Correspondence

Nature 455, 729 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455729c; Published online 8 October 2008

Austria: investigation likely to have serious consequences

Guenther Bonn1, Christiane Druml1, Gabriele Fischer1, Christoph Huber1, Stephan Laske1, Freyja Smolle-Juettner1 & Richard Soyer1

  1. University Council of Medical University Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

Sir

In the Editorial 'Scandalous behaviour' (Nature 454, 917–918; 2008), you unjustifiably implicate the whole Austrian nation in your comments about a scientific institution. In fact, the dismissal of the rector of the Medical University of Innsbruck had nothing to do with the alleged scientific misconduct in a urology trial that recently took place there.

The rector, Clemens Sorg, was dismissed on the grounds of unsuitability for his post after a thorough investigation by us, the university council, acting as an independent official body.

Moreover, the investigation of the Hannes Strasser misconduct case has been top of the university council's agenda since March 2008. As you point out, the clinical urology trial has been under investigation by AGES, the Austrian agency for health and food safety — an institution comparable to the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The agency, which issued its final report on the matter in August, routinely checks all investigator-driven clinical trials in Austria. The university council requested immediately that the rector forward the report to the state attorney — the required juridical procedure.

The ongoing investigation is likely to have serious disciplinary and legal consequences. We reject all implications that any official Austrian body is seeking to suppress this investigation.