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The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)

Guideline 2

Professional ethics

Researchers are responsible for putting the fundamental values and norms of research into practice and advocating for them. Education in the principles of good research begins at the earliest possible stage in academic teaching and research training. Researchers at all career levels regularly update their knowledge about the standards of good research practice and the current state of the art.


Experienced and early career researchers support each other in a process of continuous mutual learning and ongoing training and maintain a regular dialogue.

Guideline 3

Organisational responsibility of heads of research institutions

The heads of HEIs and non-HEI research institutions create the basic framework for research. They are responsible for ensuring adherence to and the promotion of good practice, and for appropriate career support for all researchers. The heads of research institutions guarantee the necessary conditions to enable researchers to comply with legal and ethical standards. The basic framework includes clear written policies and procedures for staff selection and development as well as for early career support and equal opportunity.


The head of each HEI and non-HEI research institution is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate organisational structure is in place at the institution. He or she makes certain that the tasks of leadership, supervision, quality assurance and conflict management are clearly allocated in accordance with the size of individual research work units and suitably communicated to members and employees.

With regard to staff selection and development, due consideration is given to gender equality and diversity. The relevant processes are transparent and avoid implicit bias as much as possible. Suitable supervisory structures and policies are established for early career researchers. Honest career advice, training opportunities and mentoring are offered to researchers and research support staff.

Guideline 4

Responsibility of the heads of research work units

The head of a research work unit is responsible for the entire unit. Collaboration within the unit is designed such that the group as a whole can perform its tasks, the necessary cooperation and coordination can be achieved, and all members understand their roles, rights and duties. The leadership role includes ensuring adequate individual supervision of early career researchers, integrated in the overall institutional policy, as well as career development for researchers and research support staff. Suitable organisational measures are in place at the level of the individual unit and of the leadership of the institution to prevent the abuse of power and exploitation of dependent relationships.


The size and the organisation of the unit are designed to allow leadership tasks, particularly skills training, research support and supervisory duties, to be performed appropriately. The performance of leadership tasks is associated with a corresponding responsibility. Researchers and research support staff benefit from a balance of support and personal responsibility appropriate to their career level. They are given adequate status with corresponding rights of participation. Through gradually increasing autonomy, they are empowered to shape their career.

The aspect of increasing independence in early academic career phases

Researchers in early career phases are offered the opportunity to take on responsibility for shaping their careers by being given increasing independence. A crucial aspect here is striking a balance between support and autonomy in a way that is appropriate to the career level in question. Doctoral researchers, postdocs and leaders of junior research groups enjoy a status that corresponds to their role and responsibilities and are appropriately involved in decision-making processes.

Independence is fostered in doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in that they:

  • attend conferences.
  • are successively given greater freedom to experiment and develop as individuals.
  • are openly informed about framework conditions, e.g. how and from what sources their positions are funded, what cooperation agreements exist, how the participatory structures work at the higher education institution, etc. This knowledge helps them become established, understand the broader context in which they are operating and get involved in academic self-administration, for example.
  • take on responsibility on a project basis and get involved in management.
  • participate on committees. This is an important experience and also gives them an opportunity to exert influence. As far as committee work is concerned, they should make sensible choices so as to avoid overload.

Independence is a challenge, too; mistakes and failure are part and parcel of the process and must be permitted.

It is helpful for researchers to raise their own funds. This can range from “mini-budgets” awarded at an institute, to research grants awarded by funding organisations. Where researchers have to manage their own funds, this involves additional tasks and responsibilities, depending on the discipline – such as taking on personnel responsibility or conducting animal experiments, etc. Here, less experienced researchers will require support (from the institute management or administration), especially in the case of fixed-term positions, so as to enable them to progress with their research according to plan.

Leaders of independent junior research groups are comparable to junior professors or qualifying professors: they have been through a competitive procedure to acquire funding for a research project that they pursue with their own research group, thereby preparing for a leadership position in science and academia. For this reason, it would be beneficial if they were given a status comparable to that of a junior professor or qualifying professor.

Junior research group leaders can work independently and provide guidance for their staff. This also includes the right to supervise doctoral candidates.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL2 (General) , GL3 (General) , GL4 (General)