Ombudsperson for Good Scientific Practice and Doctoral Research


The Guidelines of the Scientific Council for Electing Ombudspersons to Max Planck Institutes and the Sections of the Max Planck Society state:

"Anyone who finds themselves confronted with specific circumstances which might violate the rules of good scientific practice or give cause to suspect scientific misconduct should be afforded an effective opportunity to voice their concerns without fear of prejudice to their own person."

"An independent, appropriately qualified person of considerable personal integrity should be elected from among the academic staff at each institute ... of the Max Planck Society to act as an ombudsperson in cases of conflict on matters of good scientific practice."

What are the "rules of good scientific practice"?

Some rules relevant for computer scientists:

  • Systematic scepticism: Be open to doubt about your own results and beware of wishful thinking. Communicate your results to your colleagues and be open to criticism by other scientists.
  • Publications: Cite the literature used and recognize the contributions of colleagues. Report findings that support the results, as well as findings that call them into question, and correct published mistakes appropriately. Acknowledge support from third parties.
  • Authorship: The only persons who may be credited as (co-)authors of a paper are those who made a considerable contribution to the results described and to the preparation of the manuscript. Do not ask for or accept "honorary authorships", do not assert the (co-)authorship of another person without his or her consent.
  • Storing primary data: If your publication depends on experimental work, store your primary data for at least 10 years. The data may be needed for reference, should the published results be called into question by others.
  • Personal data: If your research is based on experiments with test persons, observe the regulations of the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). Replace personal data by case IDs and sanitize the data if possible.
  • Reviewing: Be careful and impartial. Don't delay reviews. Declare any conflict of interests. (If in doubt, don't review.) Keep information obtained as a reviewer confidential.

The complete "Rules of Good Scientific Practice", as adopted by the senate of the of the Max Planck Society, can be found here.

What else counts as scientific misconduct?

The obvious things, such as fabrication or falsification of data, infringement of intellectual property (plagiarism, theft of ideas), or impairment of the research work of others.

What is the role of the ombudsperson

"The purpose of ombudspersons is to create a point of contact and advice independent of the institute management for those wishing to give evidence or information. The ombudsperson has the duty to preserve confidentiality. In performing his or her tasks, the ombudsperson is independent of the institute management and of superiors and colleagues."

"The ombudsperson must ... be available immediately in a consultative capacity in all matters relating to good scientific practice and in the case of suspected scientific misconduct. The ombudsperson should also resolve potential conflict situations in which junior scientists in particular may find themselves as a result of conflict between loyalty towards a superior or a working group and to their commitment to scientifically correct conduct."

Further reading

Current ombudsperson for good scientific practice and doctoral research

Uwe Waldmann (since December 2013)