Psychological research is not advisable without the use of tests. These could be published procedures that are based on several years of development and comprehensive standardization or published (or unpublished) research instruments developed for specific areas of application and designed to answer specific research questions.
As part of the curriculum, students must be prepared to use psychological instruments, in terms of the statistical methods, the evaluation of quality criteria, and the validity of interpretations underlying the tests, as well as the applicable legal conditions for implementation of these test instruments.
Psychological assessment does not take place in a legal vacuum. The rights of the person undergoing testing are involved, as are the rights of the test authors and test publishers. For instance, tests are considered unusable (or ineffective or inefficacious) when the test subjects are aware of or familiar with certain test tasks (in performance testing). Recently, the new EU copyright law has been the subject of much debate (see "Increased restrictions to the copyright law (in German)".
To disperse prevailing uncertainties in the field, the Psychological Assessment Board of the Federation of German Psychologists' Associations ("Diagnostik- und Testkuratorium der Föderation Deutscher Psychologenvereinigungen", DTK) has produced a brochure ("Tests in Lehre und Forschung: Informationen zum Testschutz und zum Urheberrecht") providing information on the possibilities and limitations of using test procedures in research and teaching.
For example, some uncertainties that are addressed pertain to the following specific questions:
- Can a questionnaire/test that is used also be printed in the appendix of a qualifying paper or thesis?
- To what extent can questionnaires and tests used for teaching purposes be photocopied or scanned and distributed to students?
- Is it permissible for printed versions of tests to be converted into an electronic format and posted on the Internet without the express permission of the copyright holder?
- Is it possible to translate an English questionnaire into German and use it in a qualifying paper or thesis without first asking permission of the rights holders?
- Is it permitted to print, modify, or translate tests that are available as Open Access without infringing on the copyrights?
- What exactly does "test protection" mean? What are the implications of test protection for test libraries, for example?
In conclusion, the brochure warns its readers that "the fact that a test is printed in its entirety on the Internet and/or in a publication does not automatically mean that its rights of use are made available to the general public free of charge" (p. 15). Given the prevailing diverse legal conditions, anyone involved with test diagnostics in research and teaching should read this informative brochure and ascertain his or her own level of knowledge in order to comply with copyright and test protection regulations.