Symposium on scientific misconduct

Cases of scientific misconduct have created a stir over the last few years and, due in part to extensive reporting by the media, have become a topic of debate even by those outside the research community. Discussion has focussed not only on considerations about causes and motives, but also on the question as to how universities and other research organisations deal with scientific misconduct and how effective the processes of inquiry into concrete incidences are.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the DFG Ombudsman have, for the first time, invited the ombudsman committees of universities and non-university research institutions to exchange experiences and ideas.

The two-day symposium, held on 12 and 13 November in Bonn, provided participants with an opportunity to examine in detail problems relating to scientific misconduct. On the first day of the conference, ombudsmen from various research organisations reported on their experiences during an internal meeting. The possibilities and limitations of the ombudsman system as a method of ensuring good scientific practice were also discussed. Professor Peter Hans Hofschneider from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried gave a presentation on the difficult situation faced by "whistleblowers", whose interests often differ from those accused of misconduct.

It became evident from the reports and discussions that the strategies to combat the problem of scientific misconduct need to be applied at various points in the scientific system.

The initial aim is to increase awareness of good scientific practice among scientists and academics and thus prevent misconduct from the outset. In this context, it was stressed that researchers in leading positions have an obligation to assume responsibility in providing for and supervising young researchers. This is closely linked to furthering the process of establishing standards for good scientific

Contact: Dr. Jutta Rateike
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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