Information about the rulings

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) have today issued rulings in three comprehensive cases. As the cases refer to the same scientific articles and the parties overlap to a certain extent, DCSD decided to investigate the cases in parallel.

DCSD sent draft decisions to the parties for consultation in June 2013 and has now, following a careful review of the parties’ responses, issued rulings in the three cases.

DCSD’s conclusions

In two of the three cases, DCSD finds the defendants guilty of scientific dishonesty. The defendant in Cases no. 2 and 3 is the same person. The most important conclusions are as follows:

Case no. 1 concerning four scientific articles:

DCSD finds the Defendant guilty of scientific dishonesty in four scientific articles because of manipulation of graphical material. The Defendant was particularly deeply involved in drafting graphics and therefore had particular responsibility for this material in the articles. DCSD rules therefore that the Defendant was guilty at the very least of gross negligence by overlooking the fact that the four articles recycled the same graphical material to report on different research results and by attempting to obscure this fact through image manipulation.

Case no. 2 concerning four articles and an application for research funding:

DCSD finds the Defendant and her co-authors not guilty of any scientific dishonesty in this case. One of the articles included a serious breach of good scientific practice because the description of methodology did not contain significant information about the test subjects. However, the Defendant is not guilty of gross negligence because the failure to provide information was due to an error made during the editing of the article. 

Case no. 3 concerning 12 scientific articles:

DCSD finds the Defendant guilty of scientific dishonesty in six of the 12 articles. The main points are:

- Lack of information about the selection process:
As the lead author of the article, the Defendant was involved in the decision only to perform certain tests on a selected part of the total test population. The article does not make it clear that a selection has taken place nor does it specify what criteria were used in the selection process. DCSD therefore finds the Defendant guilty of scientific dishonesty by gross negligence because she failed to react to the lack of information about the selection.

On 24 March 2014 the following changes were made to the paragraph above due to an incorrect English translation in the previously released version:

As the lead author of the article, the Defendant was involved in the decision only to take certain readings (results) from a selected part of the total test population.

was changed to

As the lead author of the article, the Defendant was involved in the decision only to perform certain tests on a selected part of the total test population.

- Lack of information about biopsy material:
DCSD finds that material from previous studies, including test subjects, was used in five papers without this being stated in the articles, and that this was done in a manner that misled readers. Two of the articles refer in their discussion sections to the results of previous articles based on the same experimental material. This is done in such a way that it supports the results of the two articles. In four of the articles, the selection of test subjects is concealed from the reader. DCSD finds that the Defendant is therefore guilty of scientific dishonesty and that the action was deliberate (intentional) because the Defendant stated during the consultation process that it had not been necessary to indicate that material from a previous study formed the basis for the articles. 

- Lack of information about the fact that a group of test subjects was subject to a different research protocol than the one described in the article:
As the lead author of an article, the Defendant was involved in the decision to include an additional group of subjects from a previous study. The article does not include information about the origins of the test material for this group. It is therefore not clear from the article that the group was subject to a different research protocol than the one described in the article’s methodology section. DCSD finds the Defendant guilty of scientific dishonesty by gross negligence because she failed to react to the lack of information concerning the research protocol for the group.

- Joint responsibility for image manipulation:
The Defendant was the lead author on the four articles covered by Case 1. After studying the role played by the Defendant, DCSD finds the Defendant guilty of gross negligence in that she overlooked the image manipulation that had been confirmed in one of the four articles. The graphics in the article concerned are clearly manipulated, and the Defendant should have reacted to this when revising the article, which she would have been expected to do prior to publication.

How DCSD investigates cases

Certain daily newspapers have recently printed misguided ideas about the legal basis on which DCSD issues rulings. Hence this brief explanation:

1. DCSD’s mandate

DCSD’s remit is to investigate complaints of scientific dishonesty in order to strengthen the credibility of Danish research. The main concept is defined by the Act on research consulting, etc.:

“Scientific dishonesty: falsification, fabrication, plagiarism and other serious violations of good scientific practice committed wilfully or grossly negligent on planning, performing or reporting of research results.”

In cases where DCSD confirms scientific dishonesty, a ruling is issued to this effect. DCSD can also recommend that the scientific work involved, typically a scientific article, be withdrawn from the publisher. DCSD has no more severe sanctions available to it; i.e. DCSD cannot force the parties to take certain actions.

DCSD does not rule on cases concerning scientific theories’ validity or truth or on cases related to the quality of the research associated with a scientific product. In other words, DCSD does not address the conclusions and results of research. Nor does DCSD determine whether the research is good or bad.

2. Responsibility for intentional or gross negligence

It follows from the definition in the act that scientific dishonesty has been committed when there is a serious breach of good scientific practice (falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, etc.) and if such a serious violation has been committed either intentionally (deliberately) or by gross negligence, i.e. in blatant disregard of the attentiveness or meticulousness normally expected in the specific situation. The dishonesty concept does not cover accidental or excusable mistakes (honest errors), including mistakes made with a limited (simple) degree of negligence.

Intentional or grossly negligent behaviour has been covered by the dishonesty concept since the first committee on scientific dishonesty was established in 1992. Similar concepts of responsibility are applied in other countries. It is also an integral part of the Danish legal tradition that a party is not only responsible for his/her intentional (conscious) behaviour but (at least) also for grossly negligent behaviour.

3. Joint responsibility

Authors of a scientific article do not have an objective (strict) responsibility for the contributions made by the other authors. However, it is part of good scientific practice that all authors of a scientific article have a certain degree of joint responsibility for its overall content, including responsibility for having read the final manuscript before submission to the journal.

DCSD is of the opinion that in general the lead author (often called the senior or final author) of a scientific article has special responsibility for all of the article’s content, including reading the final manuscript carefully before submission to a journal.

Nevertheless, in each case of dishonesty an evaluation of joint responsibility is made, and both a serious breach of good scientific practice and intentional and negligent actions by the person jointly responsible have to be confirmed. DCSD bases its evaluations on the facts of each case, including the parties’ qualifications and other relevant factors, so that the assessment relates to the parties’ specific role and contribution to the scientific articles concerned.


Copenhagen, 18 December 2013

Henrik Gunst Andersen
Presiding Judge at the Eastern High Court
Chairperson of Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty

last modified Mar 24, 2014