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FAQs about the Ombuds system

The Ombuds Office is available to all members of the university as a point of contact for questions regarding good scientific practice. Furthermore, it accepts reports of suspected scientific misconduct in confidence, advises persons who report a suspicion or who are involved in scientific misconduct through no fault of their own and, on request of the informing person, establishes contact with an ombudsperson, the Ombuds Committee or, for reasons of competence, other university advisory bodies.

If you have a suspicion of scientific misconduct, you should contact the Ombuds Office for Good Scientific Practice. The Ombuds Office is responsible for receiving reports of suspected scientific misconduct confidentially, for checking in an initial interview whether the report is related to scientific misconduct, and for offering an initial consultation during which possible procedural steps are explained. Only if you agree to this will contact with an ombudsperson or other counselling services be established. You are also free to contact an ombudsperson directly if you suspect scientific misconduct.

All actors - the ombudspersons and the Ombuds Office - are bound to strict confidentiality. This means that any information you provide to the Ombuds Office or the ombudspersons will not be passed on without your consent. This procedure protects both you as a whistleblower and the suspected person from possibly unjustified and thus reputation-damaging criticism. The initiation of an ombudsman procedure, i.e. an investigation of the suspected case by the Ombuds Committee, in which, among other things, the person under suspicion and, if necessary, other witnesses can be heard, is also only carried out with your consent.

It is generally possible to report a suspicion and receive advice without disclosing your name. However, in most cases this excludes further examination of the report by the ombudspersons/ ombuds body. In order to be able to carry out an appropriate examination in a suspicious case, the name of the whistleblower is usually required.

A withdrawal of a notification is possible at any time. An investigation of your suspicion by the Ombuds Committee will only take place if you have given your consent. On the basis of a personal risk assessment, you as the informing person can waive further investigation, even if your suspicion of scientific misconduct is well-founded.

Since the allegation of scientific misconduct can have far-reaching professional and personal consequences for scientists, such suspicions should never be raised lightly. In order to avoid a prejudgement of persons, you should report your suspicion confidentially to the Ombuds Office and seek advice there on how to proceed. If you have evidence (e.g. documents) that is suitable to substantiate your suspicion, you should make it available to the Ombuds Office/Ombuds Committee.

The three ombudspersons of the University and their personal deputies are university teachers experienced in research. They represent the Humanities (Faculty of Philosophy, Faculty of Theology), Law, Social Sciences and Economics (Faculty of Law, Social Sciences and Economics) and the Life Sciences, Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Biology and Psychology, Faculty of Chemistry, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology, Faculty of Earth Sciences and Geography, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Faculty of Physics). The five ombudspersons of the University Medical Center come from different clinical and scientific fields.

It is the task of the ombudspersons to provide confidential advice to persons who report a suspicion or are involved in cases of scientific misconduct through no fault of their own, and to check the plausibility of suspected cases brought to their attention. The work of the ombudspersons is based on the goal of mediating between the parties and resolving disputes, as far as this is possible in accordance with the rules of good scientific practice. The ombudspersons are appointed by the Senate for a term of office of four years.

Together, the three ombudspersons of the University form the Ombuds Committee. Provided the informing person's consent, the Ombuds Committee can initiate an investigation procedure (ombuds procedure). In doing so, it first checks whether there is any initial suspicion of scientific misconduct. For this purpose, a hearing of the accused person, and potentially of other witnesses, is conducted. Depending on the result of the investigation, the Ombuds Committee may discontinue the procedure, dismiss the suspicion after the fulfillment of conditions or due to minor seriousness or, in the case of suspected uncorrectable scientific misconduct, transfer the case to the Joint Investigation Commission of the University and University Medicine. The investigation of scientific misconduct in an undergraduate or postgraduate course of study (e.g. in the context of a seminar paper, bachelor's or master's thesis) is not the responsibility of the Ombuds Committee, but of the respective faculty.

The investigation commission consists of five members and their personal deputies. The members must include a person qualified to hold the office of judge, a person from university medicine and at least two persons from outside the university. The Senate appoints the members of the Commission of Inquiry for a term of office of four years on the proposal of the President.

In cases in which the suspicion of scientific misconduct is substantiated in an ombuds procedure and/or no agreement can be reached by the Ombuds Committee, the procedure is passed on to the Investigation Commission. The Investigation Commission is responsible for the formal investigation of an allegation of scientific misconduct. This may include obtaining written statements, hearing the person suspected of misconduct and other witnesses. If the suspicion of scientific misconduct is confirmed, the Investigation Commission makes a recommendation for sanctions to the President/Dean of the Medical Faculty.