The German news magazine Spiegel reports on a major scandal at the University of Göttingen. An interdisciplinary group of sixteen scientists researching the rain forest in Indonesia had previously been awarded a prestigious "Sonderforschungsbereich" (SFB) by the German research foundation, DFG. The researchers were applying for an 8.6 million Euro extension of the research project.
But the external reviewers were quite irritated - they couldn't find many of the supposed publications listed on the report for how the first grant had been used. After an internal university investigation, it was determined that the publications did not, in fact, exist. The university withdrew the grant application.
There will now be more exact scrutiny of the money spent up until now, and whether it was used for the research or for other purposes. And another research group at the same university on biodiversity is currently under investigation for similar problems, according to the university president, who is worried as to how these incidents will affect the reputation of the university.
The University of Göttingen has been awarded "elite" status by the German government. On the one hand, it is questionable if this status is compatible with such goings-on, especially if they are regularly happening. On the other hand, the university is acting correctly in investigating the cases and in withdrawing the application. One wonders how many universities just sweep things like this under the carpet after rapping the knuckles of the parties involved.
One does, however, hope that the principle investigators will be degraded to cleaning toilets or some such punishment and not continue researching at full pay. I can't find a statement about the situation on the home pages of the university, but I do see that there will be a seminar on reputation management this coming week. I suppose the university will be sending someone to audit the course.