take itself as the employer, NWO can take the measures described below in the aforementioned cases, if it is irrefutably demonstrated that scientific integrity has been violated.

The General Administrative Law Act (hereafter: Awb) provides a possibility of retrospectively withdrawing a grant. Here a distinction should be made between the grant awarded and the final size of the grant awarded.

In the case of fraud during the grant-awarding process the grant awarded can be withdrawn or altered on the basis of Section 4:48, para 1b and 1c if:

  • the grant recipient has not satisfied the requirements attached to the grant. For this reference can be made to Article 7 of the General Terms and Conditions of NWO grants. Under reference to the Scientific Integrity Memorandum of KNAW, VSNU and NWO, this article states that for the realisation and reporting of the research and for the publication of the results from the research, those involved should act in accordance with what may be expected with respect to ethically responsible and honest behaviour in the context of scientific and/or technological research.
  • the grant recipient has provided incorrect or incomplete details, whereas the provision of correct or complete details would have led to a different ranking of the application for the awarding of a grant.

Although the provision of incorrect details is not independently stated as a reason for withdrawing or altering the final size of the grant awarded it can however fall under Section 4:49, para 1a:

  • based on facts and circumstances which the administrative body could reasonably speaking not have been aware when determining the final size of the grant awarded and on the basis of which the size of grant awarded would have been lower than the size of grant actually awarded.

The grant finally awarded cannot be withdrawn if more than five years have elapsed since the awarding of the grant was announced, or since the moment at which the grant recipient failed to comply with a requirement.

In addition to the aforementioned possibilities for retrospectively withdrawing or altering the grant, NWO can:

  • suspend or exclude the applicant(s) from submitting further grant applications to NWO.
  • in the case of forgery, swindling and deception, report this to the police so that the case can be investigated for criminal wrongdoing and prosecution.

For all measures stated above, a careful consideration of the interests at stake will have to be made in each case. An argument frequently heard during recent cases of fraud is that innocent PhD students and other researchers involved in the projects of those who have committed fraud may not be put at a disadvantage. Agreements will have to be made with the knowledge institutions to ensure that these people do not suffer any negative consequences of fraud that comes to light.

Approved by the Governing Board of NWO on 15 May 2013.