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Research Ethics

"Hidden Species" by Sandra Süß (A07)

The guidelines for Good Scientific Practice of the DFG describe a national standard that regulates the critical self-reflection of research. It focuses on maintaining scientific integrity. Working with state of the art technological and methodological standards, documenting all results properly as well as discussing the work truthfully and critically is part of the right and duty of scientific autonomy which is practiced in the SFB 1280 as well as all other parts of research. Effective communication across all levels and areas of our research association that is built on collegiality and mutual appreciation goes hand in hand with appreciation, trust and diversity.

Data Management

It is quite a challenge to efficiently and safely exchange data from 19 research project at four locations. Quite another is to standardize the data sets that are so very different, from the observation of mouse behavior to human EEG, for the use in meta analyses.

The SFB 1280 has created a work group, which moderates the developments in this area together with the IT service of the Ruhr-University at regular meetings. The special task of the two Focus Groups are gathering and compressing the collected data for complex meta analyses. Together we define the necessary framework for data acquisition and documentation.

We intend to archive and share the research data of our work as much as data protection will allow. We later want to reference where access to data is possible with a link (DOI-standard).


Research data has become one of the most important resources in science and requires a par-ticularly high level of attention to ensure good scientific practice. Therefore, sustainable research data management (RDM) is the basis for present and future research. Therefore it is a main aim of CRC 1280 to ensure that research data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable according to the FAIR principles.

Due to the strong interdisciplinary structure of CRC 1280, a large amount of heterogeneous research data is produced in the individual subprojects by a variety of different measurement techniques: Magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography, meas-urements of skin conductivity, single cell recording technologies, eyetracking and pupillometry, medical data like histology and hormone data to questionnaires for psychological studies. In addition to the variety of data, especially single cell recording and magnetic resonance imaging techniques generate a large amount of data and thus impose high demands on an efficient storage infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the first funding period, two focus groups (F01, F02) have been em-bedded in the CRC 1280. In these scientific projects research data from all other subprojects is collected, processed and evaluated. To foster data handling in all subprojects according tot he FAIR principles, all subprojects created a data management plan via an online survey consisting of 64 questions and covering all aspects of the data life cycle. Furthermore, awareness measures for the dissemination of sustainable RDM were carried out, and Lab-Data-Cleaning-Days were held regularly to sensitize researchers about how to manage their research data.

As a central measure to foster sustainable RDM CRC 1280 agreed on a central metadata schema and developed a of this metadata scheme to global standards such as Dublin Core and DataCite. As a central storage platform for the CRC the central file sharing service of the RUB was chosen, for which a fine-granular rights and role concept was implemented that allows individual control over users and data.

Experiments with imaging techniques store their data in the BIDS format to ensure easy analysis of the data even across subprojects. The remaining subprojects store their research data in a predefined folder structure, which clearly separates individual projects and the data collected within a project. Metadata is stored in a machine- and human-readable file format and added in a project-specific or even more granular level. The general metadata schema of the CRC 1280 integrates the specific research contexts of all CRC sub-groups and also enables a more finely structured, individual extension. Note, that the CRC 1280 metadata scheme shares basic design patterns with the OCFL specification, allowing for a possible adoption of the latter in the future. 

Based on the described metadata scheme, an application (MetaApp) was developed and has been rolled out within the CRC 1280 to aid the current practical needs of the researchers and guide the easy ingest of mandatory and optional metadata. The application maps the metadata entries between different standards, i.e. the CRC 1280 common metadata standard, DublinCore and DataCite. The overall workload for scientists is further reduced
by the application, as the application ensures clear and accurate metadata entries with checks and controlled vocabularies.


All RDM activities of the CRC 1280 are carried out in close collaboration with the central RDM support unit of the RUB >> and are interlinked with national RDM communities in the field of neuroscience. The CRC 1280 is an active participant in the NFDI-Neuro consortium >> of the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) proposed by the German Council for Information Infrastructures. 

Practical application

The SFB 1280 investigates the fundaments of learning and forgetting. Most of our work groups processes this research a fundamental level, that we can’t know if and when this research may help in a medical breakthrough. These thoughts are always at the back of our minds. Science is however too complex as that we could make concrete promises to society. Our motivation must primarily stay the thirst for scientific insights.

Every one of our studies will reveal very small parts of the mystery that is extinction learning. Some of the studies at the university hospitals however already record direct effects in patients with pain or anxiety. This is one of the medical applications that the SFB 1280 was aiming for during its conception.

Areas, in which knowledge on extinction learning can lead to real benefit

Anxiety patients

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues in Europe. According to estimates there are 61.5 million people with anxiety, given a population of 514 million (Wittchen et al., 2011). The disease is treated with 74.4 Trillion Euro worth of medication each year (Gustavsson et al., 2011).

Patients with chronic pain

Two out of ten people are in constant physical pain. The variety of this is great, with lower back pain being one of the most widespread ailments (Breivik et al., 2006). On average a patient misses 15.6 days of work per year because the pain is too great.

When not-being-able-to-forget is agonising –

Help by psychological consultation

A posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) leaves a patient incapable of controlling his or her memories, they control the patient. The people constantly relive the memory of the traumatizing event. Even though this process is not yet well understood neurologically, there are very effective therapies. The SFB 1280, bring a research association for fundamental research, cannot treat this, but several colleagues to which we can refer:

The neuropsychological outpatient clinic offers a wide range of information and a register of neuropsychological therapists   >>

The at the Ruhr University offers help for children and adolescents with psychological problems and disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, and depression >>

Animal experimentation

‚Animal experiments are indispensable in biological and medical basic research – which creates a classical dilemma, as the acquisition of knowledge for the good of humanity is connected to burdening animals.’ Gerhald Heldmaier, head of the Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation, DFG

In the SFB 1280 there are projects which investigate complex cause-effect relationships in animals. Pigeons, rats and mice are valuable model organisms in which we can explore the basis of learning. Every experiment has to be planned and prepared in great detail and explicit per animal justified. Only then will the Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz NRW (LANUV) approve the applications. Animal welfare officers supervise the projects on-site and alongside the veterinary inspection office.

An obligatory guideline for animal experiments are the three Rs: Reduction, Refinement und Replacement.  We are obliged to reduce the number of animals and experiments (reduction), keep their suffering at a minimum (refinement) and wherever possible to use alternative methods (replacement).

Have a look at some critical media features on this topic:

 Speaking of Research is a critical website, backing animal research >>

Johns Hopkins University was one of the first providing research on alternative methods. Find their information service Altweb >>

German pages of our Animal Welfare Officers:

Ruhr University Bochum >>

University Hospital Essen >>