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Statute on the Safeguarding of Good Academic Practice at TU Berlin

Wednesday, 08. March 2017

On 8 March 2017, the Academic Senate of Technische Universität Berlin enacted the following Statute on the Safeguarding of Good Academic Practice at TU Berlin in accordance with Section 9 (1) no. 5 of the University Charter of Technische Universität Berlin of 20 November 2005 and 8 February 2008 (Official Gazette 2006/11), last amended on 31 October 2012 (Official Gazette 2012/286), in conjunction with Sections 7a and 61 (1) no.4 of the Act on Higher Education Institutions in the State of Berlin (BerlHG) in the version of 30 August 2011 (Law and Ordinance Gazette, p. 378), last amended by Section 2 of the Act on the Amendment of the Student Services Act (Gesetz zur Änderung des Studentenwerkgesetzes) and further statutory regulations of 25 February 2016 (Law and Ordinance Gazette, p. 59)*):

*) Ratified by the Executive Board of TU Berlin on 30 March 2017.

Preamble

The members of TU Berlin regard the safeguarding of good academic practice in research and teaching as one of their highest goals and, in this regard, attach particular importance to young researchers. This Statute, which is oriented towards the corresponding recommendations of the German Research Foundation, shall serve the purpose of defining the principles of good academic practice and stipulating fair procedures in cases of suspected misconduct.

The basic principle of any academic work is honesty towards oneself and others. This principle is both an ethical standard and the foundation for the rules of academic professionalism – meaning, good academic practice – that differ from discipline to discipline. It is the core task of the university to convey these basic principles to the students and the academic staff. Compliance with, and implementation of, good academic practice is the prerequisite for distinguished and acknowledged academic work that must also seek to find recognition in a competitive international environment.

The procedures for bestowing academic degrees, for promotions, recruitments, appointments and the allocations of funds must be laid down in such a manner as to ensure that assessment criteria emphasizing originality and quality prevail at all times over those of quantity.

When joining Technische Universität Berlin, university members shall be expressly made aware of the validity and importance of this Statute and – insofar as this is possible – obligated to comply with it. This Statute is a constituent part of the teaching and training of young researchers.

TU Berlin will immediately investigate every specific case of suspected academic misconduct. In the event that, following investigation of the matter, a suspicion is confirmed, appropriate measures will be taken in each individual case.

Part I: Good Academic Practice

Section 1 Definition

The members of TU Berlin are obliged to comply with the basic principles of academic work, thereby ensuring the integrity of their activities, their honesty towards themselves and others, and their working, in particular,

  • in accordance with the state of the art (lege artis) of their discipline,
  • documenting processes and results in a transparent and appropriate manner,
  • retention of primary data,
  • adequately assessing and incorporating the contributions of partners, supervisees and competitors in publications,
  • and respecting the intellectual property of third parties.

Section 2 Research Organization

(1) The university management shall be responsible for an appropriate system of organization that ensures – depending on the size of the individual research groups – that the assignment of the tasks related to leadership, supervision, conflict management and quality assurance is clearly regulated. This responsibility may be delegated to the faculties and departments.

(2) Each head of a research group should act in an exemplary academic manner and shall be responsible for an appropriate system of organization that ensures that the tasks related to leadership, supervision, conflict management and quality assurance are clearly assigned, while guaranteeing that these tasks are actually performed. The university management must provide those responsible with the support required in this regard. Corresponding training and further education measures must be implemented.

(3) For each member of a research group, the head of the group shall name an experienced contact person from within the group who may be approached in cases of conflict.

Section 3 Supervision of Young Researchers

The education and supervision of young researchers shall be given particular attention. The supervision obligation towards young researchers shall include the provision of support with regard to the completion of the supervisee’s theses within reasonable periods of time as well as the promotion of their academic careers. With regard to doctoral candidates, it is advisable to conclude a corresponding written agreement at the beginning of the supervisory relationship.

Section 4 Performance and Assessment Criteria

Qualitative performance and assessment criteria shall at all times prevail over quantitative criteria. Assessors of qualification achievements shall be encouraged to acknowledge explicitly the originality and quality of a paper or thesis. In applications for academic positions, the applicant’s originality and quality shall be assessed higher than quantitative criteria. Faculties may limit the number of publications to be submitted as part of applications.

Section 5 Storage and Retention of Primary Data

(1) Primary data that form the foundation of any academic publication shall be stored on durable and protected storage devices in the institution where they were generated for a period of ten years from the date of their publication. Information, by means of which a reference to a certain person may be reconstructed, must be stored separately; such information must be deleted as soon as the research purpose permits it (Section 30 (2) of the Berlin Data Protection Act – BlnDSG). The further storage and use of such information for the purpose of academic self-supervision shall be permissible for 10 years, provided that the data is passed on to an independent body (a so-called data trustee) for safekeeping.

Those affected by such storage of their personal data must be informed about the reason for the storage, the period of storage and the protection measures taken during the storage, and their consent must be obtained prior to the collection of their personal data.

(2) The records to be stored shall also include samples if they are indispensable for ascertaining the soundness of the scientific results achieved. In the event that storage in “physical form” is impossible, it must be safeguarded in another appropriate form. The storage obligation shall pertain to any objects, documents or data that would enable an expert to ascertain and comprehend the soundness of the scientific results.

Section 6 Authorship in Publications

Authors of academic publications shall at all times be jointly responsible for the publication contents. An author shall be defined as a person who has made a significant contribution to a publication; so-called honorary authorship shall be excluded. With regard to the sequence of authors, the particularities of each specialist discipline must be considered.

Section 7 Ombudspeople (Confidential Mediators)

(1) The Executive Board, in coordination with the Academic Senate, shall appoint one ombudswoman and one ombudsman, whom members of TU Berlin may contact with regard to issues of good academic practice and suspected academic misconduct. Ombudspeople shall be appointed for a period of three years. Reappointment shall be possible.

(2) Technische Universität Berlin shall be responsible for ensuring that the two ombudspeople are known across the university and that their activities are supported by the university management.

(3) Ombudspeople may be discharged by the Executive Board if compelling reasons are brought to light. A compelling reason shall be deemed to exist, in particular, if an ombudsperson makes public any information obtained confidentially.

(4) In the event that an ombudsperson has a conflict of interest in proceedings pertaining to suspected academic misconduct, the other ombudsperson shall take over the proceedings. A potential conflict of interest may be declared by the ombudsperson himself/herself, by the other ombudsperson or by third parties.

(5) The following functionaries shall be available for further advice on issues of good academic practice:

a. the responsible Vice President;

b. the faculty ombudspeople for doctoral candidates;

c. the members of the Doctoral and Postdoctoral Services.

(6) Counseling provided by the ombudsperson and the persons listed in Subsection 5 regarding suspected academic misconduct must be carried out confidentially in order to protect both the informant and the accused.

Part II: Academic Misconduct

Section 8 Definition of Academic Misconduct

(1) Academic misconduct shall be defined as the misuse of the freedom of research, as protected by Article 5 (3) sentence 1 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (GG), by endangering or violating the constitutionally protected interests, goods and rights of third parties. It shall be deemed to exist in the event that intentional or grossly negligent false statements are made in an academically relevant context, the intellectual property of third parties is infringed or the research activities of third parties are impaired in any other way. The circumstances of each case shall be considered on an individual basis.

(2) False statements shall include, in particular,

  1. the fabrication of data;
  2. the falsification of data, for instance by means of incomplete use of data and omission of undesirable findings without appropriate disclosure, as well as by means of manipulation of figures or depictions;
  3. false statements in a letter of application;
  4. false information in a grant application or in the context of publications (including false statements concerning the publication medium and publications in press).

(3) The intellectual property related to a copyrighted work created by a third party or to significant research findings, hypotheses, theories or research approaches produced by others shall be deemed violated by

  • unauthorized use following the false assumption of authorship (plagiarism),
  • the exploitation of the research approaches and ideas of others, particularly when committed by assessors (theft of ideas),
  • the false assumption of authorship of a scientific work without any significant personal contribution,
  • the claim of (co-)authorship with others made without their consent,
  • the falsification of content or
  • the unauthorized publication and unauthorized provision of access to third parties, in particular, if the work, finding, hypothesis, theory or research approach has not yet been published.

(4) Impairment of the research activities of third parties shall include

  • the damaging, destroying, manipulating or theft of data, sources, documents and equipment required for the research activities or produced in the course of the research activities;
  • the obstruction of academic discourse in different work units;
  • the obstruction of access to research facilities required for the conduct of research activities.

(5) Furthermore, academic misconduct may pertain to the destruction of primary data to the extent of violating legal provisions or a discipline’s accepted principles of academic work.

(6) Personal academic misconduct may also result from active participation in the misconduct of others, connivance with regard to falsifications committed by others, co-authorship in publications affected by falsifications, as well as gross negligence of supervisory responsibilities and tasks.

(7) This Statute shall not apply to misconduct in examinations, this being regulated by the Regulations Governing General Study and Examination Procedures (AllgStuPO). Likewise, this Statute shall not apply to misconduct in doctoral or habilitation procedures, this being regulated by the Doctoral Regulations of TU Berlin and by the habilitation regulations of the faculties at TU Berlin. This Statute shall only apply to matters that are either not covered by, or insufficiently covered by, the respective regulations.

Section 9 Relevance

Academic misconduct may only lead to the imposition of sanctions according to this Statute in the event that the principles of good academic practice have been violated, or the freedom of research has been misused, to such a degree that the scientific nature of the work of the accused is to be repudiated, not only with regard to details or according to the definitions of specific schools, but to a systematic degree.

Section 10 Committee for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct

(1) For the purpose of investigating academic misconduct, the Executive Board, in consultation with the Academic Senate, shall appoint for a period of three years three persons as members of the Committee for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct (hereinafter referred to as Committee). Two of the members must be professors. The third member should be a research assistant. At least one Committee member must be a woman, and at least one member must be a man. Committee members may be reappointed.

(2) All Committee members must have distinguished themselves through their academic activities, and must be neutral, experienced and long-term members of the university, covering as broad a range of disciplines as possible.

(3) In the event that a member has a conflict of interest or is prevented from performing his/her duties as Committee member, the President shall name an equally qualified stand-in from one of the two status groups. This stand-in shall assume the duties of the absent Committee member for the period of the proceedings.

(4) A potential conflict of interest may be declared by the Committee member himself/herself, by another Committee member or by third parties.

(5) The Committee shall elect a chairperson from its midst.

(6) The Committee shall not be dependent upon instructions from outside, but shall be subject to the legal supervision of the Executive Board.

(7) The Executive Board shall assign to the Committee a member of the administration who is qualified to act as judge and with whom the Committee shall coordinate all the legal aspects of the procedural activities.

In the event that a Committee member is prevented from performing his/her duties (for a longer period of time), the Executive Board shall appoint a further, equally qualified member of the administration as stand-in.

(8) For its investigation, the Committee may bring in as consultants persons who are experienced in the investigation of academic misconduct.

Part III: Procedure in Cases of Suspected Academic Misconduct

Section 11 Procedure

(1) As the first step in a case of suspected academic misconduct, the complainant shall contact one of the two ombudspeople. The complainant’s right pursuant to Section 10 to contact the Committee directly shall remain unaffected thereby.

(2) The ombudsperson shall be responsible for investigating the accusations with regard to plausibility, solidity and importance, and deciding whether to inform the Committee about the accusations or to dismiss them as obviously unjustified. The ombudsperson shall consider the possibility of mediation between the complainant and the accused if the suspected academic misconduct is of a non-serious nature and its repetition can be regarded as unlikely.

(3) The Committee shall be informed of the suspicion in writing, with relevant proof being provided.

(4) The identity of the complainant and the person accused, as well as the particulars of the matter, shall be treated with strict confidence until the academic misconduct has been ascertained.

(5) In the event that academic misconduct has been proven, the affected institutions – in particular, departments, faculties or research organizations – shall be notified of the outcome of the investigation in a form that is adequate with regard to the seriousness of the misconduct.

(6) Persons who act in good faith in indicating suspected academic misconduct (so-called informants or whistleblowers) may not be disadvantaged in their personal academic work and/or careers on the grounds of their reporting.

Section 12 Preliminary Investigation

(1) In the event that a case of suspected academic misconduct has been brought to the attention of the Committee, the latter shall immediately inform the Executive Board and implement the measures required for investigating the matter.

(2) As part of the preliminary investigation, the Committee shall assess whether the suspicion brought to its attention is sufficiently solid and plausible to justify a comprehensive investigation of the matter in main proceedings.

(3) In the event that a suspicion is sufficiently solid, the Committee shall give the accused person the opportunity to state his/her position regarding the accusation of academic misconduct.

(4) The complainant shall be notified of the outcome of the preliminary investigation within two months. In the event that the Committee has decided against main proceedings, the complainant shall be entitled to file a statement of objections within two weeks, after which the Committee must reconsider its decision. The result of this reconsideration shall be incontestable.

Section 13 Main Proceedings

(1) In accordance with Section 50 (3) of the Act on Higher Education Institutions in the State of Berlin (BerlHG), Committee meetings are non-public. The ombudspeople according to Section 7 as well as a representative of the Executive Board shall be admitted to the meetings. The responsible staff representative, the women’s representative and/or the Representative of Severely Disabled Employees may participate in the proceedings as observers, provided that the person represented by them does not object.

(2) Committee resolutions shall be passed by means of a simple majority.

(3) The Committee shall be entitled to undertake all official steps that serve the purpose of clarifying the matter, provided that they are legally permissible. The Committee may, in particular, obtain all necessary information and statements, and may also consult experts on a case-by-case basis.

(4) The Committee may commission one of its members as reporter for the investigation of a matter. The reporter shall coordinate his/her investigations with the Committee and shall report to the Committee on the matter under investigation. Based on this report, the Committee shall decide whether further investigations by the Committee are required or whether the result of the investigation shall be adopted by the Committee.

(5) Incriminatory facts and evidence, if any, must be made known to the person accused.

(6) Both the complainant and the person accused must be given the opportunity to state their views in a Committee hearing. Either one of them shall be entitled to be accompanied by a person of trust who does not need to be a member of TU Berlin.

(7) The identity of the complainant must be disclosed to the person accused if the Committee regards it as necessary in order for the accused person to be able to appropriately state his/her view with regard to the accusations. This shall be the case, in particular, if the credibility of the complainant is of great significance for ascertaining academic misconduct.

(8) In the event that the complainant and the person accused are in a supervisory relationship, this relationship may be dissolved by both parties, provided that academic misconduct has been proven. If the complainant is the supervisee, the faculty shall be obligated to ensure supervision by another supervisor; this shall not lead to any disadvantages for the supervisee in terms of service or labor law. In the case that a doctoral candidate is concerned, the rules of the Doctoral Regulations of Technische Universität Berlin shall apply accordingly.

Section 14 Conclusion of Proceedings

The Committee shall report in writing to the Executive Board about the results of its work and submit a recommended resolution.

Section 15 Decision of the Executive Board

(1) Based on the Committee report and recommendation, the Executive Board shall decide on whether the proceedings should be closed or whether academic misconduct has been sufficiently proven. In the event that the Executive Board does not adopt the Committee’s recommendation, it must state the reasons for its decision to the Committee in writing.

(2) Depending on the type and seriousness of the academic misconduct ascertained by the Committee, the Executive Board may decide to impose the following measures, in particular:

a) written reprimand to the person accused;

b) request to the person concerned to withdraw the incriminating publication or to correct falsified data (the latter particularly by means of publishing a rectification);

c) notification of the external fund provider with regard to the academic misconduct if it has been committed in the context of externally funded projects;

d) notification of Department II – Human Resources (Staff Services Office) – with regard to the academic misconduct for the purpose of reviewing and, as required, implementing measures pertaining to disciplinary or labor law against the person concerned.

e) Depending on the matter, the Executive Board may also take measures pertaining to criminal or regulatory law.

(3) In the event that the academic misconduct also satisfies the requirements for a withdrawal of the academic degree pursuant to Section 34 (7) of the Act on Higher Education Institutions in the State of Berlin (BerlHG) and the person accused has acquired his/her degree at Technische Universität Berlin, this may result in the withdrawal of the academic degree in accordance with the legal regulations. In the event that the academic degree was acquired at another university and the requirements of Section 34 (7) of the BerlHG are fulfilled, the President shall inform this university of the academic misconduct of the person accused.

(4) If the person accused is an Honorarprofessor (senior lecturer with no permanent teaching contract), proven academic misconduct may result in a dismissal in accordance with Section 117 (4) of the BerlHG. If the person accused is a Privatdozent (an adjunct lecturer), proven academic misconduct may result in the withdrawal of the right to hold lectures according to Section 117 (2) sentence 1 in conjunction with Section 118 (2) of the BerlHG. In the event that the person accused is an Honorarprofessor or Privatdozent at another university, Subsection 3 sentence 2 shall apply accordingly.

(5) Both the complainant and the person accused must be informed without delay about the decision of the Executive Board. In doing so, the important reasons that have led to the decision must also be communicated in writing.

(6) In the event that the Committee has decided to recommend that the accusation of academic misconduct is unjust, the Executive Board shall implement the measures required for the rehabilitation of the person accused.

Section 16 Requirement of Urgency

(1) In the interest of the person accused, proceedings must be conducted speedily and should be completed by means of a decision by the Executive Board within six months after the initiation of the preliminary investigation.

(2) The Executive Board may confer its authority, as arising from Sections 12, 14 and 15 of this Statute, on the President by means of a resolution.

Section 17 Evaluation of Reports

In the event that academic misconduct has been ascertained, the President shall consider the necessity of further measures in order to maintain the academic standards of the university as well as the rights of all persons directly or indirectly concerned.

Section 18 Retention and Reporting Requirement

(1) The files related to the preliminary investigation and the main proceedings shall be retained for a period of 30 years.

(2) Upon request, the chair of the Committee shall report to the Academic Senate in anonymous form on the number, state and outcome of proceedings.

Section 19 Entry into Force

(1) This Statute shall enter into force on the day after its publication in the Official Gazette of Technische Universität Berlin.

(2) This Statute replaces the “Principles for the Procedure to be Followed in Cases of Suspected Academic Misconduct at Technische Universität Berlin”, enacted by the Academic Senate on 14 July 1999, as well as the “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Academic Practice at Technische Universität Berlin”, enacted by the President in coordination with the Academic Senate on 23 October 2002.

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Ombudsman

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Rötting
sec. MAR 3-1
Phone: 314-79520, -29770
Fax: 314-72581