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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.

FAQ on procedures in cases of alleged research misconduct

How is it possible to ensure that the entire investigation procedure is carried out as promptly as possible?

Established measures include:

  • Setting clear deadlines
  • Settting up a transparent process regarding the sequence of procedural steps, including the required time frame
  • The more severe the accusation, the longer the proceedings can take.

Is every violation of the principles of good research practice automatically a case of research misconduct?

Not every violation or breach of the rules of good research practice constitutes research misconduct. Only those intentional or grossly negligent violations that are described as offences in an institution’s rules and regulations can be considered to be cases of research misconduct.

Should ombudspersons and/or commissions process anonymous complaints?

The explanatory notes on Guideline 18 state the following:

HEIs and non-HEI research institutions are responsible for deciding whether to investigate anonymous allegations. Disclosures made anonymously can only be investigated if the complainant provides the party investigating the allegation with solid and sufficiently concrete facts.

The DFG Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct (VerfOwF) stipulate that anonymous disclosures are to be reviewed, see item III.1.a).

Anonymous disclosures are often the only way to make accusations, especially in connection with professional dependency relationships.

Guideline 6 of the Code of Conduct explicitly limits an ombudsperson’s term of office. Does this regulation apply to members of investigating committees, too?

This would be possible and reflect the fundamental notion of avoiding dependency relationships; it is not a mandatory requirement under the Code, however. 

Who do I contact with regard to matters of good research practice or if I suspect research misconduct? What should I consider when making an allegation? What might a typical review of such a suspected case look like?

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GL19 (faq)