Comment on:

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

Guideline 10

Legal and ethical frameworks, usage rights

Researchers adopt a responsible approach to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of research. They comply with rights and obligations, particularly those arising from legal requirements and contracts with third parties, and where necessary seek approvals and ethics statements and present these when required. With regard to research projects, the potential consequences of the research should be evaluated in detail and the ethical aspects should be assessed. The legal framework of a research project includes documented agreements on usage rights relating to data and results generated by the project.

Explanations:

Researchers maintain a continual awareness of the risks associated with the misuse of research results. Their responsibility is not limited to compliance with legal requirements but also includes an obligation to use their knowledge, experience and skills such that risks can be recognised, assessed and evaluated. They pay particular attention to the aspects associated with security-relevant research (dual use). HEIs and non-HEI research institutions are responsible for ensuring that their members’ and employees’ actions comply with regulations and promote this through suitable organisational structures. They develop binding ethical guidance and policies and define procedures to assess ethical issues relating to research projects.

Where possible and practicable, researchers conclude documented agreements on usage rights at the earliest possible point in a research project. Documented agreements are especially useful when multiple academic and/or non-academic institutions are involved in a research project or when it is likely that a researcher will move to a different institution and continue using the data he or she generated for his or her own research purposes. In particular, the researcher who collected the data is entitled to use them. During a research project, those entitled to use the data decide whether third parties should have access to them (subject to data protection regulations).

Guideline 12

Documentation

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.

Explanations:

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.

Scope and completeness of documentation

It is important to distinguish between documentation within a research institution, which has to contain all the information necessary to fully understand the research results and be able to replicate them, and published documentation. The latter must be complete in terms of information content to the extent that the results can be readily understood by other researchers working in the same subject area.

Complete documentation is generally not possible because the objects of investigation underlying the research and their synthesis are of almost unlimited complexity in terms of information content. Further restrictions may arise as a result of legal or ethical requirements (e.g. working with humans or human material, property rights belonging to companies, embargoes, confidentiality agreements among cooperation partners, patent rights, data protection guidelines).

It is also important to differentiate between the creative research process on the one hand and the verification or validation process on the other. If methods and research results from other research institutions are used, these must also be fully documented.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL10 (Engineering/engineering sciences) , GL12 (Engineering/engineering sciences)

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