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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.

What characterises research in the humanities and social sciences

What is characteristic of research in the humanities and social sciences?

Broadly speaking, the wide range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences seeks to investigate intellectual, cultural and social phenomena as well as their development and expression as determined by time and space. In accordance with the object of investigation, research fundamentally takes into account the complex manifestations and interactions of human thought and action. A characteristic feature of much research is the differentiation between historical contexts. Given the broad spectrum of potential research subjects – ranging from the fundamental features of human behaviour and phenomena relating to society, history, language and media, through to epistemological and ethical problems – the humanities and social sciences are characterised by an enormous variety of methods.

Since the turn of the millennium if not before, there has been a greater move towards empirically oriented research focusing on the study of large amounts of data and sources, though this has not entirely replaced other more traditional approaches. The growing influence of digital technologies has a key role to play here, in particular the processing of digital data using software-assisted methods. This development has led to an expansion of the range of methods in general and to some extent a convergence with other research sectors.

At the same time, cooperation across disciplinary boundaries has tended to become the norm for various reasons – not least because of science policy. Research in the humanities and social sciences as a whole now typically processes its results through a range of perspectives and in dialogue with other research sectors.

What are the consequences in terms of quality assurance?

Due to the diversity of methods used in research in the humanities and social sciences as well as the considerable differences in the design and practical implementation of research projects, diverse requirements apply when it comes to ensuring research integrity and a level of quality assurance that befits the modern era. The latter is also applied with reference to or in dialogue with other research sectors. In connection with empirically oriented historical and social science research, systematic methodological reflection must always include the credibility and substantiveness of the source base. In view of the impact of the digital turn, the growing importance of research software in particular gives rise to the challenge of developing a basis for “digital source criticism”.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

Preamble (Humanities and social sciences)