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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the HEADT Centre?

A: The Humboldt-Elsevier Advanced Data & Text (HEADT) Centre is a joint project of Humboldt-Innovation GmbH, the technology transfer office of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the scientific information provider Elsevier. The HEADT Centre explores innovative ways to serve researchers and practitioners through new technologies and analytics in the fields of research integrity. It is an independent cooperative venture of Humboldt-Innovation and Elsevier to help researchers and practitioners to excel.

Q: What are the goals and purposes of the HEADT Centre?

A: Through the HEADT Centre, experts from Elsevier and scientists from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin explore innovative ways to serve the needs of researchers and practitioners. The Centre´s researchers help to address pressing issues around research integrity.

Q: How did the idea of the HEADT Centre originate?

A: Researchers at Elsevier and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin began discussing the need for research on research integrity in 2014. The idea of the Centre gradually developed as it became clear that there was broad agreement on future strategies.

Q: What does the HEADT Centre’s organizational structure look like?

A: In the current funding period (December 2018 to November 2021), Niels Pinkwart, Professor for Computer Science Education / Computer Science and Society at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Michael Seadle, Professor for Digital Libraries at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science, are the two Principal Investigators at the HEADT Centre. Michael Seadle serves as the Director.

The HEADT Centre consists of six research programmes, including an administrative unit, whose function it is to coordinate, and to support future grant applications and national and international collaborations:

Programme 1: HEADT Centre Operations and Visibility

Programme 2: Research Integrity Education, Training, and Outreach

Programme 3: Research Integrity Service Bureau

Programme 4: Research Integrity Technology and General Data Protection Regulation

Programme 5: Image Integrity Database (IIDB)

Programme 6: Support for the Digital Berlin Professorship (Einstein Stiftung)

Prof. Seadle has the primary responsibility for Programmes 1, 2 and 3 (with contributions from Prof. Pinkwart as needed), while Prof. Pinkwart is primarily responsible for Programme 4. Both share responsibility for the IIDB. Programme 6 will be managed by a new professor to be hired as part of the Digital Berlin initiative. For more information on the Digital Berlin professorship, please visit the Digital Berlin website (

Dr. Flavio Villanustre, Vice President of Technology Architecture and Product for LexisNexis and lead of the High Performance Computing Cluster (HPCC) Systems at Elsevier, and Dr. IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, Senior Vice President of Research Integrity at Elsevier, Petra Ullrich, and others from Elsevier serve as experts. A doctoral student/a post-doc plus a student assists each project. As part of this collaboration, academics from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin can explore the idea of initiating research projects. Melanie Rügenhagen manages the HEADT Centre.

Legally the Centre is a project by Humboldt-Innovation GmbH, the technology transfer unit of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

In the initial funding period (December 2015 to November 2018), the HEADT Centre consisted of two projects, one led by Johann-Christoph Freytag, Professor for Databases and Information Systems at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the other led by Michael Seadle.

Q: What are the current research programmes about?

A: The HEADT Centre focuses on research into research integrity. The programmes are structured to cover education on as well as services and technology for research integrity. The HEADT Centre works on offering workshops and evaluation services (Prof. Michael Seadle), for example, and investigates what technological solutions should be developed to address both research integrity and the accompanying legal issues, especially considering the General Data Protection Regulation (Prof. Niels Pinkwart).

Q: What were the first two research projects about?

A: The HEADT Centre looked at research integrity issues such as plagiarism, image manipulation and data falsification and fabrication, which are urgent international challenges for both universities and publishers (Prof. Michael Seadle supported by Dr. IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg). This research is further pursued in the current funding period. The second project looked at providing scalable infrastructure aimed at improving computer-aided discovery in order to make this kind of information mining more efficient. The project worked on developing new algorithms for improving and speeding up similarity searches (Prof. Johann-Christoph Freytag supported by Dr. Flavio Villanustre).

Q: How does this collaboration benefit German and international scholarship?

A: The quality of research determines the degree to which that research is useful for both the public and future research that may build on prior results. Any research with impaired integrity risks the integrity of future research and may even harm society. The HEADT Centre helps researchers and the scholarly community to understand better how to exploit text and data mining tools and strategies, and to develop better approaches to questions around research integrity and reproducibility. Especially important is to handle accusations of malpractice against researchers with care and fairness. That is why the HEADT Centre developed and keeps developing greyscales for judging cases of data manipulation and plagiarism in a nuanced way, which effectively distances these life-changing decisions from black-and-white answers (“How guilty?” instead of only “Guilty! / “Innocent!”).

Q: What are plans for the future?

A: The HEADT Centre was funded by Elsevier during the first three years with 1 Million Euros in total and is being funded during the second period with just under 2 million Euros. The HEADT Centre hopes to develop new external funding opportunities, and international as well as national collaborations with the intention to become self-sustaining in the future.

Q: How is Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin involved in this collaboration?

A: The collaboration will draw on Humboldt-Universität’s data and text research strengths in key areas like digital resources, data quality, semantic web, big data as well as research integrity. On the other hand, Elsevier will provide expertise and value through internal experts and through access to Elsevier’s world-class research data and large-scale technology via text and data mining platforms including HPCC Systems and ScienceDirect.

Q: How and why is Elsevier involved in this collaboration?

A: Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information solutions and services. The company believes linking analytics and scientific content is one of the key enablers to serve better scientists and practitioners. Elsevier has made several sizeable investments related to analytics and technology. With the HEADT Centre, Elsevier supports scientific research and finding ways to address issues around research integrity.

Q: Can academics and experts outside of Humboldt-Innovation and Elsevier cooperate with the HEADT Centre?

A: Yes, the HEADT Centre has plans to expand; both partners hope to announce additional projects in the near future.

Q: Will Humboldt-Universität’s existing content and licenses be impacted by this initiative?

A: No.

Q: Will academic freedom be impacted in any way by this collaboration?

A: No, the academic freedom of Humboldt-Universität`s researchers will not be affected in any way by the collaboration. Humboldt-Universität`s researchers working with the HEADT Centre have complete freedom to carry out their work in an academically responsible and transparent manner. The signed contract guarantees academic freedom.

Q: How will results be published? Will Humboldt-Universität´s academics only be able to publish with Elsevier as a result of this collaboration?

A: Researchers at the HEADT Centre will publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals according to normal publishing procedures. Humboldt-Universität´s academics working on HEADT Centre related projects will be free to publish their results with any publisher they choose and already have.

Q: How will the HEADT Centre benefit Elsevier? How will it benefit Elsevier customers?

A: Elsevier is transitioning to a provider of digital scientific information and knowledge, and the HEADT Centre is reflecting the strategic intent of Elsevier to develop further solutions to help researchers in academia and industry.

The HEADT Centre works for the good of the research community as a whole, developing analytical methods and approaches, which can be used at the institutional and government level, and contributing to best practice in the emerging area of research integrity. Researchers, administrators and students worldwide are likely to be impacted positively by this work.

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