The freedom of science in research, teaching and academic studies is of tremendous value and is constitutionally protected. It is the responsibility of all persons and institutions involved in scientific work to protect this value. Conscientiousness during data collection and publication is indispensable in order to maintain the necessary confidence of participating persons and of scientists.
Therefore, science is always based on honesty. Honesty is the fundamental basic principle of good scientific practice and is a prerequisite for all research projects that are carried out by the Institute for Veterinary Epidemiology and Biostatistics. All scientists, doctoral students as well as supervisors act based on that proposition at any time. The scientific work of the institute and its staff members is focused on the public well-being while respecting the rules of good scientific practice as well as meeting the current legal rules on the protection of personal basic rights. The work respects ethical principles as well as human dignity and human rights.
It is the responsibility of the institute to teach the junior researchers these rules. Young scientists are supported by the head of the institute specifically in the context of complex research projects in clinical and non-clinical topics. The compliance with the institute’s high standards of quality is achieved by comprehensive exchange of information between supervisors and young scientists and through suitable tutor programmes. High quality of the scientific work and publications is mandatory.
In order to reach the requirements of good scientific and epidemiologic practice, all current and future persons involved in scientific work are advised to comply with the following general rules:
Establishing respective rules, sensitizing staff members regarding the relevance and necessity of self-dependent responsibility and verifying their compliance is the responsibility of the head of the institute. Additionally, the head of the institute makes sure that the discourse between individuals and working groups is supported by internal organisational and communication structures that provide the groundwork for a vivid, trustful and efficient working environment. This groundwork enables young and established researchers to work safely and guarantees the prevention of conscious and unconscious non-compliance through honest behaviour patterns.
All data generated in a research project is saved on maintainable and trusted data storage of the Freie Universität Berlin and stored for a minimum of ten years following the guidelines of good scientific practice.
Just like in other areas of life, a full guarantee for the honesty of all research project partners cannot be given. If doubts concerning the honesty of projects or single contributors occur, the head of the institute should be contacted immediately in order to enable the introduction of appropriate measures considering respective legal regulations. As long as the notification is done in good faith, scientists that provide specific indications of scientific misbehaviour are protected from disadvantages regarding their own scientific and professional future by being treated strictly confidential (1). Handling unchecked allegations of scientific misbehaviour carelessly and especially consciously placing untrue accusations may also be a form of scientific misbehaviour (2). Each suspicious case is treated confidentially in order to protect all involved parties (3). The early publication of suspicions may cause substantial loss of reputation and is therefore not acceptable and may be punished.
(1) cf. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), Protection for Whistleblower.
(2) Annual Report of the Ombudsman for Science 2000/2001, p. 13f.
(3) Helmuth Schulze-Fielitz: Reaktionsmöglichkeiten des Rechts auf wissenschaftliches Fehlverhalten, Wissenschaftsrecht, 2012, Beiheft 21, p. 1f