Monday | Apr 15 2024

Integrity Statement

Institutional independence

BSF’ commitment to independence is rooted in the individual integrity of its researchers, the diversity of its funding sources and its independence policy, which is supervised by a high-level Board of independent directors.

BSF does not have an institutional position. It encourages open, evidence-based, balanced discussion and competing ideas, both internally and with external stakeholders and policymakers. The opinion of BSF fellows does not engage the institution: indeed, differing opinions on many issues among BSF researchers are not unusual.

The core mission of BSF is to carry out state-of-the-art policy-oriented research, addressing the challenges facing Balkans. BSF fellows are encouraged to participate in public debate. In doing so, they commit to avoiding any national, regional, sectoral, institutional or other bias or partisanship in their publications and contributions to the broader public debate.

BSF fellows do not shy away from taking a critical stance, where they deem it appropriate, towards the policy actions of national governments. BSF favours European integration, but has no presumption that more integration is always the best answer to Balkan’s problems. 

Independence of research staff

The independence of BSF research staff begins with the Open, Transparent and Merit-based Recruitment of Researchers (OTM-R). Vacant positions are openly advertised on relevant European-wide platforms. The recruitment process itself is transparent and based on candidates’ expertise and potential, and commits to gender balance. A continuous evaluation process helps staff track their progress and identify areas for improvement. Maintaining BSF’ unqualified independence is a key criterion in this in-house evaluation process.

BSF researchers are often called upon to advise policymakers at many levels ( national, global and local). In doing so they must conform to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. They must clarify that they do not represent the position of the institution, but their own opinion as BSF researchers. They must also avoid any national, ideological, sectoral or other bias.

BSF research fellows and staff are expected to avoid conflicts of interest, such as when BSF staff have personal interests that may have a direct or indirect bearing on their work. Whenever such a conflict of interest arises, it has either to be declared in a transparent manner, or the staff member involved must abstain from representing the institution in the matter concerned. BSF staff are also expected to avoid situations that may lead to a division or compromise of loyalties, or create the impression that this might be the case (e.g. through membership of advocacy groups). If in doubt, they are encouraged to seek advice from management, including on mitigating measures. In certain important cases BSF management will consult the Board.

BSF research staff are obliged to disclose all significant outside activities and the related remuneration that might have a bearing on their work in the annual declaration of interests to the Chairman of the Board. Associate Fellows, whose main professional activities are outside BSF, are required to disclose activities and the remuneration that might involve a conflict of interest with the work they do for BSF.

BSF staff are also obliged to declare any significant association with organised political interests, at any level (local, national or global), and ensure that this does not interfere with their unqualified independence and impartiality. Any such activity shall be conducted clearly in a personal capacity, outside regular business hours, and not involve the use of BSF facilities. BSF staff are required manage their political activities in a manner which avoids an impression of partisanship in their BSF work or otherwise seriously interferes with their work at BSF. Alternatively, they are required to request a leave of absence for the period when this impression or interference cannot be avoided.

Events and networking

BSF seeks to provide a forum for discussion among all stakeholders in the Balkan policy process. In doing so, BSF will strive to provide space for different points of view. While it may not always be possible to represent all opinions at every event, BSF continuously strives to bring together a balanced variety of views.

BSF aims to build collaborative networks of researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders across the whole of Balkan, Europe and globally. Collaboration with different individuals, institutions, governmental agencies or other think tanks does not imply that BSF endorses their views. In many cases BSF researchers will hold very different views, but they are encouraged to engage, especially with those who hold different views to ensure that their own work is informed by all relevant viewpoints, arguments and facts.

Independence of research

All funders of BSF agree to respect the integrity and impartiality of its research. This applies both to the general research agenda of BSF and to individual research projects. All significant sources of research funding are made public in a transparent manner.

Most BSF research projects are awarded on a competitive basis after Balkan-EU-wide tenders. Institutions, corporations, organisations, governments or individuals that fund specific research projects must pledge to respect the full independence of BSF research. No research contract can stipulate findings or policy recommendations in advance. BSF researchers are encouraged to use all publicly available information sources and consult with any relevant stakeholder or researchers on the topic concerned.

Significant research projects awarded on a non-competitive basis will be subject to stringent quality control to ensure that it conforms to the highest standards of scholarship and independence. For larger projects, this usually includes the judgement of outside referees.

Responsibility for the final decision on the publication of BSF research results usually lies with BSF management. The acceptance and protection of confidential background information will be respected, but this shall not affect the ability of BSF researchers to publish the results of their research. BSF management regularly informs the Board of any sponsored research that might create the appearance of conflicts of interest and the mitigating measures taken to ensure the quality and impartiality of outcomes of the research.