In many questions on this site, I see the suggestion to contact one's university's "ethics board" (or "ethics committee" or similar) to decide in the case of disputes related to research or general ethics. A few examples of many:
- "Of course, before deciding any course of action, consider consulting the ethics board at your institution."
- "You would be well within your rights to object to the professor about the content of the assignment (...), or failing that, to the university's ethics board."
- "When in doubt, consult with your ethics board and the journal you plan to publish with."
It seems that the authors of the respective answers usually take it for granted that the university has such an "ethics board".
I have studied computer science for six years at a German university, and then kept working at another German university for a bit more than five years while getting my doctorate. Especially while working there, I have been heavily involved in teaching, and I was regularly in touch with groups from various other German and also international universities while doing my research. Yet, in my real-life university experience, in no situation have I ever heard of anything remotely reminiscent of an "ethics board".
Therefore, I am interested in the following set of interrelated questions:
- Do German (or maybe European, in general) universities have anything resembling an "ethics board"?
- Is there a body that regularly resolves ethical disputes (or is the ethics angle maybe not that focused because German universities also have nothing called "honor code" or an "ethics policy" (which I see mentioned on this site, too) that could be used as an objective basis for deciding in the case of disputes)?
- Or is all of this nonsense, and it is just that the nomenclature is so radically different that I do not see the analogy to certain boards and offices that I am well acquainted with in the German universities I have been to?