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Press Release No. 7 | 31 March 2017
Scientific Misconduct: Written Reprimand and Five-Year Ban on Submitting Proposals

Joint Committee takes disciplinary action against biologist on the grounds of misrepresentation of data in publications

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is again imposing sanctions following an instance of scientific misconduct: At its meeting in Bonn on 31 March 2017, the Joint Committee of Germany's largest research funding organisation and the central self-governing organisation of the German research community voted to take disciplinary action against molecular and cell biologist Dr. Tina Wenz in accordance with the DFG Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct.

Wenz, who previously worked at the University of Cologne and has since left the research community, has received a written reprimand and a ban on submitting proposals for a period of five years. With its decision, the Joint Committee followed a recommendation of the DFG’s Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct.

A procedure to review allegations of scientific misconduct on the part of Wenz was initially conducted in 2015 by the University of Cologne, after relevant information was received. The DFG also conducted an investigation as the allegations were related to publications that were funded by the DFG or indicated as relevant to the project in a funding proposal rejected by the DFG. At the end of September 2016, the University of Cologne identified that Wenz had committed scientific misconduct in six publications and demanded that she retract the publications, which has been done in most cases.

In its overall assessment, the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct concluded that Wenz should be reproached for scientific misconduct on the grounds of a grossly negligent statement of falsehoods in one publication and also accept responsibility for the misrepresentation of data in six publications on account of her being named as corresponding author or first author. All in all, Wenz must accept responsibility for a high degree of discrepancies and errors in multiple publications. These errors were a common theme in her scientific career. In its decision-making process, the committee took account of the fact that Wenz, who is an experienced researcher, did not fulfil her function as a role model in any way.

The chair of the Committee of Inquiry, DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek, made the following statement in response to the Joint Committee's decision: "The five-year ban on submitting proposals and a written reprimand are adequate and proportionate measures, even though Ms. Wenz is no longer part of the research community. They relate to misconduct in publications with which Ms. Wenz was and continues to be connected first and foremost in her role as a researcher. In addition, scientific misconduct is not tied to the question of whether one will remain in or leave science; it must be investigated and, if necessary, penalised irrespective of this. As in other similar cases in the past, these measures should also send a clear message to the scientific community."

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