Good Scientific Practice
Manipulated data, idea snatching, dubious authorship – even in the world of natural science research, there are sensitive, semi-taboo issues that no one wants to talk about. To assure that these issues are not simply swept under the rug, rather, that they are thoroughly explained – this is the task of the ombudsman group at HZI.
This independent committee, which has been installed according to the regulations and guidelines of the German Research Foundation (DFG), investigates all cases involving reasonable suspicion of scientific misconduct. It functions as a drop-in facility that can be approached, with confidentiality, by all members of staff at the centre.
The ombudsman group works independently and is not bound to directives from Management. In suspicious cases, they investigate comprehensively and have the right to confiscate and examine laboratory books, computers, data and records of every description.
Their investigative activities are concluded in the form of an extensive statement, in which the ombudsman group delivers an opinion and, if necessary, recommends appropriate measures.
Election of the Ombudsman Group
Members of the ombudsman group are elected for five years by the scientific employees of the HZI. Both male and female employees are eligible who 1) are involved in research and development tasks and 2) possess either a university or polytechnic degree.
The ombudsman committee of the HZI for the current term of office (2016 to 2020) consists of the following scientists:
- Prof Manfred Rohde (Head of Ombudsgroup)
- Prof Luka Cicin-Sain
- Prof Dr Ursula Bilitewski
- Dr Oliver Goldmann
- Dr Alexander Titz (HIPS)
Principles of Good Scientific Practice
Several important principles for securing good scientific practice were formulated in 1998 by a commission of the German Research Foundation (DFG). This includes, for example, the commitment to retain primary data from research for ten years, in order to be able to execute retroactive and complete examinations. As regards scientific specialist publications, all authors, in compliance with DFG recommendations, should jointly assume responsibility for correctness of the content. Inclusion of a neutral and independent contact facility, e.g. in the form of an ombudsman committee, is required in the DFG guidelines.
Regulations at HZI
Based on the recommendations from the German Research Foundation (DFG), the HZI has provided binding regulations to make sure that legitimate scientific work is carried out.
Members of the ombudsman group
Prof Dr Dagmar Wirth
Head of the Research Group Model Systems for Infection and Immunity
Dagmar Wirth studied chemistry in Braunschweig. She began focusing on gene regulation in mammalian cells as part of her doctoral work at GBF – today’s HZI – with a special focus on chromosomal elements that affect gene expression. As a post-doc, she conducted research on recombination in mammalian cells and viruses and developed recombinant viruses for application in biotechnology and gene therapy.
Following her work as a scientist in the Department of Clinical Immunology at the Medical University in Hannover, she returned in 2004 to assume her current role as principal investigator for the project ‘Immune evasion in chronic infections’ and as head of the research group ‘Model Systems for Infection and Immunity’ (MSYS).
One underlying activity of her research in MSYS is the generation of genetically modified mice with predictable expression properties. To provide this expertise to all research groups of the center, in 2012, the service unit transgenic mice (TGSM) was initiated which is also headed by Dagmar Wirth.