The Foundation’s decision, issued on Dec. 14, 2017, comes six months after the Leibniz Association, made up of 91 independent research institutions, found Karl Lenhard Rudolph guilty of “grossly negligent scientific misconduct.” The research body identified “errors in data representation” in eight of 11 papers and found Rudolph responsible for the issues in seven of them. In June, the Leibniz Association sanctioned Rudolph, and announced he was no longer directing the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute.
On Dec. 14, the German Research Foundation (DFG) issued its own sanction—a two-year ban on Rudolph’s “right to request funding”—and a written reprimand for “misrepresentations” in three papers with DFG funding. A spokesperson for DFG told us that the wording of the reprimand is “confidential” but indicated the papers in question—a 2012 paper in Cell, which received an erratum in 2014; a 2015 paper in The EMBO Journal, corrected in October 2017; and a 2014 paper in Nature Communications. Rudolph is corresponding author on all three, which have been collectively cited 201 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
After considering several written statements from Rudolph, the final report of the investigation by the Leibniz Association and a personal hearing with Rudolph, the DFG committee enquiry into the allegations of scientific misconduct reached the conclusion that misrepresentations had occurred in a total of three publications with DFG funding. Rudolph was the final author and corresponding author of these publications, and in the opinion of the committee, could and should have identified these misrepresentations, as he himself also acknowledged during the course of the investigation.
A spokesperson explained that DFG made its decision on December 14 “in the most recent meeting of its Joint Committee,” because this was the committee’s “first opportunity” to finalize its ruling following the misconduct findings by Leibniz.
Rudolph, who now leads the research group on stem cell aging at the Fritz Lipmann Institute, told us:
I regret that I did not notice the errors in data depiction in 3 of my DFG-funded publications. Here I did not do justice to my responsibility as a last author and to my own expectations. I accept the judgment of the DFG and take it as a challenge to fully live up to my responsibility as a scientist and group leader. This includes rigorous correction of the mistakes and the implementation of measures to ensure the best possible prevention of such errors in the future. I thank the DFG for the clear statement that the questioned publications were not based on falsifications.
In July, the Leibniz Association issued a press release stating that it had decided to re-fill Rudolph’s position as director of the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute, after discovering his misconduct.
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