The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced today that it is withdrawing a professorship it awarded leading diabetes researcher Kathrin Maedler in 2014.
In recent years, Maedler — based at the University of Bremen in Germany — has faced questions about her work, including allegations of duplication and image manipulation. So far, she has issued one retraction, two expressions of concern, and multiple corrections. After an investigation, the University of Bremen concluded last month that Maedler’s work contained several duplications that were the result of negligence, noting there is not enough evidence to support charges of scientific misconduct.
But this hasn’t stopped the DFG from revoking the prestigious Heisenberg professorship it awarded Maedler in 2014. A Google-translated version of statement released by the DFG (in German) today concludes that Maedler did, in fact, commit misconduct, as she
had neglected [her] duty of supervision over these employees in a gross way, which also led to a co-responsibility and a scientific misconduct according to the DFG procedural regulation.
The release quotes the Secretary General of the DFG and chairman of the Committee on the Investigation of Prophesies of Scientific Misconduct, Dorothee Dzwonnek:
In view of the mistakes and deficiencies of the supervisory and organizational obligations observed, Frau Mädler no longer fulfills the prerequisites for the appointment of a Heisenberg professorship. The Heisenberg professorship is approved as a “career milestone” annually in only a few cases by the DFG and is not just a project, but a promotion of people with high requirements, even and precisely scientific integrity, and with high role model. These conditions are no longer available at Frau Mädler, which is why, according to the current state, [she] would not be granted a Heisenberg professor.
According to the release, the DFG launched an investigation into Maedler in March 2015, which was suspended after the University of Bremen began its investigation. After Bremen concluded its investigation, the DFG re-launched its misconduct probe.
had published duplicate pictures in several cases and had repeatedly failed to exert due diligence in organising her area of study over a long period of time. In addition, she failed to store the original data on durable and secure storage media, which amounts to negligence.
It went on to note that
the conclusion that Dr. Mädler was guilty of “scientific misconduct” would require proof of “deliberate or grossly negligent misrepresentation.” After weighing all evidence, the members of the Commission unanimously conclude that there is insufficient indication of deliberate or grossly negligent misrepresentation. An external review also concluded that so far, none of the experiments has been refuted in terms of content — on the contrary, additional checks confirmed the results.
The report also mentions a warning that Bernd Scholz-Reiter, the University of Bremen’s rector, issued to Maedler.
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