Epidemiology

After the Herrmann and Brach case had become notorious, more cases of suspected misconduct became publicly known than had previously. Some of them probably cannot be taken too seriously.

In 1997, Martin Schata, a specialist in allergic illnesses at the University of Witten-Herdecke and President of the German Allergy and Asthma Union, was under suspicion of having manipulated data in his studies about mites. Nevertheless, the accusations seemed insubstantial and presumably personally motivated.

Another probably personally motivated campaign was that of Bernhard Hiller against Jens Rasenack, a Freiburg professor of medicine. Hiller alleged - also via the internet - that the former head of his laboratory made use of manipulated data. Although an expert appointed by the University of Freiburg concluded that Hiller was mistaken, he stuck to his opinion.

However, some other cases are more serious. Roland Mertelsmann, a specialist in gene research at Freiburg University, came under suspicion of having participated in the fraudulent behaviour of Herrmann and Brach, as he is the co-author of 25 incriminated papers. An investigative commission of the university concluded that Mertelsmann had not actively forged data, but had neglected his supervisory duties.22

Soon after the Herrmann and Brach case became public, there was a rumour in the media about Thomas Lenarz, a specialist in ear, nose, and throat diseases in Hannover, having claimed scientific pioneer work for himself that a colleague had done before. Lenarz was admonished by the university.

Also, the case of Meinolf Goertzen from Düsseldorf has been publicly discussed since 1997. Goertzen is under suspicion of having published manipulated figures, which he denies. A legal procedure is pending.

Another case happened at the Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry between 1991 and 1996. A young researcher had continuously forged and invented scientific data in his publications and, on one occasion, stolen results from a colleague. He was relieved when he was detected, spoke about personal difficulties, withdrew his thesis, and resigned from a future academic career.

In 1998, data manipulations in a project of a working group of the MaxPlanck Institute for Plant Breeding in Cologne became public. According to the results of a Max-Planck investigation, a technician was responsible for these, but the laboratory head was also held responsible, because he never monitored the results - not even when suspicion arose. Thus, both resigned.

In 1999, Peter Seeburg, working then at the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, was held culpable of misconduct committed in 1978. In the latter period he had worked at the University of California at San Francisco, where he was busy cloning genes. Later, he changed to a firm that did gene research, and, to continue this research, he stole the material from his former laboratory. Finally, his firm applied for a patent. The Max-Planck Commission held that stealing items required for research cannot be tolerated because this disturbs the atmosphere of confidence between researchers. Secondly, Seeburg did not tell the truth about the production of the clone in a paper based on the research that led to the patent.23'24

The latest case is that of the Erlangen philosopher Maximilian Forschner, who copied, in his book about the "fortune of mankind", large passages from his Oxford colleague James Urmson's book Aristotle's ethics without quoting it. His behaviour was officially criticised as misconduct by his university.25,26

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