Guidelines for good scientific pracice
Good scientific practice
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:
- Scientific work is carried out lege artis.
- Explicit, operationalisable, specific and precise questions in the context of study design are developed. The study population is carefully selected and based on the hypotheses.
- The study type is selected while following methodical considerations, available resources and the proportionality.
- The sample size and study population is carefully selected in order to prevent bias.
- The data that will be evaluated or measured is precisely defined and tested for validity and reliability. If available, already validated tools and scales are used. In terms of pasimonsiousness only information is collected that is necessary regarding the research question.
- If biological samples have to be collected and it is necessary to store them in a biological sample base, all relevant measures following the legal regulations on data protection are met. The required information is explained to the participants of the study separately in transparent written form before the study begins (informed agreement following Art. 4 no. 11 DSGVO). The same applies for all other projects in the course of which the collection of personal data is necessary.
- The data collection is done with the help of tools (e.g. survey software) that are located on the servers of Freie Universität Berlin which are protected from outside access by appropriate measures. The data is transferred to and stored in a protected on-site database. The raw dataset is stored unaltered, cannot be accessed from the outside and is owned by the institute.
- Persons that are involved in data collection are thoroughly trained in advance.
- Results of scientific work are documented continuously and in a comprehensible format.
- Results are reviewed and discussed with the appropriate (self-)scepticism consequently.
- Handling contributions of partners and competitors, it is important to follow strict honesty.
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