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Research Ethics

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).

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 >>