Denmark to institute sweeping changes in handling misconduct

In six weeks, new policies for handling misconduct in Denmark will go into effect, which alter the definition of misconduct and establish clear policies for who handles such allegations.

Starting July 1, research misconduct will be limited to how it’s typically defined elsewhere — fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism (the previous definition included serious breaches of good scientific practices). All such allegations will be investigated by a central body, The Board for the Prevention of Scientific Misconduct — not at the institutions where the allegations are focused, as it has been in the past. Institutions, however, will remain responsible for investigating allegations of so-called Questionable Research Practices (QRPs) — such as only reporting data that support your hypothesis — and must publicize their policies for handling (QRPs).

The Board for the Prevention of Scientific Misconduct will replace the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD).

You can read the press release from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science here. We translated it into English, here.

Going forward, anyone making allegations of research misconduct in Denmark will submit them to the researchers’ institution, which will then forward them to the central board, along with any factual information about the case. The board will also consider allegations of misconduct in private industry, according to the release:

In connection with the legislative process, a request was made to include purely private research on, for instance, businesses, in the board’s supervision – a request that has been granted by the minister.

Limiting the definition of research misconduct to falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism is in keeping with a recent report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which separated so-called FFP from other research practices it considered “detrimental.”

The change follows some high-profile findings of misconduct in Denmark, some of which were ultimately overturned in court.

In 2015, a Danish court overturned the decision by the Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) that physiologist Bente Klarlund Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen was guilty of misconduct. That same year, Pedersen’s co-author Milena Penkowa was sentenced by a Danish court for faking data; last year, some of those charges were dismissed, as well. And after the DCSD determined psychologist Helmuth Nyborg had committed misconduct in a controversial 2011 paper which predicted an influx of immigrants into Denmark would lower the population’s average IQ, a court eventually cleared Nyborg of the charges.

The new system does not prevent people from appealing misconduct decisions in court.

Hat tip: Kristoffer Frøkjær

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One thought on “Denmark to institute sweeping changes in handling misconduct”

  1. Just to quote a previous comment on this site:

    “Klavs Hansen September 12, 2016 at 8:18 pm
    You may of course write that Penkowa was cleared of the most serious charges against her. But it really was a ruling based on statute of limitations. The court found her as guilty as previously on the scientific issues.”

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