The German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has confirmed on 1 October that the University of Constance was within its rights to revoke the PhD thesis of physicist Jan Hendrik Schön, who was dismissed in 2002 from Bell laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, for falsifying research results.
Schön was still in his early 30s when he was dismissed after being found guilty of 16 counts of scientific misconduct.
He had worked in nanotechnology and had been considered a star scientist, able to create transistors out of single molecules. He published numerous papers in rapid succession in high-profile journals, including Nature and Science.
Two years later, following local investigations in Germany, the University of Constance decided in to revoke the PhD it had awarded to Schön in 1998. The university said that although it had no evidence that Schön engaged in wrongdoing during his PhD work, he no longer merited the degree because he had brought science into disrepute.
Schön has appealed that decision through different courts, and in 2010 a court in Freiburg ruled that he should get to keep his graduate degree. But the Federal Constitutional Court has the last word, and the university’s decision stands.