Many branches of science study people. Health researchers, for example, collect vast amounts of personal data and use them as the basis of scientific studies such as statistical evaluations. In doing so, researchers are encroaching upon personal rights that are protected by the German constitution (Art. 2 Par. 1 and Art. 1 Par. 1).

Everyone who collects personal data for scientific purposes has the duty to find the best possible balance between protecting individual rights and maintaining the freedom of science, research and teaching. Data protection acts at the federal and state level establish guidelines for this. Institutions also handle the sensitive personal data of the researchers they employ. 

Working group of data protection commissioners at non-university research institutions 

Data protection commissioners are responsible for raising awareness of data protection among research institutions and their employees, working to ensure adherence to applicable laws and monitoring compliance with those laws. They also provide information on the subject of data protection and advise researchers on how to collect personal data in accordance with regulations. Institutions have a vested interest in respecting the trust of those who participate in their studies and provide personal data, often voluntarily and at no cost, by ensuring that such data are treated with the utmost care. 

The Helmholtz Association is committed to promoting data protection in the research community and so it has joined up with the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association, the Fraunhofer Society and the German Research Foundation to form a working group of data protection commissioners.

The working group includes the data protection commissioners of all of the Helmholtz Association’s 18 research centres.

By bringing together data protection commissioners with backgrounds in law, business, IT and auditing, the working group is well equipped to tackle data protection issues from all angles. 

The current head of the working group is Marina Bitmann of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

The semi-annual meetings of the working group will be an opportunity to share experiences and develop proposals, official statements and recommendations on the subject of data protection. Commissioners will also discuss the practical implications of current developments, new bills and innovative technologies for data protection and scientific work at their research institutions.

Contact of the data protection commissioners at the research institutions




Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)

Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron DESY
Dr. Carsten Porthun
carsten.porthun (at)

German Cancer Research Center
Dietmar Elspass

German Aerospace Centre (DLR)

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
Ronny Repp
Ronny.Repp (at)

Forschungszentrum Jülich
David A. Wesner

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Stefan Simon
datenschutz (at)

GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung
Michaela Schuldt

Helmholtz Association (Head Office)
Vanessa Dallmann

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie
Gabriele Beschnidt

Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HDZR)
Rainer Schramm

Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung
datenschutz (at)

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research
Harald Ohrdorf

Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Marko Blau

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Nicole Lichtenstein
datenschutz (at)

Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
Werner Bergheim

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Marina Bitmann

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)
Ulrike Ohnesorge
datenschutz (at)

Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP)

Leibniz Association

Johannes Höper

Max Planck Society

Heidi Schuster

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  • Photo of Björn Petersen