There were ten journal articles published and widely quoted that demonstrated how harmful the use of mobile telephones was. The data pointed out clearly that DNA strands would break down in the presence of low frequency magnetic fields and high frequency electromagnetic ones. Except that the lab assistant, Elisabeth Kratochvil, had made up the data. Her boss, Hugo Rüdiger, didn't notice. The co-authors didn't notice. The reviewers found nothing odd about all these wonderfully small standard deviations. But Lerchl noticed.
A subsequent internal laboratory investigation in 2008 turned up the problems, documented in the lab books, and Kratochvil voluntarily quit her job, admitting that she has falsified the data. Research money had to be returned, and Rüdiger promised to retract the papers.
Except he didn't.
There is a long, detailed, and well-sourced version of the story to be found at Psiram, a wiki that is concerned with pseudoscience.
All that has happened, is that some of the journals have published "Expressions of concern". The papers have not been retracted at all, so they are still quoted and there are even (unsuccessful) attempts to replicate the studies. The journals are published by publishers such as Elsevier and Springer, and they keep finding reasons for not retracting, even though the rector of the Medical University of Vienna has kept requesting that this happen.
Lerchl has even tried to get the Austrian Academic Integrity Agency to take action, and has also tried to involve the EU -- to no avail. The papers remain on the public record.
Lerchl sees the problem in the institutions themselves, who have to deal with accusations of academic misconduct. They understandably drag their feet, as this is something that concerns a colleague. He feels that an independent body, similar to the ORI in the US, should be set up in Germany ("GORI"). And he proposes a "3P" model for dealing with academic misconduct:
- Publicity: Instead of pretending that this is a private matter, the names and the cases need to be made public, as the public is (in general) footing the bill.
- Post-Publication Review: Even after publication, a public review can take place, such as is possible at PubPeer or ResearchGate. And sites such as Retraction Watch, that discuss the reasons for retraction, should be considered part of this.
- Punishment: Currently, those found guilty of academic misconduct are quietly and anonymously sanctioned. Often they are only prevented from applying for money for a specific number of years. Lerchl pleads for a crime of "academic fraud" that should come with sanctions that mean something.