Academic misconduct occurs when false statements are made deliberately or through gross negligence in a scientific context, when the intellectual property of others is infringed or their research activities are otherwise impaired. Academic misconduct is determined based on the circumstances of each individual case.
Potentially serious misconduct may include, among other things:
- Infringement of intellectual property
- Claiming (co-)authorship of others without their consent
- Interfering with the research activities of others
- Elimination of primary data
- Supporting, concealing or being partly responsible for someone else's academic misconduct
Not every violation of the rules of good research practice constitutes scientific misconduct. In general, only the acts described in the Rules of the University for the Ascertainment of Good Research Practice [German document], when done deliberately or as a result of gross negligence, are considered academic misconduct.
Details on the general procedure can be found in the DFG procedural guidelines [German document] and the DFG Rules of Procedure for Dealing with Scientific Misconduct.
NB: The procedure is currently being revised to comply with the new DFG Code of Conduct for Safeguarding Good Research Practice.
- Anyone with grounds to suspect actual academic misconduct can report this to an ombudsperson or a member of the investigating committee – ideally in writing and, if necessary, anonymously. Alternatively, the supra-local body 'German Research Ombudsman' can be consulted. In cases of suspicion against DFG applicants, grantees or reviewers, the DFG can be contacted directly.
- The implicated party is asked to provide a statement.
- The investigating committee arrives at a decision as to whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate a formal investigation procedure.
- All information about the involved parties and findings is kept confidential until academic misconduct is proven to have occurred.
- The investigating committee examines the allegation through free evaluation of the evidence.
- If the committee finds that misconduct has taken place, it submits the result of its investigation to the University Executive with a proposal for the further procedure.
- The penalties for misconduct are decided on the merits of the case.
- Legal proceedings are launched under employment, civil, criminal or regulatory law, depending on the facts.
The procedure described in §§ 8–10 of the Rules of the University for the Ascertainment of Good Research Practice and for the Investigation of Alleged Academic Misconduct [German] is legally binding.