April 26, 2019

Ombuds at Universität Münster Explains His Work with Junior Faculty

Bernd Schlipphak has been the Ombudsman for junior scientists in the Department of Education and Social Sciences at the University of Münster (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Northrhine-Westphalia is Germany's fifth largest university) since 2015. He was recently interviewed for the university's news site. He explained that he is the initial resource for problems between junior scientists and their supervisors. He offers informal advice and mediation for the parties. He often refer people directly to other university resources such as the staff council, the equal opportunity officer, and the counseling center.

Here is a rough translation of the rest of his interview:
Why is it important that there is a confidant for the junior scientists?
The educational and social sciences have long been concerned about how we want to deal with junior staff and to build cooperation. This applies to the work and care levels. Therefore, since 2011 there have been recommendations for dealing with researchers in the academic middle-class. These were substantiated in 2016 by the Guidelines for Scientific Assistance. Both documents require that there be an Ombudsperson who monitors compliance with these regulations. It is important that the guidelines apply to both supervisors and young scientists. In other words, a supervisor can also contact me if doctoral students do not comply and communication with each other is no longer possible.
What kind of concerns can people bring to you?
Any and all concerns arising when the reality does not follow the regulations and guidelines. The majority of the problems so far have resulted from the dual function of the supervisor and employer. This duplication can lead to a mix of professional and scientific objective that are in conflict. This is a structural problem for universities in Germany. And in these cases, I can help. If someone thinks their supervisor has too much influence on their scientific work and thus a professional threat, they can turn to me, for example. Then in addition to one-on-one meetings, three-way meetings are possible. So far, however, those affected have even shied away from such a meeting.
Do you work with fellow professors?
No, so far I'm not in the circle of my colleagues. In principle, it is important to me not confront people, but rather to embark on a course of accommodation. I must admit, luckily and despite only a few inquiries, there seems to be only a few problems in the Department of Education and Social Sciences so far.
Do you also receive inquiries from other departments of the university - and how can you help in these cases?
Yes, I can get those. Officially, of course, I can do nothing because I'm not authorized. In such cases, I help in the search for other possible contacts. These are, for example, the respective responsible candidate offices for research and junior scientists.
(WWU Munster News.)

Related posts: Network of German University Complaint Handlers and Ombuds Launches WebsiteGerman White Paper on Scientific Practices has Fostered University Ombuds Programs

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