German Research Ombudsman (Ombudsman für die Wissenschaft)
The German Research Ombudsman (Ombudsman für die Wissenschaft) was installed by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) in 1999. It serves as a nation-wide mediator in conflicts based on all kinds of scientific misconduct and complements the well established network of local Ombudspersons. Advice is given based on the guidelines “Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” summarized in a DFG-memorandum. At present, the committee is formed by Prof. Dr. Joachim Heberle (since October 2014), Prof. Dr. Stephan Rixen (since May 2015, spokesperson), Prof. Dr. Renate Scheibe (since January 2017) and Prof. Dr. Daniela Männel (since February 2017). The office of the Ombudsman is located in Berlin.
ENRIO member since
The four honorary members of the Ombudsman committee are regularly appointed by the German Research Foundation for a term of three years, with a possible reelection for another three-year term.
The main task of the German Research Ombudsman is to arbitrate between researchers in cases of conflict and to investigate cases of scientific misconduct. Researchers can also consult the Ombudsman office with questions concerning aspects of good scientific practice.
Inquiries or requests to the German Research Ombudsman can be submitted to the Ombudsman office. All inquiries are forwarded to the Ombudsman committee and are discussed in regular meetings. In allegations of scientific misconduct, appropriate evidence is requested. Inquiries brought before the Ombudsman committee may be related to all kinds of scientific misbehavior. Scientists may describe authorship conflicts, inadequate mentorship and neglect of support of young scientists, research obstruction, abuse of financial support, etc.
The Ombudsman operates according to the principles of confidentiality and impartiality. Without a legal mandate for imposing sanctions, the Ombudsman tries to solve conflicts by mediating between both parties (whistleblower and defendant). Progress towards conflict resolution is aimed at by extensive communication and hearings with both parties. If necessary, local Ombudspersons, external referees or journal editors are consulted.
In Germany, cases of serious fraud are investigated by individual universities and research institutions. Thus, the Ombudsman forwards cases of alleged non-correctable misdemeanors such as plagiarism, data manipulation or data fabrication to the local institutionary commissions that are suited to handling inquiries of scientific misconduct.
Scientists are welcome to contact to the Ombudsman office with questions regarding good scientific practice. Moreover, committee members of the German Research Ombudsman are regularly invited to present their work at research institutions and universities.
Other tasks: Confidential mediation
Confidential mediation between researchers in cases of conflict