The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD)

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) have been set up by the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation under the Danish Act on the Research Advisory System. The committees have jurisdiction to hear cases on scientific dishonesty (research misconduct) of importance to Danish research, see below.

The three committees

The following three committees have been established and together they cover all areas of scientific research:

1) Committee on Scientific Dishonesty for Health and Medical Sciences (USF): This Committee deals with matters concerning research on human health, including nutritional aspects. The Committee considers matters relating to all aspects of basic scientific and clinical research, including the use of animal models aimed at human health and disease.

2) Committee on Scientific Dishonesty for Natural, Technological and Production Sciences (UNTPF): This Committee deals with matters concerning research aimed at basic scientific issues in science, computer science and mathematics. The Committee considers cases concerning basic research in technology and production, where the starting point is application-oriented solutions to problems or new ways of meeting society’s needs.

3) Committee on Scientific Dishonesty for Cultural and Social Sciences (UKSF): This Committee deals with matters relating to research in the humanities and social sciences. The Committee considers matters of research in all aspects of history and culture, cognitive, linguistics and philology, aesthetics and economics, political science, sociology and law.

The Chairman, common for all three committees, is a high court judge. Each committee also comprises six members, who must be recognised researchers.

The rules on DCSD are found in:

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Remit

DCSD may consider cases of scientific dishonesty important to research conducted in Denmark, research done by persons with employment in Denmark or research conducted with Danish funding. In the case of scientific products developed in the private sector, the case may be processed only if the private enterprise or the like wanted to be included in the remit of the DCSD or wants to contribute with further evidence, see sections 31(1) and 31(2) of the Danish Act on the Research Advisory System.

DCSD are not entitled to consider cases involving the validity or truth of scientific theories or cases involving the research quality of a scientific product cf. section 3 of the DCSD Executive Order. Cf. later practices:

  •  DCSD’s decision of 22 August 2012:  The complaint was found to relate to the quality of the research.
  •  DCSD’s decision of 7 June 2012 (health economics):  In an article the authors had used a cost category that was not found in the referenced source material. DCSD found that this could not be equated with construction of data as defined in the DCSD Executive Order, but that it was objectively an incomplete and misleading account of the cost categories used in the study. However, this did not constitute a serious violation of good scientific practice, rather it was a question of the quality of research, which DCSD do not have authority to consider.
  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2010: (case no. 5/2010 and case no. 6/2010)
  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2009 (case no. 10)

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Acceptance of cases for investigation

Notifications (complaints)

A complaint to DCSD must concern 1) a written scientific product submitted voluntarily by the defendant, or 2) an application that is filed in order to apply for grants from public research funding. The complaint must relate to matters that fall under the mandate of DCSD (see above).

A complaint may concern individuals or groups of individuals. The defendant(s) must be scientifically trained  within the field of  the scientific product in question.

Scientifically trained

The requirement that the defendant must be ”scientifically trained” was introduced by the  Executive Order on Danish Committees of Scientific Dishonesty of 2005. This requirement may give rise to doubts.

  • Anyone who has been awarded a PhD degree, shall be considered to be ”scientifically trained”, cf. section 1(1) of the Danish Ph.d. Order: ”The PhD programme is a research programme aiming to train PhD students at an international level to undertake research, development and teaching assignments in the private and public sectors, for which a broad knowledge of research is required.”
  • It is doubtful whether a PhD student can be considered scientifically trained. DCSD have considered a case on a PhD thesis which a PhD student had submitted for assessment, see DCSD’s Annual Report 2007 (case no. 3) and DCSC’s decision of 2 December 2014.
  • Undergraduates and graduates shall not be deemed to be fall under this, even if they publish work in scientific journals as part of their training. If PhD students are deemed to be included, the new 4+4 and 3+5 tracks may give rise to doubts.
  • It is doubtful whether this includes persons who – with no formal scientific training – submit for example a manuscript for a thesis for assessment. See also DCSD’s Annual Report 2008 (case no. 5), where DCSD found that it did not fall under the scope of DCSD’s  mandate to consider a case of alleged scientific dishonesty in connection with a cultural article which had been published in a magazine.

Scientific Product

In some cases it may be difficult to decide whether something can be considered to be a scientific product. Cf. later practices:

  • DCSD’s decision of 6 May 2014: The chairman of the DCSD declined to take a case under consideration as the complaint was aimed at a feature article in a newspaper. The reason for the decision was among other things that:

”The Executive Order does not provide a specific definition of the concept of ‘written scientific product’, but according to established practice by DCSD this would require that scientific methods have been applied to the product in question, and that these have been detailed in the product. In order for DCSD to consider the case it must be determined whether it is a real scientific product, or whether it is a popular scientific publication which falls outside the DCSD mandate. 

Feature articles in newspapers and the like are generally not covered by the definition of written scientific products under section 6 of the DCSD Executive Order. This also applies when the feature article is written by researchers and falls within the scope of the persons’ field of research. Thus it is possible for researchers to speak out in the media in a way that does not automatically constitute scientific reporting, and for example making a feature article a scientific product as defined in the DCSD Executive Order. 

According to DCSD practice, deviation from this assumption is possible in cases where the feature article is so closely related to a written scientific product that the feature article must be considered as an actual reporting of the results of the scientific product. In such cases there are considerable requirements of relationship between the feature article and the scientific product, as well as references to the scientific product in the article.

As a rule, daily newspapers (in this case [NEWSPAPER]) are not considered scientific media, and feature articles etc. in newspapers are not directly scientific reporting, but merely popular science reporting, which falls outside the DCSD’s remit cf. above.

Based on the evidence of the case, including the contents of the Feature Article, I take into account that the Feature Article merely reflects popular science reporting. In this context, it is my opinion that there is not sufficient connection between the Feature Article and the scientific article in the [MAGAZINE] to warrant that these should be regarded as a single scientific product as defined in the DCSD Executive Order.

In summary, it is my conclusion that the Feature Article cannot be regarded as a scientific product, cf. section 6(1) of the DCSD Executive Order, and thus DCSD must decline to consider the complaint”.

”According to the evidence, it is a book with a description of the [DEFENDANT]’s profession and events in his life as a coroner and before.
Based on the above, I find that your complaint does not concern a written scientific product, such as an article in a scientific journal.
In this context the question is not, as stated by you in the book, whether falsified reporting of results in other scientific products takes place, in this case your scientific articles in the Weekly Journal of the Danish Medical Association that you have enclosed your complaint.

”A congress abstract is a brief but concise summary of a research project – often reduced to 200 – 300 words – usually written in accordance with the IMRAD concept in original scientific publications (that is, “I”= introduction (1-2 sentences); “M” = method (approx. 3 sentences); “R” = results (2-4 sentences) and (“A”nd) “D” = discussion/conclusion (2-3 sentences). Congress abstracts  are often written at an early stage where not all data has been fully processed  – whereas abstracts of journal articles are more concise and also placed directly in the search engines like PubMed, where search on relevant topics allows researchers around the world to quickly form an indication of whether the article in its entirety is of interest  – for example, for solving a clinical problem.

DCSD finds that the two congress abstracts should be considered as written scientific products as they represent preliminary results in relation to a research problem.”

  •  DCSD’s decision of 2 July 2012 :  Statements made during a television interview could not be regarded as scientific products. The chairman of DCSD stated among other things as follows:

”The Executive Order does not provide a specific definition of the concept of ‘written scientific product’, but according to established practice by DCSD this would require that scientific methods have been applied to the product in question, and that these have been detailed in the product. In order for DCSD to consider the case it must be determined whether it is a real scientific product, or whether it is a popular scientific publication which falls outside the DCSD mandate.

Oral statements on television and the like are generally not covered by the definition of written scientific products under section 6 of the DCSD Executive Order. According to DCSD practice, deviation from this assumption is possible in cases where the statement is so closely related to a written scientific product that the statement must be considered as an actual reporting of the results of the scientific product. In such cases there are considerable requirements of relationship between the statement and the scientific product, as well as references to the scientific product in the statement.

As a rule, television is not a scientific medium, and statements made on television are not directly scientific reporting, but merely popular science reporting. In popular science reporting, accuracy requirements in reporting are limited, or in other words, popular science reporting allows wider use of metaphors.

Based on the evidence of the case, I take into account that the statements made on television on 17 January 2012 are solely popular science reporting. In this context, it is my opinion that there is not sufficient connection between the statements made on television and the scientific article of the [DEFENDANT] and others to warrant that these should be regarded as a scientific product as defined in the DCSD Executive Order.

In summary, it is my conclusion that the complaint against the statements made on television does not relate to a scientific product, cf. section 6(1) of the DCSD Executive Order. Therefore DCSD must decline to consider the complaint”.

  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2010 (case no. 3/2010): A text about a research centre on a website was not a scientific product.
  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2009 (case no. 2): An analysis of a municipality’s dental health care service’s use of private-sector suppliers prepared by the defendant in the course of his employment as an officer of the municipality to be used for internal economic considerations in the municipality, was not considered to be a scientific product.
  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2009 (case no. 7): An exhibition and an exhibition catalogue were considered to be a scientific product after specific assessment.
  • DCSD’s Annual Report 2008 (case no. 7): An exhibition at a museum and a book published in relation to the exhibition, and an invitation and a radio broadcast were not considered to be scientific products.

Requests to be cleared of allegations of scientific dishonesty

The DCSD can take up cases brought by a person who wishes to be cleared of named, anonymous or source protected allegations of scientific dishonesty, provided that the person is scientifically trained, and that the person provides all necessary information for the committees’ processing of the case, cf. section 4(1) of the DCSD Executive Order.

Cases initiated ex officio

DCSD can consider cases on its own initiative, if the cases are of public interest or importance to human or animal health, and where there is reason to believe that scientific dishonesty has taken place, cf. section 31(3) of the Danish Act on the Research Advisory System.

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Case Processing

As part of the processing of the case, the DCSD must obtain all necessary information in order to make a sufficiently well-informed decision, cf. section 12 of the DCSD Executive Order.

DCSD request that the parties keep the case confidential until a decision has been made, cf. section 10(1), according to the DCSD’s rules of procedure.

A number of detailed rules on the procedure are outlined in the  DCSD Executive Order and DCSD’s Rules of Procedure, and in addition the DCSD are subject to general rules of public law, including the rules of the Danish Public Administration Act.

The parties to the case may be assisted by assessors, and in practice it is not unusual that at least the defendant is represented by a lawyer.

If the case falls outside the remit of the DCSD or is manifestly unfounded, it may be rejected by DCSD or its Chairman, cf.  section 4(3) of the DCSD Executive Order, and section 13(2) of DCSD’s rules of procedure. An example is the DCSD Chairman’s decision of  18 June 2012. DCSD may dismiss a case if the costs of these proceedings are not proportionate to its importance.

Where a claim relates to interdisciplinary research, it may be necessary to allow more than one of the committees to process the case. An example of this can be seen in DCSD’s decision of 7 June 2012.

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Decisions and enforcement measures

DCSD concludes the consideration of a case by making a reasoned statement, cf. section 13 of the DCSD Executive Order.

If the committees determine that it is a case of  scientific dishonesty, the committees deliver a statement expressing criticism. According to section 31(3) of the  Danish Act on the Research Advisory System, the committees can at the same time

1) Inform the defendant’s employer if the party in question is employed as a researcher.

2) Recommend withdrawal of the scientific project in question.

3) Inform the relevant public authority responsible for the area.

4) Notify the police if there is a punishable offence.

5) At the special request of an appointing authority state its views on the degree of scientific dishonesty

Annual Report

The Committees are required to publish an annual report on their activities which among other things shall describe all considered cases of scientific dishonesty in non-personalised form, cf. section 16 of the DCSD Executive Order. The reports are available at DCSD’s website.

 In recent years, DCSD have also regularly published its decisions on DCSD’s website .

Considerations for reform

21 January 2015 the Minister for Higher Education and Science decided to set up an expert committee to inspect the current scope of the DCSD. The committee will among other things consider the following issues:

  • The definition of scientific dishonesty
  • How to handle Questionable Research Practices (QRP)
  • Whether research institutions should play a greater role in these cases
  • Whether there is a need to expand the DCSD’s competence to take up cases ex officio
  • Whether an administrative right of appeal for DCSD’s decisions should be introduced
  • Whether DCSD should be allowed further enforcement measures
  • Whether it would be appropriate to introduce a whistleblower scheme

You can find more information about the committee here.

See also