German Fraud Prevention Urged

An international panel set up by Germany's basic-science granting agency, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), has recommended that future grants be denied to universities and research institutes that fail to adopt an effective system for handling allegations of scientific misconduct. At a news conference yesterday in Bonn, DFG President Wolfgang Frühwald said that the 13-member "Self-Control in Science" panel had also recommended that:

  • German universities and scientific institutions name outside ombudsmen to hear "whistleblower" complaints;
  • Researchers and scientific publications tighten co-authorship standards by eliminating "honorary co-authorships," which give credit to senior scientists not directly involved with the research;
  • Primary research data used as the basis for publications should be preserved for at least 10 years; and
  • Decisions on grants and hiring should place less emphasis on the sheer number of papers published by a scientist.

At the same time, the panel rejected the notion that Germany set up a separate government bureaucracy to investigate misconduct, as was done for U.S. biomedical research through the Office of Research Integrity. "No one supported that concept," said Frühwald. He had formed the panel last summer after two German biomedical researchers were accused of falsifying or manipulating data in about three dozen publications resulting from research at universities and a national research center.