Comment on:

The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)

Guideline 19

Procedures in cases of alleged research misconduct

HEIs and non-HEI research institutions establish procedures to handle allegations of research misconduct. They define policies and regulations on the basis of a sufficient legal foundation. The regulations define the circumstances that constitute misconduct, procedural rules and the measures to take should an allegation be upheld. Regulations are applied in addition to relevant higher-level laws.


Not every breach of good research practice constitutes misconduct. Only deliberate or grossly negligent infringements defined in a set of regulations are considered scientific misconduct. Particular examples of misconduct include fabrication of data, falsification of data and plagiarism.

The regulations enacted by HEIs and non-HEI research institutions define responsibility for each step of a procedure, the consideration of evidence, substitutes for ombudspersons and members of investigation committees, conflicts of interest and the procedural principles of the rule of law. The respondent and the complainant are each given the opportunity to be heard at each stage of the process. Until such time as it is demonstrated that misconduct has occurred, information relating to the individuals involved in the process and the findings of the investigation is treated in confidence. HEIs and non-HEI research institutions ensure that the entire process is conducted as promptly as possible and implement the steps necessary to complete each stage of the procedure within an appropriate time frame. The regulations stipulate various measures to be applied according to the seriousness of the scientific misconduct ascertained. If, after it has been established that misconduct has occurred, the revocation of an academic degree is being considered, the responsible bodies are included in deliberations. Once inquiries are complete, the result is announced to affected research organisations and, if relevant, third parties with a justified interest in the decision.

Defining cases of research misconduct

The DFG’s Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct (item II. VerfOwF) define scientific misconduct as follows:

1) misrepresentation

a) by fabricating data and/or research findings,
b) by falsifying data and/or research findings, in particular
i. by suppressing and/or eliminating data and/or results obtained in the research process without disclosing this,
ii. by manipulating a representation or illustration/figure,
c) by presenting an image and a statement corresponding to it in an incongruous manner,
d) by making inaccurate statements in a grant proposal or within the scope of the reporting obligation (including false statements regarding the publication medium and publications in print) to the extent that they relate to research,
e) by claiming another person’s (co-)authorship without consent.

2) unjustified appropriation of others’ research achievements

a) by using others’ content without indicating the source (plagiarism),
b) by using others’ research approaches and ideas (idea theft),
c) by sharing, without authorisation, others’ data, theories and findings with third parties,
d) by claiming, or assuming without justification, authorship or co-authorship, in particular if no genuine, identifiable contribution was made to the research content of the publication,
e) by falsifying content generated by others,
f) by publishing an unpublished work, finding, hypothesis, teaching or research approach, or otherwise making it available to third parties, without authorisation,

3) interference with others’ research, in particular

a) sabotaging research activities (such as damaging, destroying or manipulating experimental setups, instrumentation, documentation, hardware, software, chemicals or other items required by others for research purposes),
b) falsifying or removing, without authorisation, research data or research documents,
c) falsifying or removing, without authorisation, the documentation of research data.

According to the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct, the following are also defined as intentional or grossly negligent research misconduct:

  1. co-authorship of a publication that contains false information or unjustifiably appropriated third-party research achievements as defined in Section II. 1. (1),
  2. neglect of supervisory obligations if another person has committed scientific misconduct as defined in Section II. 1. (1) and this would have been prevented or substantially impeded by necessary and reasonable supervision.

Scientific misconduct as defined in Section II. 1. (1) also results from the intentional participation (in the form of instigation or abetment) in the intentional misconduct of others.

Finally, the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct contain further offences of research misconduct concerning

  • reviewers in DFG review processes and
  • members of DFG committees or bodies supported by the DFG (in administering funding instruments) who participate in advisory, review, evaluation and decision-making procedures.

For further details, please refer to Section II. 2. of the Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL19 (General)