Ensuring and strengthening the research quality of its partner institutions is a key objective of the Berlin University Alliance. The aim is to create the best possible conditions for researchers and institutions to conduct excellent research.
Even though cases of plagiarism have been the (public) focus of the debate on the quality of research, other problems of academic work have repeatedly emerged. These include the falsification and manipulation of data, bias at various levels (publications, gender) or the lack of transparency and reproducibility of research results, as well as the question of how to deal appropriately with such misconduct.
On both a national and international level, examples of good practice (such as ALLEA The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity) or guidelines (e.g. DFG Code of Conduct “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice”) have been developed to improve the quality of research. They illustrate various problem areas – from the specifics of disciplines and culture in the respective disciplines to the critical examination of evaluation systems to the support of open science measures/initiatives and the improvement of “research integrity” or “research culture”. Demands for appreciation of joint work across disciplines, recognition of teaching and reviewer activities, publication of null results, transparency of methodology and empiricism are examples of measures that can help to counteract the causes of scientific misconduct.
Understanding and Measures based thereon
With the aim of ensuring research quality at the partner institutions of the Berlin University Alliance and beyond in the long term, and supporting the establishment of an error culture, the central concerns are:
- To promote and develop processes on assurance of quality and standards for research such as transparency, reproducibility of scientific research results as well as access to research data and its documentation, taking into account cultural differences between the disciplines and the culture of research.
- To make a comprehensive contribution to the understanding of research quality of the diverse disciplines and, inform the discussion about the suitability and appropriateness of criteria for recording and assessing research quality and researchers and, if necessary, supplement it with further indicators.
Parallel complementary approaches should make these goals possible:
Research Integrity: The Berlin University Alliance is actively involved in the BUA partner's efforts to professionalize their ombudsperson service. To this end, the needs of the ombudspersons to perform their duties are identified to provide appropriate support services. Facilitation of the exchange of ombudspersons goes beyond the respective institutions, and, on an organizational-infrastructural level, the exploration of potential common interfaces serves to reveal their synergetic suitability.
Policy Development: To hone research quality, the goal is to create good practice examples and guidelines for the facilities of the BUA partner institutions and beyond. The results of the funded research and monitoring can be used for this purpose, among other things. In addition, the BUA is participating in the European initiative to develop responsible research assessments, thus ensuring that it is in line with international developments.
Research: As early as in 2020, the start-up projects funded in the Advancing Research Quality and Value objective (e.g. Responsible Indicators, Berlin Research Landscape, Societal Impact@BUA) have begun their work. In the meantime, five additional projects, selected through a competitive process, are being funded.
Exchange and Networking: A variety of event formats initiated or co-sponsored by the Advancing Research Quality and Value objective facilitate exchange and networking across institutional and disciplinary boundaries. This is intended to initiate and reflect on learning processes at the same time. Central to this is the colloquium, which offers networking and exchange to the funded projects, but which is also aimed at an interested specialist audience and the general public.
The regular lecture series on research quality and open science is designed to attract students and doctoral candidates from all disciplines and is also open to participants from research, science management and the interested public.
In addition, there is an active pursuit of exchange and cooperation with national and international partners and networks to consider already existing knowledge and expertise in their own work on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to introduce the findings generated within the framework of the activities of the network into the discussion of the relevant international specialist communities. The German Reproducibility Network (GRN) deserves mention in this context. The GRN is an interdisciplinary consortium that aims to increase the trustworthiness and transparency of scientific research by examining and promoting the factors that contribute to robust research. Since 2020, the Berlin University Alliance has been a founding member of the GRN.
Other event formats, such as the Symposium “Challenges for Research Integrity” to be held in 2021 with high-ranking international speakers, promote international exchange.