The University of Copenhagen has stripped Milena Penkowa of her doctoral degree, after determining she had covered up problems with her research.
According to a release issued today by the university, Penkowa falsified documents to allay suspicions that she had not performed some animal experiments as she’d reported.
This development is the latest in a long story: In 2015, the Copenhagen City Court ruled that Penkowa had forged experiments as part of her thesis, and handed her a nine-month suspended sentence. Penkowa appealed that ruling, and last year, another court dismissed the most serious charges.
But there was enough evidence for the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty’s Academic Council to vote unanimously last week to revoke her degree:
Milena Penkowa submitted her doctoral dissertation in 2003, where part of the animal testing included in the dissertation had not been carried out. On the grounds of suspicion of this issue, the assessment committee did not accept the dissertation. To cover up these circumstances, Milena Penkowa falsified key documents. This was established in the Danish Eastern High Court’s judgment dated 8 September 2016. Had it been aware of this issue, the Faculty would have refused to hear the second doctoral dissertation for which Milena Penkowa was awarded the doctoral degree.
According to the CPH Post, Penkowa submitted a second thesis in 2006 after questions were raised about her 2003 thesis (which she ended up retracting, so never led to a degree). A university spokesperson told us it was waiting to see if the state prosecutor was planning to pursue the case before revoking her 2006 degree; once it was clear the case wasn’t going to be pursued, the university had to undergo a lengthy “internal process,” he said:
When we do this, it is actually a serious matter, and it takes some time.
The spokesperson added that, based on his understanding, the decision stems solely from the problems with her first thesis, and not on the merits of her 2006 thesis:
As I understand it, the case it built on the fact that she wouldn’t have been able to submit her second thesis if the faculty had known there was manipulated data in the first thesis.
Penkowa’s website (which still lists multiple degrees) says she currently conducts dog therapy and is available for speaking engagements. In 2013, we reported that she had spoken at a museum exhibition by a group affiliated with Scientology.
Penkowa has experienced other career setbacks: Along with losing a professorship position, she has earned six retractions (as well as multiple corrections). In 2013, she and her co-author Bente Klarlund Pedersen received an official stamp of scientific dishonesty from the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD, or UVVU in Danish). Like Penkowa, Klarlund Pedersen has appealed some of her rulings, and was able to have some of those findings reversed by the UVVU; she was ultimately cleared of them by a Danish court in 2015.)
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