Your News story “Junior biologists score partial victory over lab conditions” (Nature 430, 7; 200410.1038/430007a) illustrates well the extreme difficulties of dealing with high-profile scientific misconduct cases. However, as some of the junior scientists involved in this case, we feel that your story may have left the unfortunate impression of a conflict largely over lab conditions and management style.
In fact, Axel Meyer was declared guilty of scientific misconduct on eight out of a sample of 13 counts documented by an independent university commission, who followed criteria set by the main German scientific bodies.
It is time we recognized that scientific misconduct is not only about data manipulation. Of the eight confirmed allegations, the four that concern grant plagiarism and authorship manipulation should be taken particularly seriously by the scientific community. The original complaint presented to the commission does more than “hint” at scientific misconduct — it also records damage to junior researchers' career prospects.
The complexity of this case poses a difficult challenge to the German academic system, and it is not surprising that all institutions involved are taking their time to decide about the consequences to be imposed. For the 16 junior scientists who overcame institutional resistance to defend their rights, it is important that verdicts are respected and suitable measures are applied to ensure and protect scientific integrity. Until then, a partial victory remains just a moral victory.
Edward Málaga-Trillo Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany
Gabriele Gerlach Marine Biological Laboratory, 7MBL Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
Other signatories of this letter:
Julia Day, Zoltán Ivics, Zsuzsanna Izsvák, Eric Rivera-Milla, Simona Santini, Jens Seckinger