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Research ethics and fieldwork preparation

Both EU and the German Research Council (DFG) have issued guidelines for Good Research Integrity which all researchers should abide to:

The European Network for Academic Integrity (ENAI) offers extensive information and a Glossary for Academic Integrity (pdf).

The DFG's  “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” aim to establish a culture of research integrity based on the professional ethics of researchers rather than cases of scientific misconduct.

On 4 December 2020, the Statue for Safeguarding Good Scienctific Practice of Freie Universität Berlin replaced the previous Code of Honor and established binding guidelines for safeguarding good scientific practice. You may contact the ombudspersons at the departments of Freie Universität with questions or in cases of conflict.

All doctoral researchers in member programs of Dahlem Research School also commit themselves to adhering to the rules of good scientific practice and each DRS program has an ombudsperson who is the contact person for doctoral students and mediates in cases of conflict. Our ombudsperson is Barbara Kellner-Heinkele.


Ethics are a very important issue for gathering data involving other living beings or persons, or even sensible data, such as autobigraphies or journals. Researchers in any social sciences will have to tackle this problem sooner or later when they intend to publish their data internationally or in academic journals which may ask to see how the data was handled.

Although the German universities have central ethics committees, these committees only become active if projects are screened or will be screened, but this is not enough for international research projects.

Our PIs and colleagues in the German Anthropological Association (DGSKA)have finally published very usable guidelines for fieldwork: https://en.dgska.de/ethics/

We would also recommend to at least think about discussing the DGSKA reflectivity sheet with your supervisor(s) before going to the field. Especially in times of crisis, such as during a pandemic, the risk assessment sheet could also be useful before going into the field.

Data handling is a very important measure for every research project. At any point in your research career or further projects, you might be asked how you are going to or how you have handled your data. 

This should be prepared in the project planning phase and should always be adapted during the entire project. The following points should be considered in your research data management.

  •     What kind of data is generated and how is it generated?
  •     Which methods are used?
  •     Which general conditions (standards and policies of the discipline, research institution or funding agency) apply with regard to archiving and publication?
  •     Which formats will be chosen and how large will the volume of data be?
  •     How will data be named and ordered?
  •     How will the data be regularly backed up?
  •     How will sensitive data be protected?
  •     How will the data be described?
  •     Should the data be published later? If not, why? If yes, where and with which license? 

The university library research data management is able to help you manage your data. if you have any questions on storage or a good storage facility, we have a lot of specialists that also help you develop a plan.

Good research practice recommendations by DFG ask all researchers to keep their research data for about 10 years after publication.

For backup services, you can ask the ZEDAT.

For a long-time repositiory, the FU library is able to store your data institutionally. As the Freie Universität Berlin institutional repository, Refubium provides Freie Universität members with a free-of-cost framework to electronically publish documents, doctoral and habiltation theses, as well as research data. Even if you do not want to electronically publish your data, they can help with long-time storage (Langzeitarchivierung).

Any questions on the refubium and your research data:

E-Mail: forschungsdaten@fu-berlin.de

Redaktion Dokumentenserver

Freie Universität Berlin University Library
Garystr. 39 
D-14195 Berlin

Questions concerning the publication of your research data
E-mail: kontakt[at]refubium.fu-berlin.de