The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is further expanding its activities to establish and safeguard good scientific practice. Germany's central research funding organisation is launching several new advanced training courses and information services especially aimed at reinforcing the principle of self-regulation in science and the humanities. While most are intended primarily for ombudspersons at universities and research institutions, some are also directed at teachers/faculty members and students in general.
The DFG sees its new services as part of a "quality offensive" designed to anchor the principles of good scientific practice earlier and more firmly in the awareness of all researchers and research organisations as well as in their training and work. Launched by major research organisations at a symposium headed by the DFG in Berlin at the end of last year, the quality offensive has placed particular emphasis on the work of ombudspersons and the need for their actions to be even more visible in future.
For this reason, the DFG, together with the Center for Science and Research Management (ZWM) in Speyer, has developed a workshop especially for ombudspersons on the subject of "Conflict Management and Mediation". "The ombudsman has already been playing a key role to date in establishing and safeguarding good scientific practice. In the meantime, ombudspersons are also increasingly taking on tasks related to conflict management and mediation and arbitrating between those involved in conflict situations. These tasks obviously differ from the intrinsic activity and working environment of researchers. That is why the workshop series we are offering is an important and necessary step towards professionalising the ombudsman system," said DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek in explanation of the background to the initiative.
The workshop now offered aims to familiarise ombudspersons with areas of application and the possible solutions brought about by mediation and conflict management through intensive and confidential discussions and dialogue, both with one another and with trainers. Cases introduced by the participants form the starting points. The first workshop will take place in Bonn on 10-11 December 2012; initially, three further events will follow in other locations in spring 2013. The DFG is paying the participation fees for its member organisations for all four workshops, with the aim of thereby giving visible impetus to its reinforcement of the ombudsman system.
The intention is to provide a "Curriculum for Good Scientific Practice" not only for ombudspersons as teachers but for all university lecturers and students, and with a capacity for still more versatile use in future. "The next generation of early career researchers cannot be familiarised soon enough with the standards of good scientific practice, as well as with the possible situations and constellations in which these standards come under pressure," DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek pointed out. "In this regard, the curriculum provides practice-based and interactive insight and clarification." Dating back to courses developed as early as the mid-1990s by members of the working group "Ethics in Medicine" at the University of Ulm and later expanded upon by the medical researcher and trainer Dr. Gerlinde Sponholz on behalf of the Research Ombudsman installed by the DFG, the curriculum has until now been tailored primarily to the fields of medicine and the biosciences. The extended version now takes all subject areas into account. Slide modules and other materials additionally facilitate multidisciplinary application.
A national meeting of ombudspersons from universities and research institutions was held to improve networking and the current exchange of information. This took place on 8-9 November in Bonn and, according to the congress title, shed light in particular on the "Rules of Good Scientific Practice in the Changing University". In addition to reports on the experiences of individual ombudspersons, the first day of the event focused on international reports from Austria and Switzerland as well as the European Network of Research Integrity Offices. Workshops addressed the role of whistleblowers and "Data Use and Authorships".
A panel discussion on "The Work of the Ombudsman in Times of Universities of Excellence" was held on the second day. Chaired by Heike Schmoll of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, panellists included Ulrike Beisiegel (President of Göttingen University), Dorothee Dzwonnek (DFG Secretary General), Peter Gölitz (Editor of the journal "Angewandte Chemie"), Waltraud Kreutz-Gers (Science Ministry of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia), Wilhelm Krull (Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation) and Wolfgang Löwer (Professor of Law at the University of Bonn and spokesperson for the Research Ombudsman).
Marco Finetti, Head of DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2230, Marco.Finetti@dfg.de
DFG programme contact: Dr. Kirsten Hüttemann, DFG Legal Affairs, Tel. +49 228 885-2827, Kirsten.Huettemann@dfg.de
Detailed information about DFG activities for good scientific practice can be found at: http://www.
Information about the workshop offered by the DFG and ZWM, including dates, locations and content is available in the flyer: www.dfg.de/download/pdf/foerderung/rechtliche_rahmenbedingungen/gute_wissenschaftliche_praxis/flyer_workshop_ombudspersonen.pdf
The extended "Curriculum for good scientific practice", together with slide modules, is available online at: www.ombudsman-fuer-die-wissenschaft.de