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Scientific integrity forms the basis for trustworthy research. It is an example of academic voluntary commitment that encompasses a respectful attitude towards peers, research participants, animals, cultural assets, and the environment, and strengthens and promotes vital public trust in research. The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of research is inseparably linked to a corresponding responsibility. Taking this responsibility into full account and embedding it in individual conduct is an essential duty for every researcher and for the institutions where research is carried out. The research community itself ensures good practice through fair and honest attitudes and conduct as well as organisational and procedural regulations. In different roles, scientific and scholarly societies, research journals, publishers, research funding agencies, complainants, ombudspersons and the German Research Ombudsman also contribute to safeguarding good research practice; they harmonise their conduct in publicly or privately funded research with the principles of the Code.

Individuals who report a well-founded suspicion of misconduct fulfil a crucial function in the self-regulation of the research community. Scientific and academic societies promote good research practice by developing a shared understanding among their members and by defining binding ethical standards, which they establish within their specialist communities. Journal publishers take account of the requirements of high-quality research with a stringent peer-review process. The German Research Ombudsman, an independent body, and local ombudspersons are trustworthy points of contact that offer advice and conflict mediation on issues relating to good research practice and potential misconduct.

Funding organisations also play an important role in establishing and maintaining standards of good research practice. Through the design of their funding programmes, they create a framework that promotes research integrity. By ensuring that procedures are in place to deal with allegations of misconduct, they also help to combat dishonesty in research.
Within the scope of its responsibility, the DFG has prepared the following Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice. They represent the consensus among the member organisations of the DFG on the fundamental principles and standards of good practice and are upheld by these organisa- tions. These guidelines underline the importance of integrity in the everyday practice of research and provide researchers with a reliable reference with which to embed good research practice as an established and binding aspect of their work.

Natural Sciences

In the DFG subject classification system, the natural sciences include physics, chemistry, mathematics and the geosciences. These disciplines have clear overlaps with other scientific fields such as biology and medicine, agricultural and nutritional sciences and technology/engineering sciences. In addition, there are points of contact with the humanities and social sciences, such as psychology and philosophy. In this context, natural science working methods are repeatedly a key form of mediation between these very different scientific disciplines, especially in terms of methodology.

A common feature of physics, chemistry, mathematics and geosciences is the goal of gaining profound and sustainable knowledge and understanding by means of scientific methods and questions. The natural sciences are needed to reveal regularities, and they can contribute significantly to a fundamental understanding and improved predictions of natural phenomena. Despite commonalities, however, the methodological approaches of the four subjects differ significantly in some cases. While mathematics arrives at new insights through the art of abstraction, chemistry, the geosciences and physics acquire their knowledge with strong reference to empiricism – often starting from a hypothesis based on observations, experiments and repeated verification of (natural) phenomena on all scales.

Mathematical truths hold independently of experiments. In addition, mathematics is often used in science to model phenomena, such as the quantitative and qualitative description of processes in nature. In the empirically based natural sciences, subjects sometimes differ in terms of methodological approach. Some experiments and observations require large research infrastructures that are operated on a long-term basis and in some cases in mobile form. Examples include telescopes and particle accelerators as well as research vessels or other platforms. In addition to the large research infrastructures, there is also an enormous variety of different laboratory experiments, each with its own specific set-up. Computer simulations constitute another methodological approach. In summary, observation, experiment, theory and simulation are the central working processes in the natural sciences. In addition to knowledge-driven basic research, such as gaining a better understanding of climate processes, the natural sciences also deal with concrete current fields of application, such as the conversion, extraction and saving of energy and raw materials.

Since research integrity is the foundation of trustworthy science, it is important to establish subject-specific and contemporary working methods in the natural sciences that strengthen and promote society’s indispensable trust in this field of science. Specifically, the verification of evidence and the reproducibility of the methods used and results obtained by independent third parties are an essential feature of quality assurance in the natural sciences. This reliability is crucial in order to gain the trust of society and policymakers in this field of science, which should not be underestimated. An important task of scientists is the design of suitable experimental set-ups and the reliable acquisition of data, as well as the interpretation of this data and transparent argumentation to support it as evidence. In addition to the documentation of methods, there should also be widespread storage of research results, providing unlimited and unrestricted access as far as possible for other experts and to some extent also the general public. The digital saving of raw data is an obvious aspect here, as well as the archiving of such items as biological samples, drill cores or chemical substances. In this context, clear, international rules already exist as to how these data and samples can be used by third parties. This concerns firstly intellectual property (IP), also with regard to commercial exploitation, and secondly undesirable use (dual use) for the development of weapons. Similarly, international interests and agreements must be taken into account and implemented correctly (e.g. the Nagoya Protocol, etc.).

The comment belongs to the following categories:

Preamble (Natural sciences)

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