Fraud and Counterfeiting in Science

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Fraud and falsification in science are untrue assertions, invented or falsified research results that are published intentionally, i.e. with fraudulent intent, by scientists . This includes, in particular, falsification of data and measurement results, for example the removal of outliers in regression processes as well as untruthful reports and publications. The non-true Have-Want of research results that contradict the prevailing opinion or seem contradictory, a biased coverage and the omission of data represent less serious, yet harmful for the scientific community behaviors. Charles Babbage led 1830 Forging (falsifying or inventing results and observations), trimming ("data massage"; deliberate manipulation of measured values) as well as cooking ("fining" of results by leaving out deviating measured values) a classification of the forms of fraud that is still valid today.

Fraud in science also includes plagiarism and the publication of the work of ghostwriters under their own names. In these cases, the published information - apart from the author's indication - may still be correct.

Universities and research institutions try to counter such incidents by adopting “principles of good scientific practice” and measures to “deal with scientific misconduct”. Scientific misconduct has in recent years also become a subject of scientific history made.

Causes and Motivation

The causes and motivations for fraud and forgery in science will usually have to be looked for individually. Fame and honor that researchers seek to gain by publishing new and sensational findings are often considered. On the other hand, an obligation to publish (“ publish or perish ”) and the need for funding can lead to experimental data and results being invented or embellished.

The social psychologist Jennifer Crocker from Ohio State University took the forgeries of her colleague Diederik Stapel as an opportunity to investigate the question, “Why someone with obvious intelligence, ambition and talent puts everything at risk through fake data.” She compared the wrongdoing with the one published in 1963 Milgram experiment : Here as there, the first, small step deviating from the ethical norms was apparently rationalized as ethically acceptable and thus raised to the 'normal state'. Any further violation of the norms would then appear less serious - in relation to the new 'normal state', which could consist, for example, in the omission of references and measurement results that appear to be unsuitable. In this way, the norms could gradually be deviated from more and more without the perpetrator perceiving it as a violation of the morality valid in society .

After counterfeiting has been discovered, the question often arises why the errors remained undetected for so long. In some cases, however, this is not simply a matter of blind trust in science and its research results. Sometimes structural deficiencies in research stand in the way of uncovering grievances, a "lack of resistance":

  • Scientists usually trust that forgeries will be discovered as soon as specialist colleagues try to reproduce the alleged study results but fail. In fact, it is "almost impossible to publish iterations (or failed iterations) in high-ranking scientific journals".
  • "Everyone likes the fact that whistleblowers exist, but nobody likes them."
  • Universities and research institutes fear for their reputation if it becomes known that scientific errors are being made in their houses.
  • Departments and colleagues fear the lack of research funding if they cannot show positive results in the interests of the sponsors (see also the problem of expert reports ).
  • If the forger is a professor or an influential expert in the field, employees and colleagues depend on a good understanding with the forger for their own careers.
  • In particular, if a fake luminary is the head of a project group that has been set up for a number of years, if the swindle were exposed, this would usually lead to the end of the project and thus to an uncertain future for the subordinate project staff.

In the case of anthropology professor Reiner Protsch , an internal university commission tried to find out why Protsch's environment tolerated his behavior for decades. A mixture of fear, ignorance and misunderstood solidarity, according to the diagnosis, prevented consistent action by the department and university management against the professor. The commission report criticizes that "the lack of sensitivity and decisiveness among employees, colleagues, deans as well as university management and administration thwarted consistent action at an earlier point in time". In addition, "the extent and scope of Protsch's misconduct were obviously incorrectly assessed and therefore not pursued consistently." " have.


The experimental physicist Hans-Joachim Queisser takes the view that scientific fraud "is by no means as dramatic and lasting as fraud in other areas". Undiscovered forgeries would be forgotten over time and disappear from the scene. Personal contacts in research would counteract scientific fraud.

The German Research Foundation (DFG), which has been dealing with the topic for a number of years, does not show an annual increase in the number of cases of incorrect behavior in its report on the appeal to its arbitration committee ("Ombudsman") to comply with the proposals to ensure good scientific practice :

“It can be assumed that the number of cases of scientific misconduct has not increased even recently. Dishonesty and misconduct came to light better in the first years of the ombudsman's activity. The increasing number of appeals to the ombudsman of the DFG will probably not be due to a deterioration in morals in science, but rather to an increasing public awareness of the ombudsman of the DFG. "

- DFG Ombudsman
Plagiarism in a dissertation

The Administrative Court (VGH) of Baden-Württemberg assessed the unmarked takeover of complete passages from the work of another author in Baden-Wuerttemberg as a “deception about the independence of the scientific achievement” in its decision of October 13, 2008 (file number: 9 S 494/08) a dissertation ”, provided that it is carried out“ according to plan and not just sporadically ”. Such a planned adoption of foreign ideas already results from the fact that "the plagiarism can be found in several places in the dissertation and affect different foreign authors." - on the contrary - as evidence of "the targeted concealment intent of the plaintiff." This could entitle the university "to withdraw the awarded doctoral degree." The VGH expressly emphasized in a guiding principle : "On the scope of the written off positions and the question of whether the work could have been viewed as an independent scientific work even without the plagiarism, it does not matter in principle. "

A deliberately false, fictitious footnote in scientific work is referred to as a “submarine” . In doing so, it fakes a document that does not exist.


The following cases of fraud and forgery have attracted attention beyond their area of ​​expertise:


Memorial stone at the place where the Piltdown man was found
  • The Piltdown Man was found in an English gravel pit before 1912. Its features were a large skull capsule resembling modern humans and a lower jaw resembling an ape. Far-reaching conclusions about the human tribal history were drawn from this combination . It was not until 1953 that it was proven that the Piltdown man consisted of a human skull from the Middle Ages, the lower jaw of an orangutan and the teeth of a chimpanzee.
  • According to an investigation commission, the former Frankfurt anthropologist Reiner Protsch deliberately and systematically backdated skull finds from human history, including the skull of Hahnöfersand , in some cases by tens of thousands of years. For example, the age of the Lady von Kelsterbach , the allegedly oldest evidence of the Cro-Magnon people in Europe, is unclear , since this skull fragment was lost in Protsch's institute.


Forgery of an allegedly Merovingian belt buckle
  • The Cardiff Giant was supposed to prove in 1869 that there were giants .
  • The Wetterau fire graves were seen as a link between linear ceramic and the Rössen culture until they were finally exposed as clever forgeries in 1958.
  • The Roman Jupiter von Nidderau, discovered in 1972 and regarded as a sensation, turned out to be a fake.
  • The fake so-called “ Persian mummy ” sparked tension between Iran and Pakistan in 2000.
  • The work of the deceased " Moor Corpse Pope" Alfred Dieck was an important basis for ideas about Germanic culture and burial rites . During the evaluation of his academic legacy in 1988 by the Dutchman Wijnand van der Sanden as part of his doctoral thesis and in 1993 by Sabine Eisenbeiß and Katharina von Haugwitz as part of their master’s theses , Dieck’s works presented themselves as highly embellished or even fictitious.
  • Shin'ichi Fujimura was known throughout Japan in the 1980s and 1990s for discovering artefacts from the Stone Age, some of which are said to be up to 700,000 years old , thanks to his “divine hands” . In 2000, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper published photos showing how Fujimura, then 50, was burying stone tools in holes he had previously dug. Fujimura apologized for his behavior in tears in front of the television cameras and admitted to having falsified all the finds from a total of 168 excavation sites (see paleolithic falsification of findings in Japan ). As a result, the representation of the Paleolithic in Japanese textbooks had to be rewritten. The Paleolithic Institute of Tōhoku , of which he was Vice President, was dissolved in 2004, Fujimura was temporarily placed in a mental hospital.


  • Lyssenko Biology . With the support of political power, especially Josef Stalin, this teaching was spread in the 1930s and 1940s; the ideas of classical genetics were suppressed and scientists with a different view were threatened, banned or even killed. The "experiments" with which Trofim Denissowitsch Lyssenko "proved" his theories, u. a. for the conversion of species, were bold forgeries and lacked any scientific basis.
  • Ernst Haeckel published for the first time in 1868 in the book “Natural Creation History” and then again in 1874 in “Anthropogeny and Development History of Man” picture panels on which embryos of different animal species and humans were presented and compared with one another. All embryos were drawn equally large and highly stylized and should the Haeckel so-called biogenetic law prove, alleging that ontogeny the Phylogeny recapitulates, or in other words: The embryo is a shortened repetition of phylogeny. The Würzburg anatomy professor Carl Semper described these images as “forgeries” in a publication as early as 1875, at the same time the anatomist and embryo researcher Wilhelm His , later the biology didactic and specialist author Arnold Braß , and most recently in 1998 the British developmental biologist Michael Richardson pointed out based on Comparative photos of the species selected by Haeckel in the journal Science pointed to significant differences between Haeckel's drawings and the actual anatomical conditions of the embryos and published a comparative study. The embryologist and Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard also said in a 2003 interview with “Zeit” : “Ernst Haeckel falsified. Many of his pictures of organisms are simply made up in order to confirm his theory. ”Nevertheless, Haeckel's comparisons are reprinted in specialist books up to the present day. a. in 2003 in Ernst Mayr's “This is Evolution”. See also the article embryo controversy .
  • In the 1920s, the zoologist Paul Kammerer or one of his colleagues forged at least one preparation from experiments with midwife toads that were supposed to prove the inheritance of acquired properties ( Lamarckism ). After the forgery was discovered, Kammerer committed suicide. The question of whether the forgery was only planted is still not yet clear, and was in the book The toads kisser of Arthur Koestler treated.
  • Julius Schuster's promising career as a botanist was ended by an allegation of forgery in his habilitation in Munich in 1911. He then turned to the history of science.
  • In retrospect, Emil Abderhalden's “defense ferments” proved to be never scientifically proven.
  • Franz Moewus ' (1908–1959) genetic experiments to determine the sex of Chlamydomonas algae proved to be irreproducible.
  • In 1989, Dmitri Anatolyevich Kuznetsov published an article on in vitro studies on voles , in which he used alleged molecular research data to argue against the theory of evolution. He then became an internationally active propagandist of creationism . Both the evidence of this study and the content of other publications turned out to be “fabricated”.
  • The South Korean cell biologist Prof. Tae Kook Kim was suspended from work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon in early 2008 after two of his publications in the journals Science and Nature Chemical Biology turned out to be "devoid of any scientific truth". In 2005, Science first described a method by which nanoparticles could be used to influence the interactions between molecules inside cells and drugs. In the second study in 2006 it was claimed that it had been possible to reprogram body cells in such a way that their aging process could be stopped and even rejuvenated.
  • In 2010, the evolutionary biologist and cognitive researcher Marc Hauser was accused by an internal investigative commission at Harvard University of having been guilty of scientific misconduct in at least eight cases. An article by Hauser in the journal Cognition was withdrawn, and the validity of further publications was questioned. One of the questioned studies published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in 2007 was shown to be correct in early 2011 after repeating the experiments, as was a study published in Science . With effect from August 1, 2011, he resigned from Harvard University. A final statement by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity (ORI) confirmed the allegations against Hauser at the beginning of September 2012: he had been proven in six cases of "scientific misconduct".
  • Milena Penkowa , a Danish neurobiologist, gave up her professorship at the University of Copenhagen at the end of 2010 after several of her publications were declared invalid because their results were not reproducible.
  • Dipak Das, director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut's (UCHC) Health Center in Farmington, was found guilty of falsifying data in at least 23 publications by a commission of his university in 2012. His research area included in particular studies on the health benefits of drinking wine - especially the substance resveratrol . That dismissed the allegations.
  • Serge Valentin Pangou, Director of the Research Group on Biological Diversity (GERDIB) in Brazzaville and one of the most influential natural scientists in the Republic of the Congo , admitted in 2012 that several of the articles he published as the main author were plagiarism and that in several cases co-authors without them Knowledge and consent had been named. Pangou apologizes for the technical articles, which have meanwhile been declared invalid by the magazines, with the reference to "the abusive utilization of bibliograph [ies]".
  • John William Heslop-Harrison , botanist, Fellow of the Royal Society, was accused of falsifying plant finds as early as the late 1940s. The affair only came to the public in the late 1990s.
  • In the early 1970s, Hasko Paradies made a name for himself with alleged X-ray diffraction images of crystals of t-RNA, which earned him a professorship at the Free University of Berlin. They were later found to be from proteins published in Nature in 1983. The FU opened an investigation and no further prosecution was initiated after Paradies petitioned for his release.
  • The affair surrounding the discovery of auxin by Fritz Kögl and his assistant Hanni Erxleben in the 1930s and the alleged discovery of D -amino acids in tumor tissue, with Kögl's assistant falsifying laboratory results (without Kögl's knowledge).
  • In June 2016, a postdoctoral fellow at Uppsala University and the head of her working group published a study on the relationship between microplastics in the ocean and the development of fish larvae in Science . Immediately after the publication, visitors to the experiments allegedly carried out on Gotland doubted that the alleged experiments could have been carried out there. Shortly after this criticism, the two authors of the study claimed that the raw data had been completely lost as a result of the theft of a laptop. An investigation by Uppsala University in May 2017 resulted in Science invalidating the publication. In December 2017, Uppsala University declared the study data to be fabricated (“fabricated research results”).


  • The chemist Guido Zadel was stripped of his doctoral degree by the University of Bonn in 1996 because of falsifications in his doctoral thesis , which became final in 2004, as Zadel took legal action against it. In his doctoral thesis in 1994, he claimed to be able to influence the chirality of molecules with the help of a magnetic field ( NMR ) in the synthesis of molecules . A commission had tried unsuccessfully to repeat the experiments. Because of the great potential significance of the alleged discovery - until the forgery was discovered - numerous other laboratories tried in vain to reproduce the experiment. Zadel defended ambiguities in his dissertation by stating that patent proceedings would be ongoing (one of the prerequisites for this in Germany is that nothing has been published about this). His doctoral supervisor, Eberhard Breitmaier, had applied for the patent under his own name at the same time as the doctorate. A lawsuit by Zadel against the university in 2004 was unsuccessful in the second instance before the Higher Administrative Court in Münster . His alleged “scientific breakthrough” had caused quite a stir in specialist circles because he claimed to have solved a central problem in chemistry and pharmacy: left-rotating molecules often have completely different effects in the body than their right-rotating counterparts (see chirality ). Since both forms are mirror images of each other, but otherwise do not differ chemically from each other, their specific production is difficult.
  • In January 2007, the University of Alabama set up a commission of inquiry, which in December 2009 came to the conclusion that the crystallographer H. M. Krishna Murthy had published data on the structure of eleven proteins in the previous ten years , which were supposedly derived from proteins already known were. For the first time in its history, the Protein Data Bank then deleted a data set from its holdings, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry withdrew the corresponding specialist article published in 1999. Nature reported that the inaccurate data affected a protease from the dengue pathogen and hampered research into the disease. Murthy denied scientific misconduct.

Educational science

The Faculty Council of the Philosophical Faculty of the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf decided on February 5, 2013 to declare Annette Schavan's written dissertation “invalid and revoke her doctorate.” From 1995 to 2005, Schavan was Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport in Baden-Württemberg and from 2005 Federal Minister for Education and Research . In its statement, the Faculty Council ruled that “Ms. Schavan's dissertation contains a significant number of unmarked verbatim copies of foreign texts. The accumulation and construction of these literal takeovers, including the non-mention of literature titles in footnotes or even in the bibliography, give the overall picture, according to the conviction of the Faculty Council, that the doctoral candidate at the time systematically and deliberately distributed intellectual achievements over the entire dissertation that she did not actually do herself had provided. Ms. Schavan's replies could not refute this picture. The Faculty Council has therefore determined that there was intentional deception through plagiarism. ”The doctorate was Schavan's first degree at the time; the withdrawal of the doctoral degree therefore also results in the loss of the university degree.


James Rennell's "Kong Mountains" (arrow) on a map from 1882

The highly respected geographer James Rennell ( FRS ) during his lifetime falsified reports by the explorer Mungo Park by inventing the fictitious " Kong Mountains " in 1798 , which are located in western Africa near the 10th parallel. He wanted to support his theory about the course of the Niger . The forgery was not discovered until the end of the 19th century.


The Indian geologist Viswa Jit Gupta from Panjab University published around 300 publications with sensational findings on the geology of India , especially the Himalayas , which were allegedly based on his fossil finds from this area. In fact, Gupta's allegedly Indian fossils came from. a. from Morocco, the USA and China. In 1989 the scientific fraud was exposed by the Australian paleontologist John Talent.

History sources

see also: falsification of history
  • Martin Allen , British author of books on the history of World War II, has used documents from the National Archives , Kew, that had been tampered with in real files in the archive for his publications . Everyone himself is urgently suspected of this manipulation; however, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to bring charges because of his poor health.
  • Mart Bax , professor emeritus for political anthropology in Amsterdam, has based all his scientific work on unconfirmed, possibly falsified or falsified sources since the 1970s against his better judgment. In addition, he made a literature list with 161 entries by self-plagiarism out of around 16 independent texts and invented memberships in professional associations and appointments in advisory committees.
  • Orlando Figes had to admit that he had written positive reviews of his own books and reviews of his opponents on the website after attempting legal action against such allegations. Several other of his books also contained significant misrepresentations and free inventions.
  • Hansmartin Decker-Hauff , professor in Tübingen. The extent of his forgeries, for example on genealogical questions, only became apparent after his death.


The American mathematician John L. Casti published his book Mathematical mountaintops: The five most famous problems of all time in 2001 , which the publisher had to withdraw a year later because it had largely been copied from other publications.


  • In the private entries of Louis Pasteur , Gerald L. Geison of the Historical Institute of Princeton University in New Jersey a. a. a number of serious deviations from his actually published work. According to the notebook, Pasteur used e.g. B. a different vaccine against anthrax than he had indicated in his publications.
  • William T. Summerlin reported in two medical journals in 1973 that he had successfully transplanted the skin of a black mouse onto a white mouse without the usual accompanying immunosuppression . Nevertheless, there was no rejection by the immune system . This success was possible because he subjected the skin to a special treatment in an organ culture for four to six weeks. Summerlin demonstrated the success of his approach by using white mice with black patches of skin on their backs. However, it turned out that the black hair turned white again after washing with alcohol - Summerlin had previously dyed the hair with a felt-tip pen.
  • The doctor John Darsee (* 1948), who was considered a brilliant young scientist at the chair of the renowned cardiologist at Harvard University , Eugene Braunwald , was exposed as a forger in 1981. After Braunwald initially wanted to settle the case at the university without much fuss by separating from Darsee, the dean of Harvard Medical School, Tostenson, initiated an investigation. Several investigative commissions looked into the case, and it turned out that he had systematically falsified earlier at Emory University, where he received his doctorate in 1974, and had even started doing it as a student at Notre Dame University in 1969. Ned Feder and Walter W. Stewart of the National Institutes of Health systematically examined 109 publications by Darsee with 47 co-authors over several years and found that the majority of the co-authors had at least been accused of carelessness - only 12 of the scientists spoke them free from mistakes. Over 100 of Darsee's publications contained forgeries. For example, he cited in an article a patient who was said to have had four children at the age of 16, including one at the age of 8. Her study was published in Nature in 1987 and caused a sensation at the time.
  • In the mid-1980s, radiologist Robert Slutsky at the University of California, San Diego, was shown to have repeatedly published incorrect data in professional journals. The journal Science reported in April 2006 that 18 of its 60 publications had been revoked because of falsified or at least questionable data.
  • Friedhelm Herrmann and Marion Brach were responsible for the biggest affair in German cancer research to date. a. and Roland Mertel man on charges of injury has been exposed to its supervisory duties.
  • A study that seemed to prove the superiority of high-dose chemotherapy in breast cancer was falsified by Werner Bezwoda; he later officially admitted this in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt .
  • Canadian researcher Eric Poehlman of Vermont College of Medicine has spent years researching menopause, aging and obesity. Allegations were made against the credibility of his studies as early as 2000, but it wasn't until 2005 that a University of Vermont investigative committee showed him that 10 of his publications contained falsified data. Legal action was taken against him because of incorrect information in applications for research funding.
  • "Vaccination against cancer" (alleged therapy against renal cell carcinoma): Alexander Kugler, urologist at the University of Göttingen , and Gernot Stuhler from the University of Tübingen were accused of methodological inaccuracies in 2001. Gernot Stuhler was fully rehabilitated, while Kugler's superior Rolf-Hermann Ringert was barred from third-party funding and reviews by the DFG for eight years in 2005 .
  • The immunologist Luk van Parijs, who u. a. researched RNA interference was suspended from his position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2004 and fired in 2005. It had been proven to him that he had published invented work results in specialist journals while working at MIT. It was later discovered that he had already published falsified data as a postdoc in the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner David Baltimore at the California Institute of Technology .
  • At the end of 2005, the Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk was proven by an investigative commission at his university to have completely falsified a spectacular research report published in the journal Science on the cultivation of eleven cloned human stem cell lines. His temporary employee Park Jong-Hyuk was certified by the University of Pittsburgh in early 2007 to have also falsified data and lied to the university's investigative committee. Park had worked in Hwang's laboratory until 2004, when he moved to Pittsburgh. In January 2006, a US colleague noticed inaccuracies in a paper written by Park for Nature . Park had denied the forgeries, but deleted the conclusive data from the laboratory server shortly after the investigation began and then left the USA with an unknown destination.
  • The Norwegian cancer researcher Jon Sudbø admitted in January 2006 that he had invented several hundred patient data from oral cancer patients, processed them into a study and published them in the prestigious journal The Lancet . The statement of this fake was that the risk of oral cancer in smokers could allegedly be reduced by half if one took paracetamol for a long time .
  • Japanese biochemist Kazunari Taira was suspended from duty by Tokyo University in early 2006 after failing to reproduce data from several studies on RNA interference published in high-profile journals . He was also unable to provide the raw data for the publications or laboratory diaries.
  • The radiation oncologist Steven Leadon from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lost his professorship after a university committee had talked him guilty in a 1997 Science have published fake article published data. The article, which was withdrawn, discussed the influence of the breast cancer gene BRCA1 on the cell's own DNA repair mechanisms. On June 8, 2006, the US Office of Research Integrity also found him guilty. The investigations led to the result that a total of eight publications were affected by data manipulation. In an agreement, Leadon committed to withdraw three more publications and not to apply for government research funding for five years. Leadon denied any wrongdoing even after this agreement. He only agreed to the agreement because he could not afford the costs of the legal action.
  • Catherine Verfaillie , today professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven , published a paper in Nature in 2002 that seemed to point a way out of the ethical problems of research on embryonic stem cells (ES). If they could previously be obtained by destroying embryos, Verfaillie now reported that she had discovered so-called “multipotent adult progenitor cells ” in the bone marrow of mice , from which in principle the same cell types could be produced in her laboratory as from embryonic stem cells. However, repeating the experiments in other laboratories failed. Reporters from the New Scientist magazine showed as early as the end of 2005 that identical images had appeared in several publications of Veraillies and in one patent, each of which was supposed to document different cell cultures. Further dates of their publication were also questioned. A commission of inquiry from the University of Minnesota came to the conclusion that the 2002 publication contained “significantly incorrect data” and was therefore “potentially incorrect”. The investigations are still ongoing.
  • Pain researcher Scott Reuben has forged the raw data of up to 21 studies since 1996. In his studies, the expert in postoperative pain treatment supported the administration of certain painkillers after operations. This current clinical practice has been challenged by the scandal.
  • The Klinikum Ludwigshafen dismissed on 26 November 2010, anesthesiology chief physician Joachim Boldt with immediate effect of his office. The anesthetist was accused of having published an alleged original work in the specialist journal Anesthesia & Analgesia , "whose statements were not based on a scientific study survey"; As an indication of this allegation, the German Society for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine mentioned "that, for example, no laboratory and patient data on the study are available". In February 2011, Boldt was stripped of the title of “Extraordinary Professor at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen ” because he no longer fulfilled his teaching duties in Giessen. The case was about studies to show the benefits of hydroxyethyl starch (HES). With 89 withdrawn specialist articles, Boldt took first place internationally in these statistics in March 2011.
  • Andrew Wakefield , in a 1998 article in The Lancet, linked a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine vaccine with subsequent autism (see The Wakefield Case ). It was later revealed that he had received £ 55,000 in third-party funding from attorneys representing parents of children with autism. The publication has since been withdrawn by The Lancet , Wakefield has been banned from practicing in his home country Great Britain.
  • Yoshitaka Fujii, a Japanese anesthesiologist , was dismissed from Toho University in February 2012 because eight out of nine specialist publications examined by a university-internal committee did not meet the prescribed standards; Fujii then agreed to withdraw the publications. As a result, the integrity of all of his 20-year English-language work - 193 publications - has been questioned. In September 2012, Nature reported that at least half of these publications were expected to be withdrawn.
  • Edward Shang , a German surgeon who moved from Mannheim to Leipzig as part of the Integrated Research and Treatment Center for Obesity Diseases , ended his work in Leipzig on May 9, 2012 by mutual agreement. The starting point was the withdrawal of a publication in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases in which Shang claimed to have operated on 60 patients as part of a study. In fact, only 21 patients had been operated on during the period in question.
  • The Japanese researcher Hisashi Moriguchi from the University of Tokyo Hospital reported on October 11, 2012 that he was the first researcher in the world to successfully use induced pluripotent stem cells on several patients. This statement caused a lot of media coverage in Japan, as it was distributed as the cover story by Yomiuri Shimbun , the world's largest newspaper. However, after the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital immediately denied the cooperation alleged by Moriguchi, he admitted on October 13, 2012 that his claims were untrue. Shortly afterwards, it was also announced that he was not licensed as a doctor and that the University of Tokyo had fired him.
  • Haruko Obokata, researcher at the RIKEN Institute in Japan, claimed in two sensational publications in Nature and in a third publication that any cell could be reprogrammed into a pluripotent stem cell by immersing it in an acid bath for 30 minutes . A study lasting several months in 2014 revealed that several samples were already contaminated with stem cells at the beginning of the experiments and that this was “probably not accidental” (“it is unlikely that there was accidental contamination”); furthermore, figures in the studies were created without sufficient data.
  • The Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who was a visiting professor at the renowned Karolinska Institute in Sweden , was accused at the beginning of 2016 of falsifying publications and frivolously jeopardizing the lives of patients. Macchiarini was regarded as an expert in artificial trachea until a television report reported "of serious discrepancies between the medical history of Macchiarini's patients, which in the majority of cases ultimately ends in death, and the results of these operations presented by the surgeon in specialist circles". Thereupon the head of the Karolinska Institute, Anders Hamsten, resigned from his office; previously the institute had not investigated allegations against Macchiarini. The case also had an impact on the composition of the committee responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize for Medicine.


The former star researcher and dean of the Institute of Microelectronics of the Jiaotong University of Shanghai , Chen Jin, was dismissed in May 2006 after it turned out that the supposedly developed by him in 2003 Hanxin - microchip in reality a merely externally modified chip of the US manufacturer Freescale Semiconductor was. Chinese press reports said Chen had hired migrant workers to scrape the US company name off the chips and label it with the Hanxin logo.

Because of his alleged invention, Chen had been repeatedly awarded official recognitions by the Chinese state since 2003 and was rewarded with - even by European standards - impressive research funds.


In the summer of 2007, the specialist journal “Research Policy” withdrew an article by the Ingolstadt economist Hans Werner Gottinger , which he had published there 14 years earlier. It turned out "that the 1993 article is a clear and serious case of plagiarism ". The economist and former director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Natural Science-Technical Trend Analysis in Euskirchen had copied an article published in 1980 in the Journal of Business in parts - including complex mathematical formulas - and without reference to the source . According to the Fraunhofer Institute, Gottinger lost his job there in December 1988 after it was discovered that he had copied a book publication chapter by chapter from another source. For more than 20 years Gottinger had also repeatedly stated that he was employed at the “Institute of Management Science” at Maastricht University; When asked, however, the university denied that Gottinger had ever worked for them: the institute mentioned does not exist at all. Research by the journal Nature in August 2007 revealed that Gottinger had also claimed to have memberships in professional societies, which they denied.


  • In 1864 Thomas Henry Huxley published the "reconstruction" of a belemnite from the order Phragmoteuthida , which served for decades as a template for other authors when describing new finds. As it finally turned out, Huxley had glued the rostrum of an individual from another order to the fossilized soft tissue impression of a Phragmoteuthida individual.
  • The discovery of the fly Fannia scalaris in a piece of Eocene Baltic amber that had been in the collection of the Natural History Museum in London for around 70 years caused quite a stir in the professional world . The peculiarity of this piece was that with this fossil insect embedded in a 50 million year old amber it seemed to be proven that even species can have an extremely long lifespan in geological and biological terms (evolutionary standstill). Although recent representatives from numerous Eocene species of insect are known, there was no reliable evidence that a species from this period of geological history has survived to this day. When the piece was examined again in 1993, it turned out that the inclusion was a fake . In reference to the famous scientific falsification of the Piltdown man , this piece is often referred to in literature as the Piltdown fly.


  • Galileo Galilei has repeatedly been accused of either never having carried out some of the experiments he described himself or of having greatly falsified their results. The widespread story about hand-carried out drop tests from the Leaning Tower in Pisa , for which there is no reliable evidence, cannot be blamed on him, because he never reported it himself. Galileo's presentation is embellished that two pendulums of the same length remain in rhythm for hundreds of oscillations, even if their deflections differ greatly at the beginning. This isochronism only applies in the limit case of small oscillation amplitudes, while in comparison with larger deflection angles, e.g. B. 30 ° as mentioned by Galileo, show increasing displacements after a few dozen periods.
However, Galileo apparently actually carried out the experiments on the inclined plane, which were decisive for the elucidation of the laws of the fall. The accusation of falsification, which is still repeated at times, goes back to the science historian Alexandre Koyré . At the beginning of the 20th century he had looked through the entire estate of Galileo, which had just been published, and found almost no records of measurements taken in it. However, in the 1960s Stillman Drake , after having gone down to the archives in Florence himself, found numerous sheets by Galileo's hand that had been left out of the complete edition. It was the logs of the measurements that had been considered unimportant when compiling the complete edition because there was little or no text on them, but sketches and numbers. Drake analyzed handwritten notes in which Galileo had recorded, for example, an experiment on the trajectory of a falling ball at different initial horizontal velocities. Galileo noted the value he expected for the flight range of the sphere as well as the measured value, the largest deviation being just under four percent. The impression of forgery may also be related to the fact that Galileo - as was customary at the time - only reproduced the laws found in his publications, but no longer the underlying test results with their inevitable deviations.
Koyré's further assertion that many of Galileo's experiments could not be carried out with the means available at the time were refuted by a concrete replica.
  • From 1926 to 1935, Emil Rupp was one of the world's leading experimental physicists. However, his experiments on channel beams and the positron later turned out to be complete forgeries.
  • Jan Hendrik Schön , nano- physicist , falsified measurement data on the electronic behavior of organic structures. Schön was already under discussion as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in 2002 when the fraud was uncovered: his measurement results could not be reproduced.
  • Victor Ninov falsified measurement data about the alleged generation of two new chemical elements (heavy ions).
  • Rusi P. Taleyarkhan of Purdue University has been accused for several years that his experiments on vesicle fusion are not reproducible. In the spring of 2007, this finally prompted the US House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Technology to conduct its own investigation after a review of possible scientific misconduct by the home university and the like. a. had been criticized as opaque in the journal Nature .


  • Diederik Stapel , a former university professor and Dutch social psychologist , admitted in 2011 to having invented the data for numerous publications in renowned journals. He was then suspended from his duties and shortly afterwards he returned his doctorate to the University of Amsterdam.
  • Social psychologist Dirk Smeesters, formerly Professor of Marketing at Erasmus University Rotterdam , stepped down in June 2012 after two of his publications were withdrawn. He had previously admitted that the underlying data had been falsified in order to prove statistical significance.

law Sciences

In February 2011, the discovery of plagiarism in the dissertation (doctoral thesis) of the German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg at the University of Bayreuth led to the Guttenberg plagiarism affair . Many longer text passages zu Guttenberg had taken over ( quoted ) from other authors without indicating this by citation in accordance with the principles of scientific work . A number of the text adoptions had also been deliberately reformulated in some places. Plagiarism was documented in the open GuttenPlag Wiki . The University of Bayreuth recognized Guttenberg the doctoral degree from February 23, had he "violated scientific duties to a considerable extent" against. He resigned from his ministerial office on March 1, 2011.


  • In the Reichstag fire controversy , historians around Walther Hofer attacked the single perpetrator thesis and accused Fritz Tobias and Hans Mommsen of having falsified reports and using untrustworthy witness statements. They countered with the accusation that Hofer and the Croatian publicist Edouard Calic , who died in 2003, had used falsified sources in their two documentaries from 1972 and 1978. Calic had stated that he no longer had the originals of the documents and could not get them, so the dishonorable allegations of forgery were still in the room.
  • Cyril Burt was a highly respected twin researcher until his death, whose legacy, however, cast doubt on the seriousness of his studies.
  • In 1990, in the book Critical Investigation of Elisabeth Ströker's dissertation on number and space, along with an appendix to her habilitation thesis, the accusation was raised that the dissertation by the Cologne philosophy professor Ströker, which had already appeared in 1953, was extensively interspersed with unrecognized text transfers. In 1991, however, a nine-person examination commission set up by the Philosophical Faculty in Bonn came to the conclusion "that the work as a piece of systematic philosophy (i.e. outside of the first part, which compiles the fundamentals) is independent in the actual substance of the Hartmann criticism."

Literary processing

The British writer and physicist Charles Percy Snow used details of Emil Rupp's authentic fraud in his 1960 novel The Affair about a science fraud at Cambridge University . The fraud in the scientific community is also dealt with literarily in the novels published in 2012 by the natural scientist Bernhard Kegel (“A Deep Fall”) and the team of authors Ann-Monika Pleitgen and Ilja Bohnet (“Particle Acceleration”).

See also


  • William Broad, Nicholas Wade: Fraud and Deception in Science. Birkhäuser, Basel 1984, ISBN 3-7643-1560-1 .
  • Karl Corino (Ed.): Forged! Fraud in politics, literature, science, art and music . Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-8218-1131-5 .
  • Jennifer Couzin, Katherine Unger: Cleaning up the paper trail. In: Science . Volume 312, April 7, 2006, pp. 38-43 (an article on the - minor - consequences of proven fraud for fraudsters).
  • Federico Di Trocchio: The Big Scam . Fraud and Counterfeiting in Science. Campus 1994, ISBN 3-593-35116-1 .
  • Marco Finetti , Armin Himmelrath : The Fall. Fraud and forgery in German science. Raabe, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-88649-351-2 .
  • Gerhard Fröhlich: Fraud and Deception in the Social and Cultural Sciences . In: T. Hug (Ed.): How does science get its knowledge? Schneider, Hohengehren / Baltmannsweiler, pp. 261-273 ( PDF ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )).
  • Gerhard Fröhlich: Visuals in scientific communication - e.g. B. Fraud and Counterfeiting . In: European Journal for Semiotic Studies. Vol. 15, No. 2-4, pp. 627-655 ( abstract ).
  • David Goodstein: On Fact and Fraud. Cautionary tales from the front lines of science. Princeton University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-691-13966-1 .
  • Peter Haffner, Hania Luczak: Forgeries in research. In: Geo. March 2003, pp. 120-138.
  • Adrian Heuss, Siegfried Süßbier: Tricks, tears, death. 20 illustrated science scandals. Springer Spectrum, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-45267-7 .
  • Torsten Junge, Dörthe Ohlhoff: Insanely brilliant. The Mad Scientist Reader. Alibri, Aschaffenburg, ISBN 3-932710-79-7 .
  • Peter Köhler: FAKE. The strangest fakes from art, science, literature and history. 2nd Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-68128-8 .
  • Eberhard Schnepf: Counterfeits - not only in our time. Lies and deception in biology. In: Biology in Our Time. Volume 32, 2002, No. 3, 4 (2 parts).
  • Stefan T. Siegel and Martin H. Daumiller (eds.): Science and Truth: Causes, Consequences and Prevention of Scientific Misconduct. Budrich, Leverkusen 2020, ISBN 978-3-8474-2429-1 .
  • Stella Elaine Urban: Research Fraud in Medicine. Facts, analyzes, prevention strategies. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50327-1 (Dissertation Uni Münster 2013, 325 pages).
  • Heinrich Zankl : forgers, swindlers, charlatans. Research and Science Fraud. Wiley VCH, 2003, ISBN 3-527-30710-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Science fraud  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England , 1830, Chapter 5, Section 3 On the frauds of observers , online at Gutenberg
  2. Fabienne Hurst: The secret profession of doctor-maker: "I help rivets get a career boost" . In: Spiegel Online . February 13, 2013 ( [accessed April 4, 2018]).
  3. Gerrit-Freya Klebe: Doctorate: Universities find it difficult to prove ghostwriting . In: THE WORLD . February 6, 2016 ( [accessed April 4, 2018]).
  4. See the XL range. Symposium of the Society for the History of Science : Blenders, Deceivers, Charlatans: Fraud in the Sciences ( Memento of November 28, 2005 in the Internet Archive ). Heidelberg, 29–31 May 2003 ( PDF , 103 kB); as well as the introductory essay by Wolfgang U. Eckart : Blender, Deceiver, Scharlatane - Fraud in the Sciences. Introduction to the symposium . In: Reports on the history of science . Volume 27, 2004, pp. 89-97, doi: 10.1002 / bewi.200401056 ; see. also other articles in the same volume of the journal, overview under doi: 10.1002 / bewi.200490052 .
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  6. a b Ed Yong: The data detective. Uri Simonsohn explains how he uncovered wrongdoing in psychology research. In: Nature. Volume 487, No. 7405, 2012, pp. 18-19, doi: 10.1038 / 487018a
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  8. ( Memento of March 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Press release No. 37/2005 of the University of Frankfurt of February 17, 2005 (from the web archive)
  9. Press release No. 38/2005 of the University of Frankfurt from February 17, 2005
  10. Hans-Joachim Queisser: Publish or die! What the Jan Hendrik Schön fraud case teaches us about modern scientific culture / By Hans-Joachim Queisser . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. No. 229, October 2, 2002, p. 50.
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