The code of science has clear rules

Society trusts science to deliver verifiable findings that provide a sound basis on which others can build and make decisions. Even if the pressure to publish is sometimes great: rigour and care always come before haste. Cherry-picking, adulterating data or plagiarising others’ results violate the rules of good scientific practice and ruin the credibility of science. It is also a breach of conduct to add a renowned name to the list of authors or to allow honorary authorships (e.g. institute directors) by those who were only marginally involved in the work in question.

The scientific code of conduct must be upheld by everyone at all times. Heads of groups and organisational units are role models with a particularly high level of responsibility. Everyone must work together on building trust in science and its self-correcting capacity.

Should you ever have the impression that a published work has serious flaws, that a person has not worked with the necessary conscientiousness, or has violated the code of good scientific practice, you should present your objections. Ideally, you should clarify your suspicions directly with the person concerned. If this does not resolve your concerns, then experienced ombudsmen are available at HZB to take the investigation further. If you wish to report an irregularity, you can furthermore refer to an “ombudsperson for science” external to the Institute. In all cases, the presumption of innocence applies until the facts have been established. Should a suspicion be confirmed, however, HZB Management decides upon the further measures to be taken, depending on the severity of the breach.

On the HZB website, you will find the contact details of the ombudsmen who are responsible for the respective research fields. You can also refer to the information pertaining to the code of good scientific practice and how to proceed if there is suspicion of misconduct.


  1. Contact the researcher and ask for clarification or correction.
  2. If 1. is unsuccessful or unsatisfactory, then: inform the ombudsperson. An author can personally contact the ombudsperson if there are problems with a publication.
  3. The ombudsperson will take measures to clarify the facts of the situation (e.g. question the authors, set up a commission of inquiry).
  4. If the suspicion proves justified, or if the ombudsperson cannot clarify the facts, then the decision of how to proceed further falls with Management.
  5. Management can employ a commission of inquiry. This will be presided over by an independent person not employed at HZB.
  6. The commission of enquiry will advise in closed proceedings. The party concerned may at any time examine all documents and demand information or plead on his/her own behalf. Hearing of further people is also allowed.
  7. The commission of enquiry presents Management with a written final report. From this report, Management will derive the necessary steps, for example withdrawal of the publication (letter to publisher; drafting of an “erratum”, a “corrigendum” or an “addendum” in consultation with the publisher and Management).

This brief outline is simplified. More details here (ger).