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).
Methods and standards
To answer research questions, researchers use scientifically sound and appropriate methods. When developing and applying new methods, they attach particular importance to quality assurance and the establishment of standards.
The application of a method normally requires specific expertise that is ensured, where necessary, by suitable cooperative arrangements. The establishment of standards for methods, the use of software, the collection of research data and the description of research results is essential for the comparability and transferability of research outcomes.
Researchers document all information relevant to the production of a research result as clearly as is required by and is appropriate for the relevant subject area to allow the result to be reviewed and assessed. In general, this also includes documenting individual results that do not support the research hypothesis. The selection of results must be avoided. Where subject-specific recommendations exist for review and assessment, researchers create documentation in accordance with these guidelines. If the documentation does not satisfy these requirements, the constraints and the reasons for them are clearly explained. Documentation and research results must not be manipulated; they are protected as effectively as possible against manipulation.
An important basis for enabling replication is to make available the information necessary to understand the research (including the research data used or generated, the methodological, evaluation and analytical steps taken, and, if relevant, the development of the hypothesis), to ensure that citations are clear, and, as far as possible, to enable third parties to access this information. Where research software is being developed, the source code is documented.
Providing public access to research results
As a rule, researchers make all results available as part of scientific/academic discourse. In specific cases, however, there may be reasons not to make results publicly available (in the narrower sense of publication, but also in a broader sense through other communication channels); this decision must not depend on third parties. Researchers decide autonomously – with due regard for the conventions of the relevant subject area – whether, how and where to disseminate their results. If it has been decided to make results available in the public domain, researchers describe them clearly and in full. Where possible and reasonable, this includes making the research data, materials and information on which the results are based, as well as the methods and software used, available and fully explaining the work processes. Software programmed by researchers themselves is made publicly available along with the source code. Researchers provide full and correct information about their own preliminary work and that of others.
In the interest of transparency and to enable research to be referred to and reused by others, whenever possible researchers make the research data and principal materials on which a publication is based available in recognised archives and repositories in accordance with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Restrictions may apply to public availability in the case of patent applications. If self-developed research software is to be made available to third parties, an appropriate licence is provided.
In line with the principle of “quality over quantity”, researchers avoid splitting research into inappropriately small publications. They limit the repetition of content from publications of which they were (co-)authors to that which is necessary to enable the reader to understand the context. They cite results previously made publicly available unless, in exceptional cases, this is deemed unnecessary by the general conventions of the discipline.
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.
Maintaining storage capacity
Scientific data is the raw material of research and can prove very valuable for current research long after it was originally generated. Once established, long-term storage and easy access to data avoids unnecessary duplication while at the same time potentially increasing the quality and reliability of future research (e.g. comparative studies, time series analyses).
When it comes to the careful archiving and provision of older data, sufficient storage capacity has to be maintained so as to avoid losing data if not erasing it entirely.
In 2019, Germany’s federal and state governments launched a special funding programme for the development and promotion of a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) that aims to systematically manage the data holdings maintained by academia and research, which are currently decentralised, project-based and temporary in many instances. As a digital, regionally distributed and networked repository of knowledge, the NFDI aims to sustainably secure research data and enable it to be harnessed for further use.
The comment belongs to the following categories:
GL7 (General) , GL11 (General) , GL12 (General) , GL13 (General) , GL17 (General)
archivingdocumentationFAIR principlesquality assurancerepositoryresearch data