The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)
Cross-phase quality assurance
Researchers carry out each step of the research process lege artis. When research findings are made publicly available (in the narrower sense of publication, but also in a broader sense through other communication channels), the quality assurance mechanisms used are always explained. This applies especially when new methods are developed.
Continuous quality assurance during the research process includes, in particular, compliance with subject-specific standards and established methods, processes such as equipment calibration, the collection, processing and analysis of research data, the selection and use of research software, software development and programming, and the keeping of laboratory notebooks.
If researchers have made their findings publicly available and subsequently become aware of inconsistencies or errors in them, they make the necessary corrections. If the inconsistencies or errors constitute grounds for retracting a publication, the researchers will promptly request the publisher, infrastructure provider, etc. to correct or retract the publication and make a corresponding announcement. The same applies if researchers are made aware of such inconsistencies or errors by third parties.
The origin of the data, organisms, materials and software used in the research process is disclosed and the reuse of data is clearly indicated; original sources are cited. The nature and the scope of research data generated during the research process are described. Research data are handled in accordance with the requirements of the relevant subject area. The source code of publicly available software must be persistent, citable and documented. Depending on the particular subject area, it is an essential part of quality assurance that results or findings can be replicated or confirmed by other researchers (for example with the aid of a detailed description of materials and methods).
Researchers take into account and acknowledge the current state of research when planning a project. To identify relevant and suitable research questions, they familiarise themselves with existing research in the public domain. HEIs and non-HEI research institutions ensure that the necessary basic framework for this is in place.
Methods to avoid (unconscious) distortions in the interpretation of findings, e.g. the use of blinding in experiments, are used where possible. Researchers examine whether and to what extent gender and diversity dimensions may be of significance to the research project (with regard to methods, work programme, objectives, etc.). The context in which the research was conducted is taken into consideration when interpreting findings.
Legal and ethical frameworks, usage rights
Researchers adopt a responsible approach to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of research. They comply with rights and obligations, particularly those arising from legal requirements and contracts with third parties, and where necessary seek approvals and ethics statements and present these when required. With regard to research projects, the potential consequences of the research should be evaluated in detail and the ethical aspects should be assessed. The legal framework of a research project includes documented agreements on usage rights relating to data and results generated by the project.
Researchers maintain a continual awareness of the risks associated with the misuse of research results. Their responsibility is not limited to compliance with legal requirements but also includes an obligation to use their knowledge, experience and skills such that risks can be recognised, assessed and evaluated. They pay particular attention to the aspects associated with security-relevant research (dual use). HEIs and non-HEI research institutions are responsible for ensuring that their members’ and employees’ actions comply with regulations and promote this through suitable organisational structures. They develop binding ethical guidance and policies and define procedures to assess ethical issues relating to research projects.
Where possible and practicable, researchers conclude documented agreements on usage rights at the earliest possible point in a research project. Documented agreements are especially useful when multiple academic and/or non-academic institutions are involved in a research project or when it is likely that a researcher will move to a different institution and continue using the data he or she generated for his or her own research purposes. In particular, the researcher who collected the data is entitled to use them. During a research project, those entitled to use the data decide whether third parties should have access to them (subject to data protection regulations).
Researchers back up research data and results made publicly available, as well as the central materials on which they are based and the research software used, by adequate means according to the standards of the relevant subject area, and retain them for an appropriate period of time. Where justifiable reasons exist for not archiving particular data, researchers explain these reasons. HEIs and non-HEI research institutions ensure that the infrastructure necessary to enable archiving is in place.
When scientific and academic findings are made publicly available, the research data (generally raw data) on which they are based are generally archived in an accessible and identifiable manner for a period of ten years at the institution where the data were produced or in cross-location repositories. This practice may differ depending on the subject area. In justified cases, shorter archiving periods may be appropriate; the reasons for this are described clearly and comprehensibly. The archiving period begins on the date when the results are made publicly available.
Handling samples in the geosciences
Samples should be archived and stored for future use whenever possible so as to ensure that the material can be used as widely as possible by the scientific community. Publicly accessible databases that document the whereabouts of the sample material can be used for this purpose. A good example here is to assign an International GeoSample Number (IGSN): this is an alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies samples taken from the natural environment (e.g. rock samples, water samples, sediment cores) and related sampling features (sites, stations, stratigraphic sections, etc.) worldwide. IGSNs can be used in the following areas: natural and environmental sciences, material sciences, agricultural sciences, physical anthropology, archaeology and biomedicine.
When submitting cruise proposals via the German research vessels portal, the question of data and sample handling is addressed in that a management plan (responsibility, use, archiving and release) has to be outlined in the proposal itself, and this is also included in the review process. Release for use by others may be delayed to protect the author’s publication rights. For this purpose, data and samples can be stored under protection in a data/sample centre so that only their existence is publicly displayed. This also serves to avoid unnecessary sampling and pollution/exposure – in this case to protect the marine habitat, for example.
A similar approach in managing data and samples would lend itself to projects conducted in other areas of the geosciences.
The comment belongs to the following categories:
GL7 (Natural sciences) , GL9 (Natural sciences) , GL10 (Natural sciences) , GL17 (Natural sciences)