According to section 2 of the Danish the University Act, universities must among other things safeguard and uphold research ethics. This is done partly through information and education, partly through the handling of specific cases where breach of good scientific practice is suspected. The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2014) contains (p. 19 ff.) a series of recommendations for a fundamental institutional platform for handling suspected violations of good scientific practice.
Some research institutions have set up special internal bodies (”practice committees”) to carry out preventive and ongoing work to ensure compliance with good scientific practices. These practice committees complement the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) which solely address the serious cases of scientific dishonesty. The mandate of the practice committees depends on the rules laid down for their business. The existing practice committees at Danish universities are listed under item 2.
Some research institutions have designated persons (named persons) to support good scientific practice at the institution in question. This is discussed in more detail under item 3.
The introduction of whistleblower systems at Danish research institutions has been contemplated, as discussed later in this article. Finally, the teaching, training and supervision in good scientific practice play a major role, as discussed under item 5.
Practice committees at Danish universities
The practice committees at the Danish universities are mentioned below.
University of Copenhagen
The Practice Committee at the University of Copenhagen is charged with (1) contributing to clarification the existing standards of good scientific practice, (2) initiating discussions of the standards of good scientific practice, and (3) making recommendations on specific cases involving good scientific practices that do not concern scientific dishonesty cf. sections 5-8 of the University of Copenhagen’s Rules on Good Scientific Practice.
In addition, the Practice Committee may propose rules and guidelines on good scientific practice cf. section 5(2) of the University of Copenhagen’s rules on good scientific practice.
Please refer to:
- The University of Copenhagen rules on good scientific practice and related guidelines (available at the Practice Committee website)
- The Practice Committee at the University of Copenhagen
- Report of the Committee for rules on good scientific practice (October 2011)
Aarhus University has established the Committee for Responsible Conduct of Research pursuant to Aarhus Universitets regelsæt til håndtering af videnskabelig uredelighed og tvivlsom forskningspraksis ved Aarhus Universitet, which entered into force on 15 November 2017.
University of Southern Denmark (SDU)
For details about the Practice Committee at the University of Southern Denmark, please refer to:
- The Practice Committee at the University of Southern Denmark
Roskilde University (RUC)
In 2013 Roskilde University set up a practice committee and adopted rules on good scientific practice, please refer to:
Some research institutions have designated persons (named persons), whose task is to support Good Scientific Practice in the various scientific communities.
The University of Copenhagen has introduced such a system on the basis of the so-called UGVP report.
The tasks of the named persons may comprise the following:
- To inform and provide guidance on the standards of Good Scientific Practice
- To contribute to regular discussions of the standards of good scientific practice in the faculty’s academic environments
- To advise individuals with respect to their specific suspicions of violation of good scientific practice and how to protest such violations, and its consequences
- To respond to specific suspicions of breach of good scientific practice
At Aarhus University the named persons are independent of the University’s management and have no duty to proceed with the knowledge of the suspicions of breach of good scientific practice. The University of Copenhagen runs different schemes, see more details below.
In this interview Professor Jørn Dybkjær Hounsgaard outlines his tasks as named person at the University of Copenhagen (HEALTH):
At the University of Copenhagen 1-2 named persons have been appointed at each faculty. Their detailed competence and work are defined in faculty-specific rules. For more details regarding some of the different schemes, please refer to:
At Aarhus University the Committee has been established pursuant to Aarhus University’s code of practice to ensure scientific integrity and responsible conduct of research at Aarhus University (2015). According to the code, advisers have the following tasks (cf section 11):
- To be available to provide independent and confidential advice to anyone affiliated with Aarhus University, including research groups, who has questions for the applicable guidelines on responsible conduct of research or is in doubt as to whether the standards and guidelines on responsible practices are being met.
- To stay informed of the applicable standards and guidelines on research integrity and responsible conduct of research and contribute to ensuring that responsible conduct of research is established and maintained at a high international level.
- To contribute to teaching research integrity and responsible conduct of research.
- To report, in anonymised form, on the type of inquiries received once a year to the Committee for Responsible Conduct of Research.
Advisers at Aarhus University are independent of the university management, cf section 12
Such a system of advisers gives rise to a number of legal considerations, including confidentiality, access to files, the duty to record, and the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data. This is particularly relevant in order to enable the named person to reach a decision in specific cases or make procedural steps that may lead to such decisions. To read more about this, please refer to the UGVP report of the University of Copenhagen.
It may have serious consequences to report others for breach of good scientific practice – even for the person reporting it. As a result, the introduction of a whistleblower system has been considered time and again, that is, a system where you anonymously can report suspicions of breach of good scientific practice. However, such a system gives rise to grave legal concerns which are set out in the UGVP report. See also DCSD’s annual report (2000), p. 19 ff.
Teaching, training and supervision
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on teaching, training and supervision in good scientific practice, and The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2014) contains a number of recommendations in this respect. The code stipulates among other things that this teaching, training and supervision should include the following:
- Principles of research integrity
- Responsible conduct of research
- Research misconduct and breaches of responsible conduct of research, including recommendations for responding to suspicions
- Relevant regulations
A basic introduction to this should be included in all bachelor and master’s programmes, while training programs for PhD students and postdocs should include specific education and training (including supervision) in research integrity. Finally, heads of research and supervisors should “have specific teaching and training in research integrity to substantiate their mentor roles in order to support a culture that is based on research integrity”.