Guide to the responsible use of data networks

Translated with

For members of institutions in education and science

Data networks are part of the infrastructure in universities and research institutions and are used for digital communication with the help of computers. Today, they are available to the research community for open communication worldwide. Their use is subject to certain legal and ethical principles. This guide is intended to make a wide range of users aware of these regulations, thereby promoting the appropriate and economical use of this valuable asset.


  1. Benefits and costs of data networks for education and science
    1. Synergy
    2. Effort
    3. Community of interest
  2. Principles for the use of data networks
    1. Reckless use
    2. Reasonable use
    3. Unacceptable use
    4. Abuse
  3. Seven rules of conduct
  4. Solidarity
  5. Network operation and development
    1. Professional operation
    2. Further development
  6. Advanced information

Benefits and costs of data networks for education and science



Institutions in education and science use data networks as a natural part of information technology. Data networks make it possible to communicate with each other quickly, flexibly and freely by transmitting documents, data and programs worldwide. This improves synergy in international scientific work in a way that was previously almost unimaginable.


Data networks in education and science are a valuable general asset that has been established at considerable expense.

This includes not only the great financial efforts of the public sector, but also the invaluable investment of effort and creativity by professionals in both the public and private sectors. For example, the coordination processes in international standardization have been ongoing for several decades.

As with other community institutions, providing safe and efficient operations requires careful day-to-day maintenance work in a global network.

Community of interest

Education and science can no longer do without the global networks that are now available and will continue to expand. This fact unites all those involved in the networks - users, operators and financiers - in a community in which mutual understanding and consideration are called for. It would be irresponsible to jeopardize the valuable asset of data networks for everyone by acting recklessly and engaging in unnecessary confrontations with one another.

Principles for the use of data networks

The networks should serve the community.

Personally optimal use is not always globally optimal. Careful monitoring of network behavior is necessary so that disadvantages for the community can be averted and the network load remains within acceptable limits.

Abuse by even a small group of network users could damage the reputation of the networks as a whole.

Careless use

The networks are relatively easy to use: With just a few commands, a data transfer around the globe or a message exchange with a large number of partners can be triggered.

It is easy for users to misjudge the complexity of the network activities they trigger. He should therefore be careful with network calls. Even if the user believes he or she has mastered the network tools, he or she should keep in mind that prudent use requires careful and continuous instruction.

An example of reckless use is the waste of resources by authorized but careless use of network services; this is especially true of retrieving data from the United States when it is already available in Germany.

Appropriate use

By using the networks,

  • worldwide cooperative projects can be made possible and carried out,
  • publication and dissemination of research reports can be accelerated considerably,
  • expenses for travel costs as well as telephone and postal charges can be reduced,
  • joint resources (e.g., supercomputers) can be used on a supraregional basis, 
  • data available at one location can be retrieved worldwide, and
  • international cooperation (e.g., also in dealing with crisis situations) can be organized quickly and unbureaucratically.

Unacceptable use

In particular cannot be tolerated:

  • negligent or even intentional interruptions of ongoing operations;
  • the dissemination of information irrelevant to science;
  • the burdening of networks by untargeted and excessive dissemination of information (information pollution);
  • the attempt to gain access to network services - of any kind - without explicit authorization;
  • violating the integrity of information available through the networks; interfering with the
  • individual work environment of a network user;
  • any kind of eavesdropping on data transmissions, rummaging through other people's data files or passing on information about computers and people obtained unintentionally.

Although there is no monitoring of usage or even censorship, network operators are required to prevent misuse and to prosecute it if it becomes known.


It goes without saying that documents of a dubious nature are neither to be offered nor requested in networks.

If abuses become more frequent, access to networks will no longer be as free as it is today, but will be associated with formal hurdles (e.g., proof of purpose or qualification); in addition, a loss of generally accessible services is to be feared.

Seven rules of conduct

  1. Find out about network connections, services, regulations, and responsibilities, and keep yourself informed.
  2. Observe local rules of operation and conduct; respect rules that differ in other parts of the data networks.
  3. Remember that you are part of a community of solidarity and your actions must not harm the community.
  4. Immediately report deficiencies such as technical defects, unintentionally obtained information or detected security gaps.
  5. Talk to someone responsible for the network before using new network services. On the one hand, users who are willing to innovate can contribute to the further development of the networks. On the other hand, misconduct is no trivial offense!
  6. Protect yourself and your resources by monitoring access to your computer, encrypting confidential data, carefully storing your authentication keys, and checking your entries in directory and name servers.
  7. Keep in mind the proportionality of your actions in terms of the purpose to be achieved.


Participation in an open, worldwide scientific data network and permissive access to many related service offerings is a privilege for science.

Every user should therefore behave in solidarity to preserve this privilege for all.

In particular, acting in solidarity means being aware of where an individual's use of the network affects the interests of other members of the community. The more developed this awareness, the less the network operator will be forced to introduce formal regulations and restrictions. Because of the high complexity of the network, users must be supported in their behavior by operating regulations.

In addition, there are, of course, legal regulations (e.g., telecommunications and data protection laws) that take effect in the event of a violation. Irrespective of legal consequences, the user must be aware that misuse of the network is a serious matter that can have far-reaching consequences for others.

Operation and further development of the networks

Professional operation

Users and operators of data networks must behave in a cooperative and professional manner, i.e. appropriately, responsibly and economically.

For operators, this includes the obligation to inform users about the possibilities and limitations, and for users to take note of and comply with this information.

Further development

Data networks will also be the subject of research and development for the foreseeable future; further development of networks and network services will require trials in wide-area networks.

Uncontrolled experimentation would interfere with "normal" use and thus not only harm individual users, but also jeopardize the reputation of individual network operators or the networks as a whole. Therefore, the utmost care and caution is called for when testing new services. Negligence in this area is irresponsible and will not be tolerated.

Users must be aware, however, that despite all efforts, disruptions for this reason cannot be completely ruled out; they are therefore asked for the necessary tolerance.

Further information

The network operators, in particular the data centers, keep further information (operating regulations, service catalogs, user instructions, netiquettes) available for their users.

You can also obtain information on relevant literature and internationally accessible networks and network services from the office of the

Verein zur Förderung eines Deutschen Forschungsnetzes e. V.:
DFN-Geschäftsstelle Berlin
Alexanderplatz 1
D- 10178 Berlin

Although this leaflet is subject to copyright, you are entitled - indeed, encouraged - to make and distribute copies of it, both as a whole and in part, provided that the source is acknowledged.

Printed copies can be ordered (unfortunately with costs) from:
University of Dortmund, Hochschulrechenzentrum, D-44221 Dortmund

This leaflet was published by:

  • ZKI. e.V. - the "Centers for Communication and Information Processing in Teaching and Research", in which in particular almost all university computer centers in the Federal Republic of Germany are represented;
  • DFN e.V. - the "Association for the Promotion of the German Research Network", in which practically all institutions from education and science in the Federal Republic of Germany are members.