Good Scientific Practice
On this pages you can get familiar with your responsibilities as a scientist and learn how to fulfill them.
Definition by DFG
Guiding principle of good scientific practice
General proposals by DFG
Criteria of a final paper in academia
Criteria of scientific misconduct
Supervision of young scientists
The expression "good scientific practice" has been developed by the end of the 1990s. It contains elements of safeguarding professional quality in the science system and gives advices of how to act on an ethical maxim in daily routine. For that purpose, the commission of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) passed recommendations initially in 1998 which were implemented in universities and research institutions that were funded by DFG. In 2013 those recommendations have been updated and additions were made. The memorandum now contains 17 recommendations and provides directions on good scientific practice in Germany.
With the primacy of honesty towards oneself and towards others as a fundamental condition, the principle of scientific work can be summarized in the following way:
- comprehensible, verifiable and accessible documentation of all results
- consistently questioning one’s own findings
- practising strict honesty with regard to the contributions of partners, competitors, and predecessors
This basic principle is at the same time the first recommendation of the DFG memorandum and shall be facilitated by scientific institutions and be put into practice by each individual.
Moreover, the 17 recommendations by the DFG contain structural advices on how to establish an organisational structure that for one thing fulfills the requirements of good scientific practice and for another thing imposes sanctions on scientific misconduct. To that effect, DFG approaches topics such as
- cooperation and leadership responsibility in working groups
- securing and storing primary data (for at least 10 years)
- consolidation of independent mediators (ombudspersons)
- focus on qualitative instead of quantitative criteria for appraisal of achievements results (f.x. regarding scientific publications)
- definition of procedures when scientific misconduct is suspected
- handling of whistle-blowers
Recommendations with Relevance to Doctoral Students
You as a prospective scientist have been frequently confronted with the requirements to scientific work before. For final papers such as your dissertation it applies particularly to you to live up to scientific standards. Sticking to the guiding principle of good scientific practice, you will bring your doctorate to a favourable conclusion. If you need more concrete advices for criteria of a good thesis, take a look at the position papers below.
position paper of the general Faculty Day and the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (German only)
position paper of the science council for safe-guarding the quality of doctorate (German only)
brochure on working academically by the academic Internet portal kisswin
In accordance with the recommendations of DFG, the Otto von Guericke University has elaborated guidelines for the procedures when scientific misconduct is suspected (German only) and defined characteristics of a scientific work that is reckless or infringing intellectual property rights.
DFG regards giving the best possible support to young scientists as prevention work. Group leaders and experienced scientists are therefore responsible for ensuring that every younger member of the group - graduate students in particular - receives adequate supervision. Recommendation no. 4 by DFG exclusively addresses to the promotion of young scientists. It postulates that every doctorate student should have a primary mentor. Besides, two additional experienced scientists should be available for advice and help, especially in cases of conflicts etc. Beyond that, DFG recommends a better communication within working groups, career support and the development of a supervision concept for doctoral students.
Researchers who report their suspicions of possible scientific misconduct, require - according to DFG - a special protection. In recommendation no. 17 it is demanded that those people must not suffer disadvantage in their own scientific and career progress as result. As it is clearly pointed out, this specifically applies to early career researchers, whose reports of this nature should not result in delays or obstacles during their education; there should be no disadvantage to their final dissertations and doctorate; this applies to working conditions and to possible extensions to their contracts. The whistle-blower's report must be made in good faith and must be treated confidentially by all those involved.
At the Otto von Guericke University, suspicions can be addressed to the commission for dealing with scientific misconduct, which supervises these procedures.