The Office of Ombudspersons offers advice and support to scholars at Leipzig University in matters concerning good academic practice – and how academic dishonesty can undermine this.
Statutes on Safeguarding Good Academic Practice
The new version of Leipzig University’s Statutes on Safeguarding Good Academic Practice statutes came into force on 22 September 2022. This version brings Leipzig University’s Statutes in alignment with the Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice set out in the German Research Foundation’s Code of Conduct (2019).
It clarifies principles of good academic practice as well as the framework conditions for dealing with suspected cases of academic misconduct. The new version also strengthens the rights of early career researchers as well as those of complainants and respondents. Abuse of power and exploitation of dependent relationships should be prevented at all levels of work and management. Clarifying and formulating the organisational and procedural regulations provides an effective procedure to deal with suspected cases of academic misconduct.
The Statutes on Safeguarding Good Academic Practice serve as a guideline for all members of the Leipzig University community. They hold up honesty as an irrevocable component of research and teaching and in the promotion of early career researchers at Leipzig University.
Assessment Procedure at Leipzig University
- Leipzig University investigates every case of suspected academic misconduct, regardless of the standing of the individual in question.
- The ombudspersons, the members of the Standing Committee and the Office of Ombudspersons staff are obliged to maintain confidentiality. They work independently, impartially and are not bound by instructions.
- Without the assurance of absolute confidentiality, assessment procedures are not possible. This is because in cases of conflict, mediation only has a chance of finding an amicable and fair solution if confidentiality is upheld. The guarantee of confidentiality serves to protect all persons involved in a procedure and also applies beyond the conclusion of a case. To ensure this protection, all participants are required to observe confidentiality from the onset. The ombudspersons, members of the Standing Committee and the Office of Ombudspersons staff are also obliged to maintain confidentiality. Leipzig University’s statutes on safeguarding good academic practice regulate the special protection of all persons involved in procedures assessing academic misconduct with regard to their personal and academic integrity. If this confidentiality is breached, it will be considered a violation of the rules of good academic practice.
- Opening a procedure is voluntary. An assessment procedure, that is, an investigation into suspected academic misconduct you report, will in principle only take place if you have given your consent. Following a personal risk assessment, as the complainant you may decide against further investigation, even if your suspicion of academic misconduct is well founded.
- Another important principle in the handling of conflict cases is fairness. This means that consent is first requested to obtain a statement from the other party before an assessment of the case is made.
Assessment procedures at Leipzig University are regulated by the Statutes on Safeguarding Good Academic Practice. If you have questions about good academic practice or information about suspected academic misconduct, you can contact the ombudspersons or the Office of Ombudspersons staff for a confidential consultation. The procedure begins when you contact the Office of Ombudspersons and then continues through several stages:
- 1. Initial contact
If you suspect academic misconduct, contact the Office of Ombudspersons. The Office accepts reports of suspected academic misconduct in confidence, and in an initial meeting assesses whether or not academic misconduct is involved. At this meeting, the procedural steps that can be taken will also be explained. Contact will only be made with a relevant ombudsperson or other University advisory service if you give your consent. You are also free to contact one of the ombudspersons directly about a suspected case of academic misconduct. In addition, you can report suspected cases of academic misconduct anonymously to the Office.
- 2. Ombudspersons
Based on the Rector’s proposal, the Senate appoints ombudspersons who are experienced academics with national and international contacts. The Senate appoints the ombudspersons, who represent a wide range of faculties, for a term of five years. The ombudspersons confidentially advise individuals who report a suspicion or are involved in academic misconduct through no fault of their own and assess the plausibility of suspected cases that are brought to their attention (preliminary inquiry). Their goal is to mediate between the parties in conflict and resolve disputes to the extent possible in accordance with the rules of good academic practice.
- 3. Report of suspected misconduct
An assessment procedure (i.e. the investigation into suspected academic misconduct) is initiated when an individual (the complainant) reports a specific case of suspected misconduct. This should be submitted in written form and include the incriminating facts and evidence and be sent either to the Office of Ombudspersons or to the ombudsperson.
- 4. Preliminary inquiry
The ombudsperson responsible for the case – with the consent of the complainant – examines the allegations for correctness and significance from the point of view of plausibility. As part of this process, the ombudsperson listens to both the cases presented by the complainant and respondent. In this context, the ombudsperson examines whether the allegations can be dispelled and/or whether an amicable agreement can be reached between the parties. If the ombudsperson succeeds in doing so, they terminate the preliminary inquiry and inform the respondent and complainant. If the ombudsperson responsible for the case cannot dispel the allegation, they forward the decision and the relevant documents, including the report of suspected misconduct, to the Standing Committee. If complainants disagree with the responsible ombudsperson’s decision in the preliminary inquiry, they may refer the case to the Standing Committee.
- 5. Standing Committee
The Standing Committee investigates allegations of academic misconduct. To this end, it decides whether to terminate or continue the preliminary inquiry and carries out the formal investigation. It may terminate a formal investigation or make proposals regarding how to sanction any misconduct that was found to have occurred. The Standing Committee also recommends structural changes that need to be made to avoid repeated instances of academic misconduct. The Standing Committee consists of the following voting members:
- Vice-rector for research and early career academics (ex officio)
- DFG liaison officer (ex officio)
- Three professors, one of whom must be a qualified lawyer (Volljurist)
- One academic staff member
- One student
- One doctoral researcher
- 6. Formal investigation
The Standing Committee initiates the formal investigation by notifying the respondents of the result of the preliminary inquiry. The Standing Committee investigates both the incriminating and exonerating circumstances. It may request that the respondent and complainant provide additional information. Applying the principle of free evaluation of evidence, it examines whether academic misconduct has occurred. If the Standing Committee does not consider academic misconduct to be proven or does not consider it to be egregious, it terminates the investigation. If the Standing Committee considers academic misconduct to be proven, it provides the Rector written notification of the findings and proposes how the investigation should be continued.
- Professor Daniela Demko
Faculty of Law
- Professor Daniel Huster
Faculty of Medicine
- Professor Berthold Kersting
Faculty of Chemistry and Mineralogy
- Professor Holger Kohlmann
Faculty of Chemistry and Mineralogy
- Professor Johannes Lemke
Faculty of Medicine
- Professor Katrin Liebers
Faculty of Education
- Junior Professor Mira Schedensack
Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
- Professor Stefan Schmukle
Faculty of Life Sciences
- Professor Jürgen Vollmer
Faculty of Physics and Earth Sciences
Good academic practice
During the coronavirus pandemic, it is also essential that researchers engage in good academic practice to ensure academic integrity and society’s trust in science.
The German Research Foundation (DFG) provides ongoing information about its work in the context of the coronavirus pandemic – for researchers, the media and the public. The DFG has published a statement titled “The Sciences and Humanities in the Coronavirus Pandemic”, which was prepared by its Interdisciplinary Commission for Pandemic Research.
The European Network of Research Integrity Offices (ENRIO) has also published a statement on research integrity in the COVID-19 crisis.
Archiving research data
The University Computing Centre provides an institutional solution for archiving research data. Its Research Data Archive service directly supports researchers in their efforts to conduct good research by providing them the option to archive their research long term in Saxony’s Open Access Repository and Archive (OpARA). Research data can be published, archived and reused on OpARA.
Research data management
Appropriate handling of research data is an important mark of quality in academic work. The rules governing good academic practice and the guidelines issued by funding organisations require a systematic and sustainable handling of research data.
The four FAIR Data Principles can serve as a guideline:
The Research Data Team offers individual consultations as well as information sessions and workshops on the topic.
Open Science Office
The Open Science Office at Leipzig University Library provides research support services for researchers at the University. These services include the following:
- Individual and subject-specific information and advice on all aspects of open science, for example, on open access publishing and possible funding channels, on dealing with research data, and on licenses and authors’ rights
- Publishing Service: Advice and service for first and second publications on Leipzig University’s Publication Server
- Open Access Fund for various publication formats:
- Advice on research data management and assistance with the publication of research data
- Advice on text and data mining
- Advice on using ORCID and assistance with creating and filling personal ORCID accounts
Other points of contact
In addition to the Office of Ombudspersons, there are other points of contact at Leipzig University where you can get advice on research ethics issues and information on topics such as discrimination, sexual harassment and conflict management. You can also reach out to other external points of contact in Germany.
Ethics Advisory Board
Please address questions regarding the ethical aspects of your research projects to the Ethics Advisory Board. The Ethics Advisory Board will examine and, if necessary, issue an opinion on ethical aspects of planned research projects involving human beings.
Ethics Committee at the Faculty of Medicine
The Ethics Committee at the Faculty of Medicine ensures that the ethical and legal standards are observed and that the academic integrity of research projects on and with human beings is maintained.
Equal Opportunities Office
The Equal Opportunities Office offers consultations on topics such as the advancement of women, family-friendliness, discrimination, sexual harassment and homophobia. It actively promotes equal opportunities for men and women at Leipzig University. In addition, the Equal Opportunities Offices focuses on developing family-friendly structures at Leipzig University.
University Staff Council
The Staff Council ensures that the University complies with the legal provisions that are important for employees. First and foremost, these include collective bargaining agreements, but also service agreements and laws. In accordance with Sect. 5(1) of the Service Agreement on Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, a contact person has been appointed for the area of conflict resolution and bullying.
German Research Ombudsman
In addition to our university’s own ombudspersons, the DFG has appointed a national German Research Ombudsman. Independently of any connection to the DFG, it offers direct advice and support to scholars in matters concerning good academic practice and how this can be undermined by academic dishonesty. It is not possible to appeal to both ombudsman bodies in parallel.
DFG Liaison Officers
Each higher education institution that is a member of the DFG appoints a professor to act as a DFG liaison officer. The liaison officer serves as an on-site point of contact for researchers who are considering applying to the DFG for funding.
In doctoral and postdoctoral research, conflicts can arise between doctoral researchers, postdocs, supervisors and other parties for a variety of reasons.
Possible causes of conflict include interpersonal differences, excessive demands on a person’s time or violations of the supervision agreement. Cases of abuse of power, insults and humiliation can also occur – in varying degrees of severity – during the academic career development phase. If you are unable to resolve a conflict yourself, there is the option of contacting the University’s conciliators in confidence. They are available as a neutral point of contact for doctoral researchers, postdocs and (supervising) professors.
“The objective of our network is to raise awareness about abuses of power in academia and to provide independent advice to individuals who are experiencing problems of this kind. In addition, our network offers assistance to ombudspersons dealing with cases of power abuse, as well as to academic institutions seeking to take preventive measures.”
You could previously send reports of research misconduct and other acts of corruption or conflicts of interest related to DFG-funded research/activities to the DFG Head Office via email, telephone, fax or postal main. In addition to these channels, you can now also use the DFG’s electronic reporting system – a web-based platform that can be accessed via internet browsers on all computers, tablets and smartphones.
- DFG press release (reporting system)
- Web portal for research integrity