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Sound practices

The obligation to attribute authorship

The obligation to attribute authorship

The German Research Foundation (DFG) banned a researcher from submitting proposals to the agency for two years – a penalty only used for serious violation of good academic practice – and sent a written reprimand to a second researcher for improper behavior regarding his treatment of materials produced by third parties. Both cases were investigated and dealt with according to the existing procedures, instituted by the DFG for dealing with scientific misconduct, stated the news service Eurekalert on February 15th of this year.

In the first case, the researcher included in his funding proposal passages from an unpublished manuscript without identifying the true author; this is plagiarism. However, what is more serious is that the author was his superior and had given him the unpublished manuscript for revision, which in the assessment of the Joint Investigation Committee, which was accepted by the DFG, represents breach of trust as well as plagiarism. However, it is worth noting that, as far as the committee was concerned, the superior of the punished researcher also acted improperly by delegating the review of his original texts to a subordinate. Hence the expectation, according to Dorothee Dzwonnek, general secretary of the German Research Foundation, that the university where the two researchers work should undertake its own investigation into these acts of scientific misconduct.

The second case, concerning a sponsorship proposal submitted to the DFG, also involved the use of third-party materials without citing the source.