International CEPLAS Summer School 2017 – „Emerging Frontiers in Plant Sciences“ June 5th – 9th, 2017 Sportschule Hennef, Germany

Find out about new developments in plant science, explore science related topics in challenging workshops and engage with internationally renowned plant scientists.

The international CEPLAS Summer School offers you an opportunity to learn about current topics, to delve into state-of-the-art plant science and to network with fellow early career scientists and well known experts in the field.

You will have the opportunity to present your results to a wide scientific audience and to participate in stimulating exchanges with leading international plant scientists.

The programme is complemented by workshops on science related subjects such as science journalism, research misconduct, networking and communication, and exciting social events.

[Detailed programme]

Workshop Topics

Once upon a time, it was common for young scientists to be offered faculty positions immediately after completing their PhDs. Now the world is a different place, and statistically speaking most of you will not become a professor, although some of you certainly will. At this point in your career you should be thinking carefully about what career options are interesting and available to you, and how to position yourself to be qualified for those jobs.

This workshop will help you answer the questions: How do you decide what career would be best for you? How do you match your skills, interests and values with a career that you’ll find rewarding? Why are blogging and participation in social media becoming so important for scientists, and how do you get started? How do you expand your network to make sure you hear about job openings before it’s too late? How do you secure interviews for the hard-to-find professorships? I’ll share my knowledge of career building resources and strategies and help you to expand your career horizons.

Research misconduct is unfortunately not as rare in science as scientists believe it is. Whenever scientists speak of fraud, they usually recall decade-old cases of high notoriety, all about a handful of peers, often from other research fields and no longer active. Students therefore imagine scientific misconduct as an obscure myth, and are then forced to discover the reality the slow and painful way. This reality is: scientific misconduct is pervasive and it even exponentially breeds more misconduct, when cheater PhD students push aside their honest competitors and then cheat their way to becoming mentors to PhD students of their own.

Misconduct is often seen as the act of inventing data without ever doing any research, and while those cases are indeed very rare, they always get found out and punished. The real problem lies elsewhere. Too many scientists are prepared to bend and break data until it matches their pet theories or visions of a grand paper. For this, results which do not fit get thrown away, statistics are tortured to confess what is demanded of them, replications or important controls are wilfully never performed and figures get digitally manipulated because they are not representative enough of the vision inside the investigator’s head. As the result, science is flooded with irreproducible research papers, huge sums and entire careers are wasted in failed (and never published) attempts to reproduce those, while the original cheater already churns out the next high-impact publication and bags the next coveted research grant.

Scientists are evaluated by the sheer numbers of their publications and their impact factors, the actual scientific content of their publications is largely irrelevant. Academic system does not value the reproducibility of research findings, only the act of reproducibility of high-impact publishing. While research misconduct is systematically rewarded when it brings high-impact papers and grant funding, whistle-blowing on misconduct is often sanctioned with the utmost severity, up to exclusion from academia and even job market as such. Yet, if science continues to ignore or cover-up misconduct in order to save its research funding, it will get poisoned on its own poison. The taxpaying public will eventually cease to fund research it cannot trust.

In my talk I will name active scientists in the plant science field who built their careers on data manipulations, and who nevertheless still publish papers and train PhD students and postdocs. I will also propose ways out of irreproducibility crisis and offer advice to early career researchers on how not to get poisoned by the toxin of misconduct.

Plant geneticists are looking for specific DNA-segments to enhance resistance towards certain diseases or to better understand the metabolism of plant cells. Journalists on the other hand side want to know, if genetic engineering is dangerous for human health and the environment. Or they want to know, why all this research in the lab is important at all. And all too frequently they need it in an interview of three minutes time, sometimes in 1:30 min.

A genuine challenge - for both sides: How do you conduct an interview that comes to the point quickly and is informative and interesting to listen for the audience? How do you as a scientist present your research in a way that is understandable, correct and engaging for someone without any scientific background?

The workshop offers practical interview training and gives first insights in the profession of journalism.


The Sportschule Hennef is situated in a quiet and idyllic location offering excellent conditions for conferences and seminars. At the Sportschule Hennef you will find quality accommodation as well as a gym and a wellness centre, which you can make use of after the sessions.

The Sportschule Hennef is located 30 km from Cologne (0.5 hrs by train) and 1.5 hrs by train from Frankfurt airport.



The Summer School fee for PhD students/first year postdocs is EUR 80.

The fee includes tuition, a social and cultural programme, workshops, full board and accommodation in a double room at the Sportschule Hennef from 5th to 9th June 2017. Travel costs are not included.

Payment instructions will be provided with the registration confirmation.

Heinrich Heine University
University of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich