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German Data Forum Recommends Comprehensive Concept for Research Ethics in the Social and Economic Sciences

Press Release, 10.05.2017

At its 45th meeting on 4th/5th May 2017, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) has agreed on recommendations on principles and review procedures for research ethics in the social and economic sciences.

Moreover, the German Data Forum has included the German Association for Publishing and Communication Science (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Publizistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft, DGPuK) in the list of professional associations eligible to nominate candidates for the RatSWD elections. Thirdly, the German Data Forum has granted provisional accreditation to the research data centre of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (Deutschen Zentrums für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung, DZHW).

At its 45th meeting on 4th/5th May 2017, the German Data Forum has agreed on recommendations on principles and review procedures for research ethics in the social and economic sciences. The debate on issues of research ethics and data protection has been a cross-sector task of the RatSWD since its inception. It now addresses recent developments that have been shaped by the emergence of new research methods and the requirements of academic journals. The German Data Forum aims at initiating a broad debate from within the scientific community and fostering the integration of ethical aspects into the research process. This will contribute to an increased acceptance and more positive public perception of scientific research in general.

The German Data Forum recommends the establishment of a new infrastructure on the basis of a consistent and comprehensive concept, which addresses the entire research and publication process and spans all levels and actors. Where possible, this will involve building on existing structures and codes as well as international developments. The four core recommendations are:

  • To foster ethical reflexivity among researchers and involving scientific advisory boards and project sponsors;
  • To create local ethics commissions at social and economic research facilities;
  • To create transregional ethics commissions which support and supplement the local ethics commissions;
  • To establish a permanent forum for research ethical debate.

The full report will be published in mid-2017 as part of the RatSWD Output Series.

By including the German Association for Publishing and Communication Science (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Publizistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft, DGPuK), a new discipline was added to the range of scientific disciplines represented on the list of professional associations that are eligible to nominate candidates for the election of the German Data Forum. With currently 1,200 members, the DGPuK is Germany’s largest professional association for communication and media studies. It represents a discipline that produces large amounts of data and applies a multitude of social research methods. By applying for membership, the DGPuK has showed it is interested in active participation in the German Data Forum. As one of 12 listed professional associations, the DGPuK is now eligible to nominate a candidate for the next election of the appointment proposals for the scientific representatives of the German Data Forum.

The German Data Forum has granted provisional accreditation to the Research Data Centre of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW), bringing the number of accredited research data centres to 31. The research data centre facilitates standardised and transparent access to data from higher education and science research for researchers of all disciplines. The DZHW, and its predecessor, respectively, has been conducting surveys on higher education since 1976. For several years now, external researchers have been applying for data access and secondary use of those data. The accreditation of the FDZ-DZHW remains provisional because it won’t officially launch until June 2017.

The German Data Forum will come together for the first time in its 6th appointment period during its next meeting on 13/14 July in Berlin.

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The German Data Forum is an independent body of empirical researchers from universities, university-level institutions, and institutions of independent scientific research as well as representatives of important data producers. It was established by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2004 with the goal of sustainably improving the research data infrastructure and its international competitiveness.