Values that are pertinent to good scientific practice (e.g., acknowledgement of originality and quality, honesty, openness to new findings, accountability and autonomy) are firmly embedded in our scientific ethos. These values ensure that we in our role as scientists work lege artis, conducting our research according to appropriate ethical, legal and discipline-specific obligations and standards. Some examples of corresponding behaviour are careful handling and documentation of all data according to recognized standards and practices within the respective discipline, rigorously questioning all findings, and maintaining strict honesty in attributing one’s own contributions and those of others (protection and recognition of intellectual property).
Why should we consider and comply with guidelines of good scientific practice?
One of the many reasons why is because complying with guidelines of good scientific practice is a prerequisite for excellent and trustworthy scientific research, which encompasses mutually respectful attitudes and interactions (see, e.g., DFG 2019: 7). Another important reason is a strong aspiration to remain loyal to oneself and to own personal values (e.g., trust in science, helping people in need, being an honest and credible person, respectful and efficient management of public resources).
Source: German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) (DFG) (2019). Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice, Code of Conduct.
There are many sorts and kinds of infringements of good scientific practice, though not every single one of them should be immediately categorised as scientific misconduct. What infringements are considered scientific misconduct and what types of scientific misconduct are there? What are the causes of scientific misconduct? What are some possible ensuing consequences?
Categories of scientific misconduct
Scientific misconduct is accompanied by intention or gross negligence and includes the following categories: making false statements either intentionally or due to gross negligence (e.g., fabrication or falsification of data or sources), impairment of others’ research activities (e.g., sabotaging or damaging documents or chemicals that colleagues need for their research), infringement of intellectual property (e.g., plagiarism or assertion of others’ authorship without their consent), and shared responsibility (e.g., knowing about falsification and doing nothing about it or neglecting one’s own duty of supervision).
Causes of scientific misconduct
There are various factors that may contribute to the occurrence of scientific misconduct. Some of these factors are individual (e.g., intellectual conflict of interest, insufficient knowledge), some institutional (e.g., inadequate supervision or hierarchical (dependence) structures) and some systemic (e.g., publish or perish, competition or performance pressure in science).
Scientific misconduct can lead to different public service or labor law, academic, civil law, penal law and further individual and social consequences.
All scientists at the University of Münster are responsible for exhibiting the fundamental values of good scientific practice in their conduct, and for advocating for them. They are also obliged by the code of ethics entitled “Rules of Good Scientific Practice” to continuously update their knowledge about the standards of good scientific practice and to engage in dialogue with other scientists. There are numerous events organised by the individual faculties and the WWU Graduate Centre for that purpose. In their function as heads of individual research units, doctoral supervisors are responsible for adequate individual supervision and career development of junior researchers and therefore play a particularly important role in the transmission of good scientific practice to their doctoral candidates. In line with the code of ethics, some doctoral regulations and supervision agreements also state that it is obligation of doctoral candidates and doctoral supervisors to comply with the rules of good scientific practice.
Code of ethics “Rules of Good Scientific Practice”
Based on a Senate resolution, the University of Münster issued a code of ethics on 7 January 2002 entitled “Rules of Good Scientific Practice”. The code of ethics provides a framework to ensure that all research activities are conducted in accordance with the guidelines for good scientific practice and fundamental values and norms of research. The code of ethics elaborates on general principles and professional ethics (§1–2), containing rules about the responsibility of the Rectorate and heads of research units (§3–4), the dimensions of performance and assessment criteria (§5), different aspects of research and publishing process (§6–16), the selection and work of the appointed Ombudsperson and their deputy (§17), the procedures in cases of suspected scientific misconduct and how involved parties should be treated (§18–19).
Code of ethics “Rules of Good Scientific Practice” (May 5, 2020)
Research Data Management Policy
Guidelines for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Research and Teaching at the University of Münster
Guidelines for Procedures in Cases of Suspected Academic Misconduct (available only in German)
Events at the WWU Graduate Centre
The WWU Graduate Centre encourages junior researchers to grow their knowledge of standards of good scientific practice, offering events tailored to their needs. We are able to cover different aspects thanks to our internal partners, who contribute their expertise to the design, planning and running of the events (e.g., ULB Central Library and digital publishing). For more information about our current good scientific practice events, visit our events webpage.
Other offers at the University of Münster
(in alphabetical order)
CiM-IMPRS Graduate Program
- courses about GSP
FB 5: Faculty of Medicine
- Ombudsperson: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. W. Schmitz
- Authorship guidelines (German)
FB 7: Faculty of Psychology/Sport and Exercise Sciences
- Contact person Institute of Psychology: Prof. Dr. Mitja Back
- Open Science Initiative of the Institutes of Psychology
FB 13: Faculty of Biology
- courses about GSP
FB 14: Geosciences
- Contact person Institute for Geoinformatics: Dr. Daniel Nüst
- Opening Reproducible Research Project
- Open Science Team (WWU Mattermost)
- Open Sense Map (in German)
- Reproducible Research Support Service
- Contact person: Dr. Martin Korth
- courses about GSP
The ULB Central Library:
- Open Science (German)
- Digital Publishing and Open Access Services (German)
- Research Data Management
Handling conflicts and scientific misconduct
How do I handle a conflict in my supervisory relationship? To whom can I turn to find the answers to questions about scientific misconduct? What follows is an example of stages of conflict escalation and a list of potential contact persons to whom scientists at the University of Münster can turn for an impartial, fair, qualified, and strictly confidential advice.
Stages of conflict escalation
Stage#1: The involved parties try to resolve the conflict between themselves (by talking directly to the other party and by jointly looking for a solution)
Stage#2: Asking doctoral committee for advice or mediation
Stage#3: Asking doctoral examination board of the respective Faculty for advice or mediation (the chair of the doctoral examination board or its members)
Stage#4: Asking the Dean’s Office of the respective Faculty for advice or mediation (e.g., Vice Dean for Research and Junior Researchers)
Stage#5: Asking the Ombudsperson of the respective Faculty (e.g., Faculty of Medicine (p. 3) (available only in German), Faculty of Education and Social Sciences (available only in German), Faculty of Biology (p.6)) or the Ombudsperson of the University of Münster for advice or mediation
Other potential contact persons at the University of Münster
(selected examples, in alphabetical order)
Counselling service for staff and management in conflict-, addiction- and health-related matters (counselling takes place in German language)
Principal Equal Opportunity Officer