- 1 Overview
- 2 Remit of the Committee
- 3 Processing of cases of research misconduct
- 3.1 Starting a case
- 3.2 Preparation of the case
- 3.3 The Committee’s processing and ruling
- 3.4 Administrative recourse and bringing a matter before the courts
The Danish Committee on Research Misconduct (DCRM) is empowered to handle cases of research misconduct pursuant to the rules contained in the Act on Research Misconduct, etc., which entered into force on 1 July 2017. This Act abolished the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD).
The DCRM consists of a chair, who must be a High Court judge, and eight to ten professional members, who must be recognised researchers and represent various areas of scientific research. As part of its processing of a case, the Committee may call upon expert assistance as required. Secretarial services for the board are provided by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, or by a state authority under the Ministry.
The Committee submits an annual report on its processing of cases of research misconduct. The Committee also submits an annual report on cases of dubious research practice that have been under consideration at the research institutions. This report is based on annual reporting from the research institutions to the Committee.
Remit of the Committee
The Danish Committee on Research Misconduct may handle a case if the following conditions are met:
- The case must concern research covered by the scope of the Act, cf. section 2 of the Act
- The case must concern a suspicion of research misconduct in a scientific product, cf. section 4 (1) of the Act
- The case must relate to researchers who have contributed to the scientific product in the case, cf. section 4 (2) of the Act
These conditions are discussed in more detail below.
Research covered by the scope of the law
The law covers the following types of research:
- Research carried out with full or partial Danish state support, cf. section 2 (1) no. 1 of the Act
- Research carried out at a Danish state research institution, cf. section 2 (1), no. 2 of the Act
- Privately funded research not covered by nos. 1 and 2, provided that the private company or the like that has carried out the research consents to the processing of the case, cf. section 2 (2) of the Act.
Section 2 (2) was inserted during the committee stage of the Bill, cf. the committee report on the Bill, and states that such cases do not require the consent of the privately employed researcher(s) who carried out the research in question for a legal person. It also states that if no legal person is involved in the case, for example, if a private person has financed and carried out the research with his or her own funds, the private person may give consent to the processing of the case.
Suspicion of research misconduct in a scientific product
The Danish Committee on Research Misconduct may only consider cases that relate to a suspicion of research misconduct in a scientific product.
A scientific product
The case must relate to research misconduct in a scientific product, by which is meant “a product produced by means of scientific methods as part of research, including applications for research funding”, cf. section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act. A similar requirement was stated in the previous DCSD Executive Order, and a number of DCSD rulings exist in this connection, cf. below.
The remarks appended to the Act include the following:
“The proposed definition is based on the DCSD’s practice in the field, according to which a scientific product is characterised by being produced as part of research by means of scientific methods, as opposed to, for example, more popular scientific publications, where a similar scientific approach is not used. The assessment of whether a product may be considered a scientific product is based on a substantive assessment of the product’s research character, whereby scientific articles, PhD dissertations and the like constitute the obvious core of the concept. A factor in the assessment of whether a product is a scientific product within the meaning of the Act will therefore often be whether the product in question has been submitted or is intended to be submitted for peer review. Scientific products can take many forms today, for which reason the concept may also encompass other products of a research nature. It is therefore also proposed that the current requirement that a scientific product must be in written form should be discontinued. With the current technical developments in society, research may be produced in various forms, for example, as audio or video files; the crucial factor is that it is a research product and not that it is written down. In an assessment of whether a product may be regarded as a scientific product within the meaning of the Act, emphasis is placed on the content of the product, which means that digital media may also be regarded as scientific products, depending on the circumstances. It is noted here that the concept of a written scientific product has been interpreted in the practice of the DCSD in such a way that television broadcasts and the like may also be considered to be covered by the concept, according to the circumstances. In all cases, a concrete assessment must be undertaken of the product’s research character. It is proposed that the previous practice of explicitly stating that applications for research funding are considered scientific products be continued. This helps to create clarity about the content of the concept in situations where doubt might otherwise arise. Depending on the circumstances, the concept is expected to be capable of including peer reviews of applications, articles and PhD dissertations.”
The Danish Committee on Research Misconduct (DCRM) has taken this into account in the following rulings:
- DCRM ruling of 8 January 2019: The case concerned a researcher’s changes to a database, which according to the complainant had the nature of (attempted) falsification of research data, data that was intended for inclusion in the researcher’s scientific work. The DCRM determined that the actions referred to did not concern a scientific product. In this connection the DCRM stated, inter alia:
“In its assessment of the case, the Committee has emphasised that the complainant exercised due diligence and discovered the circumstances at an early stage of the respondent’s drafting of an article. According to the information available in the case, the Committee has assumed that the draft was not yet ready for submission for peer review. The Committee therefore finds that at the time, the article did not have the character of a scientific product in the sense in which the term is used in section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act.”
- DCRM ruling of 8 March 2019: A book aimed at practitioners and an article in an online medium aimed at “disseminating new academic knowledge in an easily accessible form” did not constitute scientific products. In this connection the DCRM stated, inter alia:
“… Against this background, the Committee finds that Book A, which is primarily aimed at practitioners and not at a scientific milieu, must be regarded as a popular science publication that aims to disseminate knowledge. It is not therefore the Committee’s assessment that Book A is a scientific product produced by means of scientific methods as part of research, cf. section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act.
Following a concrete assessment, no other conclusion can be reached than that the respondents registered Book A in 2012 in the research portal at the research institution as a peer-reviewed research publication, and that on pages 11 and 267-268 of the book the respondents mention a research project that they were conducting at the time at the research institution.
Article A was published on an online medium which, according to the information available, aims to ‘disseminate new academic knowledge in an easily accessible form’, and where articles are approved by the online medium’s editorial board prior to publication. The introduction to the article states that it introduces the theory of the Public Leadership Pipeline.
On this basis, the Committee finds that Article A is not a scientific product produced by the means of scientific methods as part of research, cf. section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act.”
- DCRM ruling of 14 March 2019: The preface to a book did not constitute a scientific product. In this connection the DCRM stated, inter alia:
“On a general level, the Committee finds that a book preface not written by the book’s author is not by its nature in principle covered by the definition of a scientific product according to Section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act. This starting point may be deviated from in cases where the author of the preface, using scientific methods as part of his or her research, presents scientific results in the preface, cf. also the ruling of 6 May 2014 by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (available on the Committee’s website), in which the Committees found that articles published in newspapers and the like were not in principle covered by the definition of written scientific products contained in the then-current rules.”
- DCRM ruling of 25 September 2019: A report issued by a committee ministerially appointed to address legal and societal issues within a defined mandate was not a scientific product. In this connection the DCRM stated, inter alia:
“In addition to an introductory chapter and a summary chapter, the reported product consists of a chapter explaining the applicable law regarding advice on […] products, a chapter on complaints statistics about advice to selected appeals boards, a chapter on [ …] in Norway and Sweden, and a chapter on the Committee’s considerations and recommendations.
On this basis, the Committee finds that the reported product, considering its background, purpose, the composition of the committee that prepared the product, the content of the product and the form in which the committee reported its work, is not a scientific product produced by means of scientific methods as part of research, cf. section 3 (1) no. 6 of the Act.”
- DCRM ruling of 11 October 2019: A research application constituted a scientific product.
- DCRM ruling of 12 November 2019: After a concrete assessment, a scientific report was found to constitute a scientific product. In this connection, the DCRM stated, inter alia, the following in the ruling:
“In its assessment of whether the reported product is a scientific product, the Committee has, on the one hand, emphasised that the product describes itself as a scientific report, and that the product presents new knowledge generated by means of scientific methods. The Committee has also emphasised that the institutional affiliation of the respondent is stated in the report. On the other hand, the Committee has emphasised that the product was not peer-reviewed prior to publication.”
The DCSD has also considered this condition, in accordance with the previously applicable rules. From the more recent practice of the DCSD, reference may be made to the following rulings:
- DCSD ruling of 6 May 2014: The chair of the DCSD refused to handle a case that concerned a feature article in a daily newspaper. The reasoning states, inter alia, the following:
“The Executive Order does not contain a detailed definition of what is meant by a written scientific product, but according to established DCSD practice, scientific methods must have been used in the reported product and the product must be explained in detail. The decisive factor governing whether the DCSD may consider the case is thus whether it is an actual scientific product or a popular science publication which falls outside the remit of the DCSD.
Feature articles in daily newspapers, etc., are not in principle covered by the definition of written scientific products pursuant to section 6 of the Executive Order on the DCSD. This also applies if the article is written by scientists and is within the relevant field of research. It is thus possible for researchers to express themselves in the media without this being automatically regarded as scientific reporting, and without, for example, a feature article thereby becoming a scientific product within the meaning of the DCSD Executive Order.
According to DCSD practice, this starting point may, however, be deviated from in cases where the article is so closely linked to a written scientific product as to be regarded as an actual report on the results of the scientific product. In such cases, significant requirements are that a close connection must exist between the article and the scientific product and that the article muse refer to the scientific product.
Newspapers (in this case [NEWSPAPER]) are not generally regarded as scientific media, and articles and features, etc., published in them are not therefore considered actual scientific reporting, but rather popular science reporting, which falls outside the remit of the DCSD, cf. the above.
On the basis of the information available in the case, including the content of the article, I must assume that the article is an example of popular science reporting only. In this connection, it is my assessment that the connection between the feature article and the article in [MAGAZINE] is not sufficient for these to be regarded as a single scientific product within the meaning of the DCSD Executive Order.
In summary, it is therefore my conclusion that the feature article cannot be regarded as a scientific product, cf. section 6 (1) of the DCSD Executive Order, and the DCSD cannot therefore handle the complaint.”
DCSD ruling of 3 September 2013: The chair of the DCSD refused to handle a case because it did not concern a scientific product. The reasoning states, inter alia, the following:
“According to the information, this book contains a description of [RESPONDENT]’s subject and events in his life, both as a forensic pathologist and earlier. Against this background, I find that your report does not relate to a written scientific product, such as a scientific article in a professional journal. It is not decisive in this context whether, as you state in the book, results have been incorrectly reported in other scientific products, in this case your scientific articles in Ugeskrift for Læger, which you have enclosed with your complaint.”
- DCSD ruling of 31 August 2012: Two congress abstracts were considered to be scientific products. The DCSD stated, inter alia, the following:
“A congress abstract is a brief but concise summary of a research project, often reduced to 200-300 words, and usually written according to the IMRAD concept in original scientific publications (i.e. ‘I’ = introduction (1-2 sentences); ‘M’ = method (approximately 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, when the data have not all been thoroughly processed, whereas abstracts of journal articles are more concise and at the same time placed in search engines such as PubMed, where other researchers around the world can quickly, via a search for relevant topics, gain an impression of whether the article is of interest in its entirety – e.g. in connection with solving a clinical problem.
The DCSD finds that the two congress abstracts must be described as written scientific products, as they present preliminary results regarding a scientific issue.”
- DCSD ruling of 2 July 2012: Statements made in a TV interview could not be considered scientific products. The chair of the DCSD stated the following:
“The Executive Order does not contain a precise definition of what is meant by a written scientific product, but according to established DCSD practice, scientific methods must have been used in the reported product and the product must be explained in detail. The decisive factor governing whether the DCSD may consider the case is thus whether the reported product is an actual scientific product or a popular science publication, which falls outside the remit of the DCSD.
Oral statements made in television broadcasts and the like are not in principle covered by the definition of written scientific products pursuant to section 6 of the Executive Order on the DCSD. According to DCSD practice, this starting point may, however, be deviated from in cases where the statement is so closely linked to a written scientific product as to be regarded as an actual report on the results of the scientific product. In such cases, significant requirements are placed on a close connection between the statement and the scientific product, as well as reference to the scientific product.
TV is not generally regarded as a scientific medium, and statements made on TV cannot therefore in general be regarded as scientific products, but merely as popular science reporting. In popular science reporting there are limited requirements regarding the accuracy of the reporting – or to put it another way, popular science reporting permits greater use of figurative speech.
On the basis of the information available in the case, I must assume that the TV statements of 17 January 2012 are merely popular science reporting. In this connection, it is my assessment that the connection between the TV statements and the scientific article by [RESPONDENT] and others is insufficient for this to be regarded as a single scientific product within the meaning of the DCSD Executive Order.
In summary, it is my conclusion that the complaint concerning the TV statements does not concern a scientific product, cf. section 6 (1) of the DCSD Executive Order. The DCSD cannot therefore consider the complaint.”
- DCSD Annual Report 2010 (case no. 3/2010) A text on a website about a research centre was not deemed a scientific product.
- DCSD Annual Report 2009 (case no. 2): An analysis of the use of private providers by a municipal dental care department, compiled by the respondent as part of the respondent’s tasks as a municipal official for the purpose of internal financial considerations in the municipality, was not considered to be a scientific product.
- DCSD Annual Report 2009 (case no. 7): An exhibition and an exhibition catalogue were considered to be a scientific product, following a concrete assessment.
- DCSD Annual Report 2008 (case no. 7): An exhibition at a museum and an associated book publication, as well as an invitation and a radio broadcast, were not considered to be scientific products.
Complaints concerning researchers
Cases to be considered by the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct (DCRM) must relate to researchers who have contributed to the scientific product in question. A researcher is defined as “a person who is a PhD student, or who has a PhD degree or equivalent qualifications”, cf. section 3 (1), no. 7 of the Act.
Under the rules of the former DCSD, the researcher was required to be “scientifically educated”. This requirement has been discontinued in the current Act. In this connection, the following is stated in the remarks appended to the Act:
“It is, however, proposed that the current requirement that the person to whom the case relates must be scientifically educated in the field of research to which the scientific product of the case relates shall be deleted. The reason for this change in relation to current law is that the requirements of scientific integrity should apply to researchers regardless of whether they move into a field of research other than that in which they usually perform research. The rise in interdisciplinary research projects has made this particularly relevant. It may be noted in this connection that, in its assessment of whether the researcher has committed research misconduct, the Committee is expected to include the experience of the researcher concerned in the field of research to which the specific case relates, including whether the researcher acted intentionally or with gross negligence.”
Processing of cases of research misconduct
Starting a case
Cases usually begin when a complaint is made, but in certain circumstances the DCRM can also process cases on its own initiative.
Cases of research misconduct are usually initiated when a report to this effect is submitted, cf. section 10 of the Act. The report will often involve a suspicion that others have committed research misconduct. However, the report may also concern the complainant himself or herself, as a request to be cleared of allegations of research misconduct advanced by others.
A research institution has a duty to submit a report if it has a “reasonable suspicion” that a specific case of research misconduct that is covered by the remit of the Committee has occurred at the institution. In this connection, the following is, inter alia, stated in the remarks appended to the Act:
“Reasonable suspicion is deemed to exist if the research institution has reason to believe that research misconduct may have been committed. The provision therefore covers cases in which the research institution itself becomes aware of conditions that may involve research misconduct and could therefore have led to a report being made to the research institution, without this having happened, however. The proposed provision is not intended to mean that the research institution should in this connection carry out a preliminary examination of whether the matters in question constitute research misconduct, but merely of whether there is sufficiently reasonable suspicion that the case should be brought before the Committee for further investigation. This duty applies both when a report is to be made to another research institution pursuant to subsection 1, and when a report is to be made directly to the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct pursuant to subsection. 2. The main research institution, as described above, is not the only body that has a duty to report; research institutions more peripherally connected to the case are also under this obligation.”
If the report relates to research carried out at a Danish research institution (and the report is not submitted by the institution itself), the report must be submitted to this institution. As regards cases where the research has been carried out at several research institutions, the following is stated in the remarks appended to the Act:
“If the research has been carried out at several research institutions, the report must be submitted to the research institution at which the most significant part of the affected research has been carried out, and if another research institution receives a report, this institution must forward the report to the main research institution, in accordance with the general rules of administrative law. In principle, it is possible that there may be several research institutions to which a report could be submitted, and in such cases the affected institutions are expected to agree on who is to handle the report, possibly after dialogue with the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct.”
The report must, however, be submitted to the DCRM in the following situations:
- If the report concerns research that has not been carried out at a Danish research institution
- If the report is submitted by the Danish research institution where the research was conducted.
The Danish Committee on Research Misconduct may handle matters on its own initiative if reasonable suspicion of research misconduct is present, pursuant to section 12 of the Act. Unlike under the previous DCSD rules, it is not a requirement that the case is of social significance or of significance for human or animal health, but in the explanatory notes to the Act it is assumed that the Committee will only exceptionally make use of the possibility of taking up a case on its own initiative.
In the explanatory notes, the following is, for example, stated concerning the application of the provision:
“One might, for example, imagine that the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct could make use of the possibility of taking up a case on its own initiative in a situation where the Committee becomes aware of possible research misconduct in a matter that has been discussed in the press but not reported to the Committee, or if there appears to have been research misconduct in a case that has been treated as questionable research practice by a research institution, e.g. in connection with the research institution’s reporting to the Committee pursuant to the proposed rule in section 22 of the Bill. Furthermore, the provision on own initiative may be invoked in cases where a research institution does not forward the case pursuant to section 10 of the Bill, because its screening shows that the case does not relate to research misconduct, or does not contain the necessary information in accordance with section 11, subsection 1, nos. 1-4 of the Bill. If in such cases the Committee disagrees with the screening undertaken by the research institution, the Committee may take up the case, provided that the conditions in the provision are met.”
Preparation of the case
Report submitted to research institution
In cases where the report must be submitted to a research institution (cf. the above), the research institution (possibly in dialogue with the DCRM) must carry out an initial screening of the case and ensure that the report contains the necessary information. An adequate report must include information concerning:
- The scientific product that is the subject of the report,
- The researcher or researchers to whom the report relates,
- The allegations of research misconduct made, and
- The rationale for the allegations of research misconduct.
When an adequate report has been made, the research institution must “after dialogue with” the DCRM prepare a statement of the facts of the case and submit the matter to the Committee no later than three months after receipt of the report, cf. section 11 of the Act.
The complainant only becomes a party to the case if he or she has a significant and individual interest in the case. This must be assessed in the specific instance. However, if a research institution rejects the report, the complainant should be notified, regardless of whether the complainant has the status of a party to the case or not, cf. the remarks to the Act.
Report submitted to the DCRM
In cases where the report must be submitted to the DCRM, the initial screening of the complaint will be carried out by the DCRM. The DCRM may then request the research institution at which the research was carried out to assist by providing an account of the facts of the case, cf. section 12 (2) of the Act. Here, too, it is assumed that this account will be drawn up “after dialogue with” the DCRM.
The Committee’s processing and ruling
Rejection of the case (without consideration of merits)
The Committee may refuse to consider the merits of a case in the following instances, cf. section 13 of the Act:
- The case falls outside the Committee’s remit
- The case is considered manifestly unfounded or presumed unlikely to lead to the ruling that research misconduct has taken place
- The costs of processing the case are not proportionate to its significance
- The case has very little connection to Denmark (the explanatory notes to the Act mention as an example research carried out under the auspices of the UN, CERN or the like, of which Denmark is a member, and where Denmark may therefore have participated in the financing without otherwise having any particular executive function)
Such a rejection must, as a starting point, be made no later than three months after the Committee has received the case, cf. section 14 of the Act.
See, for example,
- DCRM ruling of 21 February 2020: The Committee ruled that the dispute actually concerned authorship, and could not therefore be presumed to lead to a ruling on research misconduct.
Consideration of the merits of the case
If the merits of the case have been considered, the DCRM will conclude the case by ruling on whether research misconduct has taken place, cf. section 16 (1) of the Act. As part of its ruling on whether research misconduct has taken place, the Committee, cf. section 16 (2) of the Act, may decide:
- To request the researcher to withdraw the scientific product
- To inform the research institution or institutions concerned
- To inform the researcher’s employer
- To inform the publisher of the scientific product, including possibly recommending that the scientific product be withdrawn, or the like
- To inform any foundations, etc., that have wholly or partly financed the research.
In this connection, the remarks appended to the Act include the following:
“The listed responses are included as part of the rulings made pursuant to subsection 1, and will therefore be covered by the concept of a ruling in administrative law. The responses listed, which must take into account the general principle of proportionality in administrative law, are the responses that may be considered to be the most relevant in a ruling on a case of scientific misconduct. The provision does not prevent the Committee from initiating other forms of procedural measures, in accordance with general rules. These will not, however, be rulings within the meaning of the Public Administration Act. Thus, under current law, it will, for example, be possible, depending on the circumstances, for the Committee to file a police report or inform a supervisory authority. Moreover, the provision does not prevent other authorities, etc., from imposing other types of sanctions or the like on the researcher in the event of the discovery of research misconduct, e.g. the employer applying disciplinary sanctions of employment law against the researcher, or a research fund stipulating a period of suspension for the researcher’s funding applications.”
In cases where the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct assesses that questionable research practice has taken place, but does not deem this to amount to research misconduct, the Committee may transfer the case to the relevant research institution for further treatment, pursuant to section 17 of the Act. The remarks appended to the Act include the following:
“Examples of matters that the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct is expected to consider transferring pursuant to this provision include cases in which the Committee concludes that research misconduct has not taken place, but in which there may be problems with data handling, authorship, etc. The Committee may furthermore apply the provision in cases where the Committee assesses that a fabrication, forgery or plagiarism has not been committed intentionally or with gross negligence, or falls below the de minimis limit for research misconduct contained in section 3 (2) no. 1 of the Bill, as well as in cases that fall outside the Committee’s remit, cf. section 4 of the Bill, or which the Committee otherwise rejects pursuant to section 13 of the Bill.
In principle, a case is expected to be transferred once the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct has completed it, i.e. that the Committee first takes a position on and clarifies possible matters of research misconduct, and then forwards any questions about dubious research practice to the institution. It is observed, however, that there is nothing in principle to prevent the transfer from taking place at an earlier stage of the case processing, and that as a result, both the Committee and the research institution could simultaneously process the case (as two cases). In this event, the transfer will be a consequence of the Committee’s reaching a partial ruling either that the matters in question do not constitute research misconduct, or that they cannot be considered by the Committee, cf. section 13 of the Bill. In the interests of maintaining a simple case process, this latter model with division into two cases should be used only where the circumstances of the case specifically support this.
The term ‘the relevant research institution’ is understood to mean the research institution considered to have the closest connection to the case. As a general rule, this will typically be the research institution to which the report of research misconduct must be submitted pursuant to section 10 (1) of the Bill. Reference is also made to the remarks on section 19 (1) of the Bill.
The purpose of the proposed provision is to support the fundamental intention of the Bill to promote the coherent and appropriate handling of both research misconduct and questionable research practice.”
The ruling of the Committee in cases which have been assessed on their merits must in general be made available within 12 months, cf. section 15 of the Act.
Administrative recourse and bringing a matter before the courts
The rulings of the Committee may not be brought before any other administrative authority, cf. section 18 of the Act.
Appeals against the rulings of the Committee may, on the other hand, be made to the courts in accordance with the general rules on judicial review of administrative acts.