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

Implementation of the Guidelines

All higher education institutions and non-HEI research institutions must implement levels one and two of guidelines 1 to 19 in the DFG Code of Conduct Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice in a legally binding manner in accordance with the organisational form of the institution. Compliance with this Code is a prerequisite for receiving DFG funding; institutions that do not implement the guidelines are not eligible for funding. When submitting funding proposals to the DFG and in accepting funding, applicants and grant recipients agree to adhere to the principles of good scientific practice as stipulated in DFG funding guidelines and the funding guidelines of programmes implemented by the DFG.

The Code enters into force on 1 August 2019. For those HEIs and non-HEI research institutions that have already implemented the relevant requirements in the DFG white paper Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice in a binding manner, there is a two-year transition period for implementing the guidelines in the Code. This period begins on 1 August 2019 and ends on 31 July 2021. [The transitional period for implementing the Code has been extended until 31 July 2023 by the DFG General Assembly.]

HEIs and non-HEI research institutions (particularly members of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany) implement the guidelines in a legally binding manner according to the organisational form of the institution.

If a non-HEI (research) institution cannot implement the guidelines in a legally binding manner on its own due to its organisational structure or its particular nature or other circumstances, there are various options for implementing and acknowledging the Code. Institutions to which this applies may associate themselves with an institution that has implemented the DFG Code and acknowledge its implementation of the Code as binding for them (the cooperation model). If the non-HEI (research) institution cannot find a cooperation partner, it can contact the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), which will arrange a partner institution that is willing to act in allegations of scientific misconduct in individual cases (backup model). In matters relating to ombudspersons, the institutions concerned may contact the German Research Ombudsman. They will implement the principles of the Code accordingly.

Notes on implementation

Who is required to take care of implementation?

Higher education institutions and non-HEI research institutions must implement the 19 guidelines (Level 1) and explanations (Level 2) of the Code in a legally binding manner in order to receive funding from the DFG.

  • Please note implementation of the guidelines is only mandatory in connection with proposal submission. If you or an academic employed at your institution are submitting a DFG proposal for the first time, the implementation review within the DFG Head Office will be preceded by further formal review steps; these include in particular a review of eligibility and the determination of accounting modalities.

Special cases

What has to be considered in relation to the implementation of the guidelines when changing institutions?

In cases of a change of institution on the part of persons in receipt of ongoing DFG funding, no proof of implementation of the rules for safeguarding good research practice by the institution is required during this period; the purpose of this is not to impair the mobility of researchers in receipt of ongoing DFG funding.

Which institutions have to implement the guidelines for NFDI consortia applications?

In the case of NFDI consortia funding, a legal relationship exists exclusively between the DFG and the applicant institution. For the other institutions involved in the application process (“co-applicant institutions” and “participants”), institutional implementation of the guidelines is not mandatory.

By when must the Code of Conduct be implemented at my institution?

Since the Code came into force on 1 August 2019, HEIs and non-HEI research institutions have had to implement the 19 guidelines (Level 1) and their explanations (Level 2) on a legally binding basis in order to receive funding from the DFG.

  • It is also possible to submit a proposal without implementation having been reviewed by the DFG Head Office and approved in a legally binding manner by the institution’s internal bodies. Please note that in this case, funding cannot be disbursed until the formalities involving implementation of the Code have been completed.

For those HEIs and non-HEIs that have already implemented the relevant regulations of the DFG white paper “Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” on a legally binding basis, there is a transition period in which to implement the guidelines of the Code which ends on 31 July 2023.

  • If the implementation of the guidelines has already been submitted to the DFG Head Office for review prior to the deadline but communication on the matter has not yet been completed, the submission of the implementation alone is considered to have met the deadline providing the implementation includes a serious attempt at implementation and approval is to be expected.

How must implementation be carried out?

For successful implementation of the guidelines, a content review and approval by the DFG Head Office (Research Integrity Team) is required. Please take into account that it will take some time to review your implementation.

The final document on the implementation of the guidelines is to be sent to the DFG Head Office either by post as an original with signature, as a certified copy or as an electronic document with a qualified electronic signature within the meaning of the Digital Signature Act (Mailbox: gwp@dfg.de). This is a document which provides entitlement to the disbursement of funds.

  • If you have any questions about the implementation of the Code “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice”, feel free to contact us at gwp@dfg.de.
  • Even if not all of the bodies responsible within your institution have been involved yet, you can still submit a draft of your implementation to the DFG Head Office (Research Integrity Team) for initial review.
  • Please send the documents for initial review in Word format only to gwp@dfg.de.

Several variants are conceivable for implementing the guidelines of the Code.

Variant one: Own implementation

The 19 guidelines (Level 1) of the Code “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice” and their explanations (Level 2) are to be implemented mutatis mutandis in their essential elements. As such, verbatim adoption of the texts of the individual guidelines and explanations of the Code is not required. When implementing the guidelines in a way that suits your institution, please ensure they are worded so as to apply specifically and concretely within your institutional context. It may be helpful to provide examples to illustrate your regulations.

In what legal form must the implementation take place?

The regulations serving the legally binding implementation of the DFG Code are to be issued by the higher education institutions and non-HEI research institutions based on a sufficient legal foundation in the legislation of the respective federal state; the implementation document may be a statute, a regulation, etc. The legal nature of the implementation document depends on the organisational form of your institution. It is crucial that the content of the implementation has a legally binding effect for all academics working at your institution as well as for the management of the institution. As the DFG is not authorised to provide legal advice in individual cases in accordance with the Legal Services Act, we cannot provide any binding information on which specific implementation method can be considered for your institution in order to meet the aforementioned requirements. In case of doubt, this question should be clarified by your institution’s legal department.

Is it possible to make references to regulations outside of the actual implementation text itself?

  • The guidelines of the Code concern academic work in the broadest sense. A central document is required for implementation.
  • If you have further elaborated on individual sections or aspects of the Guidelines in other regulatory documents, these do not have to be included in the implementation text itself; instead, reference can be made to the relevant documents.
    • Examples of more detailed regulations include a gender equality plan, internal regulations on staff selection and a plan for research data management.
  • It is not possible to implement the Guidelines simply by means of a clause expressing a general commitment to the Guidelines. This does not constitute legally binding implementation of the Guidelines. The purpose of the implementation is to apply the guidelines specifically to your institution. The institution must independently implement the guidelines in its own regulations.

Does the structure of the Code need to be maintained for implementation?

  • It is not necessary to adopt the structure of the Code for the purpose of implementation, although you can use its structure as a guide for a new implementation.
  • If your institution has already implemented the regulations of the white paper, you may continue to use the previously established structure.

Is there any further assistance available for implementing the guidelines?

In May 2022, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) adopted its own non-binding “Model Statutes for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice and for Dealing with Suspected Cases of Scientific Misconduct”. This is intended to facilitate the process of elaboration at individual institutions. The model statutes are not mandatory: they simply provide exemplary suggestions for wording. In creating its own implementation, an institution can use only sections of the model statutes and otherwise develop different wordings. It is also possible for an institution to create its own implementation entirely without recourse to the model statutes.

All implementations of the Code that have already been approved by the DFG Head Office remain valid. Draft implementations already submitted but not yet approved should only be revised based on any feedback provided by members of the Research Integrity Team.

Use of the wording suggestions provided by the HRK model statutes is not a substitute for the internal reflection process that each individual institution must go through before developing its own specific and legally binding implementation of the Code.

Variant two: Cooperation model

In addition to an institution implementing the guidelines on its own, there is the option to join the implementation of another institution and to recognise its implementation as being binding on your own institution. This is particularly conceivable if your institution employs a small number of people who are involved in research and for this reason, for example, it is not possible to appoint a sufficient number of people to take on ombudsperson work or form a commission to investigate research misconduct. In this case, it might be appropriate to opt for cooperative implementation with an institution you collaborate with in an academic context.

What can the cooperation agreement refer to?

The management of an institution can subscribe to the implementation of the rules for safeguarding good research practice as laid down by another institution and apply them mutatis mutandis to itself.

  • During the transition period (until 31 July 2023), please also check whether your intended cooperation partner has already adopted an implementation of the Code that has been accepted by the DFG or is still operating under the regulations according to the previously applicable DFG white paper. If the latter is the case, the cooperation is based on implementation of the white paper regulations; this must then be specified in the cooperation agreement, i.e. the model text has to be adapted accordingly. Once the institution you are cooperating with has implemented the guidelines of the Code, the old cooperation agreement does not continue to apply. The cooperation agreement must be newly concluded on the updated basis and sent to the DFG.

The management of an institution can join the ombudsperson system of another institution.

The management of an institution may join the proceedings of commission to investigate allegations of research misconduct at another institution.

How is the cooperation between the two institutions to be legally agreed on and reported to the DFG?

  • Please note that only the corporate body as such (e.g. a university or a non-university research institution) can be considered as a cooperation partner. Mere sections of the overall organisation such as individual faculties or legally dependent institutes cannot act as cooperation partners.
  • The cooperation agreement must be signed by the body within the respective institution that is “responsible” for implementing the rules of good research practice at that institution. In the case of HEIs, this is usually the HEI management.

Can we regulate aspects in the cooperation agreement that go beyond the points mentioned?

Further arrangements may be made between institutions cooperating in the implementation of the Code. These can extend to financial or personnel aspects with regard to cooperation. These agreements can be supplemented in the model cooperation agreement provided by the DFG Head Office but they do not have to be communicated to the DFG Head Office.

Who can I turn to if I myself cannot find an institution that is willing to cooperate?

  • If your institution cannot find a cooperation partner itself, you can contact the office of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) (gwp@hrk.de), who will work with you to find a cooperation institution.
  • In ombudsperson matters, the institutions concerned can consult the German Research Ombudsman.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

Implementation of the Guidelines (General)

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