Good scientific practice and ombuds services
The Leibniz Association passed its first recommendations on good scientific practice back in 1998, just three years after it was founded, and has been pursuing the internal discourse this began with increasing intensity ever since. In 2015 a fundamental revision of the regulations was passed in the form of binding Leibniz guidelines, which were updated in 2018 and 2019 and were finally supplemented by the Leibniz Code for Good Research Practice.
The member institutions of the Leibniz Association adopted the Leibniz Code for Good Research Practice in 2021. Implementing the relevant regulations of the German Research Foundation (DFG), it describes the area of scientific integrity in full and updates the existing standards in a binding manner. The criteria of good scientific practice, definitions of misconduct and the role and authority of the association’s central Ombuds Committee and decentralised ombudspersons are specified in the Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice, which are equally binding for all Leibniz institutions. The Guidelines also set out the procedural rules and the sanctions available within the central investigation process.
The Leibniz institutions align their internal standards and processes with the requirements of the Leibniz Code and the Leibniz Guidelines. Leibniz Headquarters supports and advises the institutions in all questions of good scientific practice and promotes inter-institutional networking activities on this topic.
Decentralised ombudspersons of the member institutes
The scientists of each member institution hold a secret ballot to elect an ombudsperson as a point of contact for discrepancies, suspicions and matters of dispute, who investigates allegations of scientific misconduct based on the institution’s internal guidelines. If a decentralised ombudsperson decides that the allegations require further investigation, the case can be passed to the central ombudsperson.
Central Ombuds Committee of the Leibniz Association
The Leibniz Association has had association-wide structures in place to safeguard good scientific practice since as far back as 1998. People who have been central ombudspersons or chairpersons of the central committee of inquiry include Prof. Friedhelm Neidhardt (WZB), Prof. Benno Parthier (Leopoldina), Prof. Frank Pobell (former President of the Leibniz Association) and Prof. Hans-Georg Joost (DIfE). The Leibniz Association has had a central Ombuds Committee since April 2020. It replaces the previous central ombudsperson of the Leibniz Association. Up to four central ombudspersons work together in the Leibniz Ombuds Committee and can provide advice, investigate and assess cases both individually and jointly as a committee. This arrangement takes account of the volume and increasing complexity of questions regarding good scientific practice, and creates a structure with a range of expertise for efficient case handling.
The central Ombuds Committee investigates allegations of scientific misconduct levelled against current and former employees of member institutions and, where necessary, sets up a committee of inquiry in accordance with the relevant guidelines. The central ombudspersons also advise the member institutions and their ombudspersons on all questions concerning the safeguarding of scientific integrity.
The Leibniz Ombuds Committee is proposed by the Executive Board and elected by the Senate for a term of four years. In March 2020, the Senate of the Leibniz Association elected Prof. Hans-Georg Joost (DIfE, Section C), Prof. Gert G. Wagner (DIW, Section B) and Prof. Eckart D. Gundelfinger (LIN, Section C), and in July 2022 Sabine Brünger-Weilandt (FIZ KA, Sektion D) as ombudspersons on the central Leibniz Ombuds Committee. Hans-Georg Joost has the function of Ombuds Committee spokesperson.
Please direct queries for the Leibniz Ombuds Committee by email to ombudsgremium(at)leibniz-gemeinschaft.de or by post to Leibniz-Ombudsgremium, Leibniz-Gemeinschaft, Chausseestrasse 111, 10115 Berlin. Queries are dealt with in accordance with the confidentiality provisions in the Guidelines for Good Scientific Practice.