German Research Ombudsman (Ombudsman für die Wissenschaft)

Founding year

1999

History

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

2010

Structure

Voluntary-based

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.

Main Tasks

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.

Investigation

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.

Chart Workflow of investigation German Research Ombudsman

Training

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

Contact

Dr. Hjördis Czesnick

German Research Ombudsman - Office
Jägerstraße 22-23
10117 Berlin - Germany

+49 30 20370 484

Michaele Kahlert

German Research Ombudsman - Office
Jägerstraße 22-23
10117 Berlin - Germany

+49 30 20370 484

Fanny Oehme, M.Sc.

German Research Ombudsman - Office
Jägerstraße 22-23
10117 Berlin - Germany

+49 30 20370 484

Geschäftsstelle für Ombudsangelegenheiten der Universität Hamburg

Founding year

2013

History

Based on the Recommendation 5 of the DFG-Memorandum “Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice (1998)”, all German universities and research institutes shall appoint ombudspersons as contactpersons for questions concerning good scientific practice and in cases of suspected scientific misconduct. In the revised version of 2013, it is stipulated additionally that the institutions should consider ways in which the workload of the ombudspersons could be reduced and their mediation work could be rendered more effective. In accordance with this target, the University of Hamburg decided in May 2013 to implement the “Geschäftsstelle für Ombudsangelegenheiten der Universität Hamburg” which started its work on October 1st, 2013.

ENRIO member since

2013

Structure

s.a.; Ombudsstelle is part of the University of Hamburg and insofar legally based

Main Tasks

Beside the administrative support of the five-member ombuds’ committee, the tasks of the Ombudsstelle are to offer presentations and workshops about GWP, to counsel those who are seeking advice or need information and support in a conflict situation. Furthermore and as a concrete offer for the prevention of misconduct due to lack of knowledge or uncertainty of the GSP rules, an individual coaching is offered and also possible before an intervention of an ombudsperson.

Investigation

Examination and Clearing-up of cases of suspected scientific misconduct that may have occurred at the University of Hamburg by its current or former members

Ombudspersons work independently, they shall not be subject to instructions, and act as impartial mediators. All current and former members of the University have access to ombudspersons, who provide confidential counsel on all matters relating to good scientific practice and allegations of scientific misconduct.

Following the bylaws of the University of Hamburg, the purpose of the ombuds proceedings is to mediate conflicts in an unbureaucratic and objective manner. They consist of an independent assessment of the conflict, consideration of the arguments brought forward by those involved and/or affected, as well as the internal examination of facts and data relating to the case.

The aim of the ombuds proceedings is to reach a solution satisfactory to both parties in a conflict. The ombudspersons will not initiate any proceedings without information from a person involved in or affected by a case.

Training

Lectures and workshops on GSP, on demand of working groups or institutes of the University.

All workshops and lectures are based on the “Curriculum Good Scientific Practice for Courses in Science and Medicine” (G. Sponholz, 2011)

Target groups are mainly PhD-students, but also Postdocs and staff of working groups or departments.

Starting with only five introductory lectures and presentations in 2014, the demand increased constantly (18 lectures and workshops in 2015, 20 in 2016).

Promoting Research Integrity

Regular presentation of the Bylaws of the University of Hamburg in each faculty, in academic panels and committees, such as PhD-boards, staff councils, etc.

General Information and detailed elaboration of terms of Good Scientific practice and cases of scientific misconduct at any arising opportunity

Contact

Helga Nolte

Geschäftsstelle für Ombudsangelegenheiten der Universität Hamburg
Von-Melle-Park 6 (Phil-Turm, Raum 469)
20146 Hamburg - Germany

+49 40 428 38 3564

Team Scientific Integrity (Team SciInt)

Founding year

2009

History

In 2009, two scientists founded Team Scientific Integrity (Team SciInt) after the “Curriculum ‘Good Scientific Practice’ for Courses in Science and Medicine” had been published on behalf of the German National Ombudsman. Since then, it has grown to six active members and several associate members.

ENRIO member since

2013

Structure

Association, voluntary based

Main Tasks

The members of Team SciInt conduct workshops and trainings and give presentations on good scientific practice/research integrity. They give advice to research institutions that intend to implement or revise regulations or procedures concerning GSP/RI and counsel individuals on protecting their scientific integrity. They develop curricula and teaching materials for courses, workshops, presentations and trainings. Research on the prevalence of misconduct and the knowledge of researchers about GSP/RI is an additional field of activity.

Training

Since 2009, Team Scientific Integrity conducted more than 325 workshops on good scientific practice (GSP) for doctoral students and postdocs in Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, France, Italy and Estonia with more than 3,500 participants.

Currently, Team SciInt members conduct about 80 workshops per year at more than forty universities in Germany and abroad, at Leibniz Institutes, Helmholtz Institutes, Max Planck Institutes and universities of applied science. The participants of the regular GSP workshops are predominantly doctoral students. The workshops are usually part of a graduate academy programme, of a further education curriculum for doctoral students, or of a graduate school’s structured programme (e. g. ITN, IMPRS, IRTG, GRK). In 2015 we started offering GSP workshops for postdocs and senior researchers.

The length of a regular GSP workshop is between 10 academic hours for participants from non-empirical research fields and 20 hours for participants from experimental sciences. The content of the workshops is based upon the institution’s GSP/RI by-laws or recommendations, state and federal regulations, the German Curriculum for Good Scientific Practice, the European Science Foundation’s Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, and the Singapore and Montréal Statements. The workshops cover a wide range of topics:

  • Good scientific practice in the process of science
  • Definitions and extent of questionable research practice and scientific misconduct
  • Good scientific practice and misconduct in data and sources management and handling
  • Good scientific practice and misconduct in the process of publishing
  • Authorship misconduct
  • Dealing with questionable practice and misconduct in science
  • The role of ombudspersons, whistle-blowers and investigative committees
  • The role of mentoring and supervision for the development of scientific integrity
  • Conflict of interest and cooperation in research
  • Official local, national and international recommendations, guidelines and regulations
  • In 2013 Team SciInt began training GSP teachers. Depending on the teachers’ target audiences and the planned teaching content, the training courses last between two and six days with up to three modules. Six teacher training courses have been completed in Germany so far, three more are scheduled until 2018. The training courses include teaching exercises, case study writing, didactic reflection and an in-depth study of rules and regulations.

Promoting Research Integrity

Team SciInt members have been advisors for several universities and research organizations concerning the revision and implementation of GSP regulations.

Other tasks: personal coaching; development of courses and teaching materials; research on GSP.

Personal coaching by Team SciInt members is provided for researchers who seek confidential advice on protecting their scientific integrity.

Based upon the “Curriculum ‘Good Scientific Practice’ for Courses in Science and Medicine” which was commissioned by and developed in cooperation with the German Research Ombudsman, and upon the revised and extended version for all academic disciplines, Team SciInt develops curricula and teaching materials for presentations, short and long courses and workshops, and trainings on GSP/RI. Supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) and the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, both curricula were translated into English.

Research activities mainly focus upon the experience of young researchers with scientific misconduct and their general knowledge about GSP/RI regulations and procedures. The results are presented on conferences (WCRI) and in scientific journals.

Contact

Dr. Michael Gommel

Institut für systemische Medizin- und Organisationsethik
Weserstrasse 10
10247 Berlin - Germany

+49 30 26076103

PD Dr. Dr. Gerlinde Sponholz

Institut für Medizin- und Organisationsethik
Senefelderstraße 15
10437 Berlin - Germany

+49 30 46796430

EMBO

Founding year

1964

History

The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) was born in 1964 on the initiative of a group of then leading European biologists to establish an organization and laboratory for cooperation in molecular biology. This led to the establishment of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), and of the EMBO Fellowship Programme and Courses & Workshops Programme. The Volkswagen Foundation provided start-up funding for the organization and EMBO initiated its first networking activities including fellowships, practical courses and the election of 140 biologists as the first EMBO Members. Through the formation of the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) as a permanent intergovernmental body in 1969, EMBO was able to gain the necessary political support for its long-term projects. Fourteen governments joined the EMBC initially, providing the organization with stable funding and scientific independence. The EMBC comprises now 30 Member States, including most of the Member States of the European Union.

EMBO today is membership organization dedicated to excellence in the life sciences in Europe and beyond, and has currently over 1800 members, who are leading researchers working at institutes in Europe and beyond.

The EMBO secretariat is based in Heidelberg, Germany, and comprises about 50 full-time staff members.

ENRIO member since

2021

Structure

Non-governmental organization, legally based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Main Tasks

EMBO is an international organization that promotes excellence in the life sciences. EMBO’s main tasks:

  • to support scientists at different stages of their careers
  • to fund scientific courses and workshops
  • to publish scientific journals
  • to contribute to shaping science and research policy in Europe.

A major goal of EMBO is to create an environment where scientists can work according to the highest scientific standards and principles of research integrity.

EMBO has been pursuing high quality, responsible research and robust and open goals at all levels for over 50 years in its training and education of early career researchers, its scientific publication process, and through creating new tools for sharing scientific data, promoting scientific integrity, and exploring innovative scientific policies.

Investigation

EMBO has its own procedures to evaluate allegations of research misconduct by its members, grantees and awardees. Allegations from any source, including from anonymous individuals or administrative officials in institutions, are first considered by the EMBO Director.

Well-founded allegations are evaluated by an ad hoc committee, composed of EMBO Members and assisted by EMBO staff. Not having direct access to data and other information held at researchers’ institutes, EMBO bases its evaluations on the information received in grant and award applications and membership nominations, and publicly available information. When research misconduct is found, possible sanctions by EMBO include withdrawal of funding or support and revoking of awards.

Training

EMBO holds Research Integrity workshops at research institutions in EMBC Member States covering conflicts of interest, ethical practices in human and animal research, scientific publication, emerging policy issues in data management, and mentoring. The workshops are highly interactive and include discussions of scenarios. They are targeted at senior post-docs and early PIs in the life sciences and are held 4 or 5 times per year. As of now, they have taken place in 15 countries with over 400 participants.

To give some examples of their impact, as a result of such workshops, the Curie Institute in Paris instituted compulsory training in research integrity issues for young group leaders; the Institute for Biotechnology, Helsinki, set up a committee to produce a code of conduct for mentorship; and the Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Porto, set up a working group to develop authorship guidelines.

For more information: www.embo.org/policy/research-integrity/workshops-on-research-integrity/

Promoting Research Integrity

Promoting research quality and scientific integrity are core principles of EMBO, which permeate all its initiatives from the training of the next generation of scientists to communicating research outcomes. The policies and tools developed by EMBO are shared freely and have established new standards and practices for the scientific community.

The practical application of concepts of responsible conduct of research have been a major concern of EMBO since its founding. EMBO was instrumental in driving discussions about societal concerns on recombinant DNA at the 1975 Asilomar meeting, and supported a workshop on DNA restriction and modification in Basel in 1972.

EMBO has been among the sponsors of the World Conferences on Research Integrity since the first event in 2007, and was one of the first funders in Europe to require training in RI (using a programme developed in part by EMBO and other research institutions) as a condition to receive funding in its Fellowship and Young Investigator schemes. To date over 1,200 EMBO awardees have completed this training.

Promoting research quality and scientific integrity are core principles of EMBO, which permeate all its initiatives from the training of the next generation of scientists to communicating research outcomes. The policies and tools developed by EMBO are shared freely and have established new standards and practices for the scientific community.

The practical application of concepts of responsible conduct of research have been a major concern of EMBO since its founding. EMBO was instrumental in driving discussions about societal concerns on recombinant DNA at the 1975 Asilomar meeting, and supported a workshop on DNA restriction and modification in Basel in 1972.

EMBO has been among the sponsors of the World Conferences on Research Integrity since the first event in 2007, and was one of the first funders in Europe to require training in RI (using a programme developed in part by EMBO and other research institutions) as a condition to receive funding in its Fellowship and Young Investigator schemes. To date over 1,200 EMBO awardees have completed this training.

EMBO develops innovative approaches to the promotion of research integrity, quality research, and open science. A recent example is the “Governance of Research Integrity” project, which investigated options for an integrated approach in Europe as an alternative to the existing patchwork of national and institutional regulations. The final report explores possibilities from the creation of a dedicated new European body to a range of options for coordinating the activities of existing entities. The project involved multiple stakeholders from academia, the private sector, and government, and included a workshop organized with the OECD’s Global Science Forum. For more information: https://www.embo.org/documents/science_policy/governance_of_ri.pdf

 

EMBO has also researched the thorny issue of peer review for funding allocation. Information for decision-makers was published in March 2021 year in a report entitled “Dealing with the limits of peer review with innovative approaches to allocating research funding”. The report describes selection mechanisms including lotteries, equal distribution of funds, and traditional metric-based evaluation systems. These reports exemplify EMBO’s commitment to analysing real-world outcomes of science policies and the generation of innovative solutions. For more information: https://www.embo.org/documents/science_policy/peer_review_report.pdf

 

EMBO is one of the founding organisations of the 2013 San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA, https://sfdora.org). DORA signatories commit to the assessment of research on its own merits, halting the pernicious use of bibliometric indicators, in particular the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), as surrogates to judge the quality of research and researchers. EMBO has implemented DORA principles: by 2014, EMBO had modified its instructions to both reviewers and applicants to EMBO fellowships and grants to abandon the use of the JIF. Instead, EMBO asks applicants and nominators to provide key references and a description of their major scientific contributions.

 

Other tasks:

Quality and integrity in scientific publication

The peer-reviewed scientific paper is a cornerstone of quality science. EMBO has been a leader in developing technologies and practices to assure the reliability of published data and to ensure that the peer review process is fair and transparent. In 2009, The EMBO Journal instituted a “transparent review” process, publishing reviewer reports, author responses, and the editorial decision letters alongside the final version of their paper; the following year the practice was extended to all journals published by EMBO Press, a practice embraced by authors. Transparent review has since been adopted by many other journals and is now the accepted standard for progressive journals.

EMBO has also introduced other innovative practices which are encapsulated in its “Transparent Process” (https://www.embopress.org/transparent-process).

In 2014, EMBO Press began to subject all manuscripts which pass peer review to systematic pre-publication image screening to detect signs of inappropriate image manipulation. A full-time data integrity analyst is dedicated to this task.

Development of new tools and platforms

EMBO is committed to the development of new tools and platforms, and to making them freely available to the scientific community.

EMBO’s Source Data project is an innovative approach to data integrity and “overcoming the fragmentation of science”. SourceData has curated and archived the data underlying more than 54,000 published experiment and transferred the machine-readable metadata to a curated, open database. The SourceData platform makes it possible to search and interlink data across different papers to generate and test new hypotheses. For more information: https://sourcedata.embo.org

Related ongoing projects include SDash, a community platform to create, share and post figures linked to data and metadata, SmartFigures, and the “Early Evidence Base” platform, which uses SourceData to train artificial intelligence tools to scan preprint figures, group them into named topics, and identify underlying molecular components.

Contact

Alessandra Bendiscioli

Senior Programme Officer, Policy
0049 6221 8891 1190049 6221 8891 200