Danish committee: Researcher acted in “scientifically dishonest” and “grossly negligent” manner

BKP_portraitA University of Copenhagen researcher who co-authored papers with Milena Penkowa — once the subject of misconduct and embezzlement inquiries — has been found by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (acronym UVVU in Danish) to have acted in a “scientifically dishonest” and “grossly negligent” manner.

Two different researchers brought complaints against Bente Klarlund Pedersen and three of her co-authors (not including Penkowa) and the committee has ruled on both. According to a one-page English summary of the draft ruling on complaints brought by Jamie Timmons:

The Committee finds that Defendant 1 did act in a scientifically dishonest manner when writing an article published in Diabetologia (see Note 1). The Committee finds that significant information about the test subjects was omitted from the original methodology section in the article, and that this omission corresponds to ‘undisclosed construction of data’ as per section 2, 1 of executive order no. 306 of 20 April 2009 and executive order of amendment no. 144 of 20 February 2012 on Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty. The Committee also finds that Defendant 1 did act in a grossly negligent manner as it was her responsibility as the lead author to ensure that the information in the methdology section was accurate.

The Diabetologia study — which has been cited 63 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — has had an erratum. Here’s the 70-page report of the committee’s draft ruling on allegations brought by Henrik Galbo, in Danish. (And here’s an unofficial translation into English.)

Klarlund Pedersen — who at one point reported Timmons to police for harassment (although Timmons says the police neither took the complaint seriously nor investigated it) — told the news site dr.dk (courtesy Google Translate):

I can say clearly that there is no cheating. I have committed technical errors and been inattentive…but I disagree with calling it scientific misconduct.

Meanwhile, Penkowa, who has three retractions and two expressions of concern, reports on her own site that the police have decided not to pursue forgery and fraud charges against her, as translated by University Post:

After a massive media frenzy over the last several years, I am happy to finally have my name cleared, and look forward to putting the matter behind me. I am now considering seeking compensation for damages, as the case proceeding against me — lasting for nearly 2 1/2 years — has had a great impact on both my personal and professional life.

Update, 10:45 p.m. Eastern, 7/31/13: Added comments from Timmons noting that police did not investigate Klarlund Pedersen’s complaint against him.

14 thoughts on “Danish committee: Researcher acted in “scientifically dishonest” and “grossly negligent” manner”

  1. Does anyone know what penalties, if any, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty can invoke on someone found guilty ?

    Don Kornfeld

    1. Whatever the Danish committee does presumably they have limited powers, but this saga may not be over just yet.

      Take a look at: http://nyheder.ku.dk/penkowa/undersoegelser/lassmann_rapporten/annexes/annex-2-1-3-overview-all-mp-papers.pdf/

      There are several reported papers, some retracted, others just reported.

      Will she lose her PhD? http://www.nature.com/news/danish-neuroscientist-challenges-fraud-findings-1.11146

      Has her name been cleared, as she suggests, or has time played its role, and if so, does the law require a rewrite? http://universitypost.dk/article/university-penkowa-case-dropped-due-five-year-limit

      As for her potential claims for compensation – maybe she has a case. Time will tell.

      1. Vibejke,

        Thank you very much for taking the time to forwarding that very comprehensive article.
        It would be of interest to anyone interested in the research misconduct problem.I have
        inserted below the section which specifically answers my question. DCSD is Danish for ORI.

        What can DCSD do?

        After stating criticism DCSD choose from various penalties:

        Inform the defendant’s employer
        Recommend that the scientific work that is judged unfairly, be withdrawn
        Orienting a possible regulator
        Inform Subsidized if there is dishonesty in an application for a grant from public research
        Make a police report if there is a criminal offense
        Inform its views on the degree of dishonesty, if the defendant’s employer wishes
        There appear to be more serious penalty options available than to ORI.

        I was quite surprised to find a description of the problem of cheating in school children.
        I thought we had a monopoly on that., If it’s more widespread, there a study waiting to be done.


  2. The personal page of Milena Penkowa (translation: thebrainexpert.dk), let us know that she now is consulting (giving second opinions on brain lesions, developing personal brain training programs “so you can stay sharp”), giving talks, writing books.

  3. Does anybody know how to add a comment about a nature paper at the nature webpage? Is it necessary to make an account? Thanks

  4. Please note that the paper from the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty only is a DRAFT. Klarlund Pedersen is supported by colleagues in her claim that you can not be convicted for duplication, if your data comes from very large dataset that are used in many different studies.

    Read a google transate version of the response to the draft at the danish science media Videnskab.dk:

  5. When I heard the above news, I shocked. It was incredible that Prof Bente K Pedersen and fraud ?!?! I followed all of document about this issue. Finally, I reached the conclusion that it is needs to more scrutiny about this problem because Prof. Bente K Pdersen is a prominent scientist who helps to world by her excellent researches and certainly she adheres to the rules and pledged to the laws of scientific writing and research work. She never does fraud !!! It may be accorded technical errors and may be inattentive ….
    I am sure that Prof. Bente K Pdersen is not a fraud scientist and nevertheless, she is a prominent scientist who have respectable and venerable among all of scientists, students and others.

    1. That’s interesting Peter.

      Can you elaborate on the powers available to the public Danish prosecutor?

      “The University has claimed that there was a case of “one of the most significant cases of scientific fraud.” It involves a non-existent company in Spain and attempts to transfer funds to a private account instead of to the university, it has been underlined”

      I would be worried and it reiterates the need to look into the financial dealings of anyone involved in science-fraud.

    2. Thanks Peter,
      So she never bought the rats and thus never did the experiments while trying to keep the grant money for private use?

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