Press Release No. 5 | 3 February 2011
DFG Joint Committee issues "written reprimand" against two researchers
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has again drawn consequences from an incident of scientific misconduct involving funding applicants. At its meeting in Bonn on 3 February 2011, the Joint Committee of Germany's central research funding organisation issued two professors with a "written reprimand". The two researchers had failed to identify passages of third-party material included in their joint funding proposal. According to the Joint Committee, their actions represent an act of plagiarism and scientific misconduct. In issuing the written reprimand, the Joint Committee followed the recommendation of the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct.
An investigation was launched by the DFG and the matter referred to the responsible committee when the inclusion of uncited third-party material was discovered during the review of the funding proposal. In the course of the investigation, the researchers explained that the proposal was a collaborative project, in which the various sections were authored by a number of different colleagues. However, the DFG has ruled that this admission does not absolve the researchers from the accusation of scientific misconduct. While co-workers may contribute to the preparation of a proposal; ultimately the applicants alone bear full responsibility for their proposal, its content, and any failings on the part of co-workers involved in its composition.
The DFG Joint Committee described the researchers' failure to properly cite their sources as an act of "gross negligence". "As experienced researchers, the applicants should have known to identify any third-party material. This is elementary to scientific and academic practice; particularly when, as was the case, the parties concerned are applying for funding," stated DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek following the decision of the Joint Committee. "The DFG affords its applicants a high degree of trust and expects that they conduct themselves in an honest manner." As supervising members of staff, the applicants should have ensured their co-workers were better informed of the principles of academic best practice. The applicants also had a responsibility to both the DFG and their funders to properly review their proposal prior to lodging an application.
For information on the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct:
Contact at the DFG Head Office:
- Dr. Kirsten Hüttemann, Legal Section, Tel. +49 228 885-2827, Kirsten.Huettemann@dfg.de