The purpose of the white paper Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice, published by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in 1998, was to further research integrity and establish it as an integral part of research and teaching.

In summer 2018, the DFG Executive Board voted to revise the white paper and the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct, a decision that was prompted by wide-ranging changes in research brought about by the digital turn and new developments in publishing, the structure of research institutions and forms of cooperation. The reflection and discussion process on the revision took place against the backdrop of international debate on research integrity. The Code provides a framework for safeguarding public confidence in the research endeavour while ensuring that policies and guidelines are in place to protect complainants and to foster the principle of the presumption of innocence to the extent possible.

Against this background, an expert committee was appointed and tasked with revising the white paper Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice and the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct. The committee held its first meeting in August 2018.

The members of the committee were:

  • Professor Dr. Klaus-Michael DEBATIN, Ulm University Medical Center
  • Professor Dr. Michael FAMULOK, University of Bonn
  • Professor Dr. Onur GÜNTÜRKÜN, University of Bochum
  • Professor Dr. Marlis HOCHBRUCK, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Professor Dr. Johannes JANICKA, TU Darmstadt
  • Professor Dr. Wolfgang LÖWER, University of Bonn
  • Professor Dr. Ansgar OHLY, LMU Munich
  • Professor Dr. Stephan RIXEN, University of Bayreuth
  • Professor Dr. Elisabeth STAUDEGGER, University of Graz
  • Professor Dr. Eric STEINHAUER, FernUniversität Hagen

This committee of ten, chaired by Professor Dr. Marlis Hochbruck, was divided into three subcommittees focusing on the following topics:

  1. Data, Publications, Digital Turn
    Chair: Professor Dr. Eric Steinhauer
  2. Research Staff
    Chair: Professor Dr. Marlis Hochbruck
  3. Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct
    Chair: Professor Dr. Stephan Rixen

Meetings of the committee and subcommittees were also attended by guests who contributed their special expertise to the discussions. The members worked closely with representatives of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) to deepen their shared understanding of standards of good research practice and to ensure consistency in the handling of suspected cases of misconduct.

The approximately one-year process of revising the white paper focused on embedding a binding culture of research integrity at higher education institutions (HEIs) and non-HEI research institutions in the spirit of a professional code of ethics.

The recommendations set out in the 1998 white paper initiated a system of self-monitoring and voluntary commitment within the German academic research system that has enjoyed broad consensus to this day. The work of the committee serves as the basis for the Code, which also draws on international reference works, and describes appropriate standards for research in the form of guidelines. The guidelines take into account the diversity of the various subject areas and enable researchers, HEIs and non-HEI research institutions to align their actions, internal structures and processes to the guidelines in keeping with the principle of academic voluntary commitment.

The Code, which contains 19 guidelines, is based on a multidimensional approach:

  1. The Code comprises three levels, each designed to reflect the level of abstraction within the text. The guidelines at level one have a high abstraction level. The explanations that follow at level two also have a relatively high level of abstraction. The printed version of the Code includes levels one and two. The third level will be available as a dynamic document on the DFG website. It will contain research area specific information, case studies and frequently asked questions and will be prepared in detail in autumn 2019. Third-level content will be developed and quality assured continually in cooperation with HEIs, non-HEI institutions, research organisations, the German Research Ombudsman and other stakeholders, and adapted to changing practices in research. The goal is to create a current reference work for the research community in Germany.
  2. The standards of good research practice are divided into six guidelines that define general principles and eleven guidelines that cover the key steps of good practice throughout the research process. The Code concludes with two guidelines that set out the procedure for handling instances of non-compliance with good research practice.

The framework conditions in place at HEIs and non-HEI research institutions are essential to enabling good, productive research. Such conditions include time and adequate resources for research, teaching and the training of early career researchers.

The Code of Conduct Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice was adopted on 3 July 2019 by the DFG General Assembly during its annual meeting, held in Rostock, following approval by the DFG Senate on 28 March 2019. The Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct were approved on 28 March 2019 in the Senate and on 2 July 2019 by the Joint Committee.

Bonn, July 2019