Good scientific practice

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.

Scientific misconduct

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).

  • Potential consequences

    Scientific misconduct can lead to different public service or labor law, academic, civil law, penal law and further individual and social consequences.

GSP at our University

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.