German Professor Penalized for Gross Negligence
A recently concluded investigation by the Review Board set up by the Executive Board of the Leibniz Association has found Prof. Dr. Karl Lenhard Rudolph guilty of research misconduct. Prof. Rudolph is the Director of the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena, Germany. The Review Board was set up after receiving information from Prof. Rudolph in addition to external concerns about the research in question. The scope of the misconduct includes image manipulation, incorrect Western blot controls, and an inability to locate the lab books associated with the experiments.
There are 11 papers in question and allegations of data misrepresentation are found in eight of them. The identified errors in data representation include duplicating parts of images, presenting incorrect parts of images, improper selection when presenting results, and inadequate loading controls for Western blots. For eight of the publications, the corresponding methodology and lab books could not be found. In four of the papers, safeguards to ensure reproducibility of the experiments were not enforced.
Rudolph’s research misconduct is more in the sphere of negligence. There is no evidence that he fabricated any data himself. However, the Leibniz Association has decided to penalize Prof. Rudolph for not appropriately fulfilling his duties as a working group leader. The Leibniz Association contends that the working group leader must ensure that violations of good scientific practice are avoided. Working group leaders should also create routines that allow them to carry out effective quality control of the research being conducted in their group. The Leibniz Association has concluded that Prof. Rudolph failed in these ways.
For this type of gross negligence, the Leibniz Association has decided to take action against Prof. Rudolph. They have suspended his passive voting rights in the Leibniz Association committees for three years. They have excluded the FLI under his leadership from being able to compete for internal grant funding for three years. In light of Rudolph’s research misconduct, they have also urged him to publish errata for the articles in the relevant scientific journals and retract one publication. The Leibniz Association has also sent the Review Board’s report to Prof. Rudolph, his supervisor the Scientific Director of Jena University Hospital, and the Chairman of the FLI Board of Trustees. The report has also been sent to the heads of the University of Jena and Ulm University, the German Research Foundation, and the European Research Council who have funded his work.
The Leibniz Association is a major force for research in Germany with 91 independent research institutions across the country. It is therefore important that neither academic nor research misconduct be tolerated to ensure the trustworthiness of research from the institutes. With this action, the Leibniz Association has demonstrated that it will not tolerate gross negligence nor scientific misconduct.