Press Release No. 7 | 28 March 2014
Proposal Ban and Reprimands: DFG Imposes Sanctions for Scientific Misconduct
Joint Committee Takes Action Against Researchers Due to Incorrect Depictions
With a one-year exclusion from proposal eligibility and two written reprimands, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has once again drawn consequences from the scientific misconduct of grant applicants and recipients. At its recent meeting in Bonn, the Joint Committee of the largest funding agency and central self-governing organisation for science and research in Germany passed these measures concerning two researchers, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct. In doing so, it followed the recommendation of the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct.
The two scientists had been accused of data manipulation in 2013. At issue was the allegedly incorrect depiction of research results in two publications that had been released by these scientists, partially in collaboration with other authors. One of the two researchers had later named these publications as preliminary work in an approved DFG grant proposal; the other had received DFG funding as the head of the working group from which the two publications had emerged.
The allegations had been reported anonymously to the DFG as well as to the researchers’ universities and other addressees. Although the informant was unwilling to disclose his or her identity even at the request of the DFG, an investigation was nonetheless called for due to the very specific allegations raised. The investigation took place first as a preliminary inquiry by the DFG Head Office and then as a formal procedure by the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct. Another inquiry was carried out at the university where the two scientists had conducted research together; this procedure has already established scientific misconduct.
Based on its own investigations, and taking into account the two researchers’ statements and the relevant university’s own inquiry, the DFG committee has likewise established scientific misconduct. It has found that in the two publications, research results were represented inaccurately in five cases, in particular by using identical depictions to represent different results. For three of the incorrect depictions, for which one of the two scientists is responsible, there are also no original data available.
The two scientists’ claims, according to which the incorrect depictions were “placeholders” that were accidentally not replaced and remained unnoticed even in the pre-publication review procedure, could not convince the DFG committee in its assessment.
As disciplinary actions for the researcher responsible for the three incorrect depictions, the committee recommended issuing a one-year exclusion from proposal eligibility along with a written reprimand. For the researcher in charge of the working group from which the two publications with the incorrect depictions have emerged, the committee recommended issuing a written reprimand. The DFG Joint Committee has now joined these recommendations.
“The proposal ban cautions researchers to be careful when preparing manuscripts, especially if they are then cited as preliminary work in grant proposals. As for the group leader, we are reprimanding in particular the gross neglect of supervisory duty and the inadequate guidance for the staff by an experienced researcher,” said Dorothee Dzwonnek, Secretary General of the DFG and chair of the Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct, following the decision of the Joint Committee. She added that further-reaching actions were not taken because the actual research findings are reproducible and the researchers’ university has already ordered that the publications be corrected.
- Marco Finetti,
Head of DFG Press and Public Relations,
Legal officer at the DFG Head Office:
- Dr. Kirsten Hüttemann,
Detailed information on the topics “scientific misconduct” and “good scientific practice”, with further information on the DFG’s inquiry process and the rules of procedure, as well as the “Proposals for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” updated in July 2013, can be found at: