Country Report Denmark
National Research Integrity Landscape
Denmark has a national commission for research integrity with investigatory and opinion-making authority, the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct (hereafter: Committee). Under the Act on Research Misconduct of 2017, the Committee shall handle all cases of research misconduct whereas the remaining instances of questionable research practises will be handled by the research institution in question.
Danish Committee on Research Misconduct
From 1 July 2017, with the enforcement of the Act on Research Misconduct of 2017, a national body, the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct (Committee) was established, replacing the previous Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty. The Committee is supported by a secretariat. It is financed by the state budget and is part of the administrative agency under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, however, operates independently of this Ministry.
The Committee is governed by the Danish Act on Public Administration, the Act on Research Misconduct of 2017 and the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity that was drawn up by a working group under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science and Danish Universities. The latter holds guidelines on good scientific practice.
Missions and tasks
The Committee’s tasks are guiding research institutions, and processing individual cases on questions of whether research misconduct has occurred. It does not give or organise trainings. Its members may contribute to knowledge transfer by giving lectures in (inter) national symposia.
The Committee’s starting point is that research misconduct cases must in principle be dealt with by the (ethics committees of the) research institutions at the local level. As a general rule, a case is raised via a complaint handed in at the research institution where the research in question was carried out. If there is no such Danish research institution, or a research institution wants to raise a case itself, complaints may be brought directly before the Committee. The Committee also may process cases at its own initiative if it has reasonable grounds to suspect research misconduct. The research institution at which the research was conducted shall assist the Committee at its request with an account of the specific circumstances of the case. The Committee is authorized to decide on measures to be taken against the accused. It does not mediate in cases.
The Committee consists of a Chairperson and 8 to 10 academic members with different scientific disciplines. For each member there is an alternate who can enter the Committee in case absence or when otherwise relevant. All permanent members have voting rights. If one of the permanent members does not have a voting right, e.g. because of a conflict of interest, then its alternate gets this voting right. The Chairperson is a high court judge and appointed by the Minister following a nomination from the Danish courts for a 4-years-term to a maximum of 6 years. In exceptional circumstances, the Minister for Higher Education and Science may extend this period. All other members are recognized scientists who are appointed for a 4-years-term to a maximum of 6 years by the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, following an open call and consultation with the Independent Research Fund Denmark.
Scope and remit
Anyone may raise a case concerning research misconduct with the research institution where the research was conducted. In the event that (i) the research was not conducted at a Danish research institution, or (ii) the case is raised by the research institution where the research was conducted, the notification can be submitted directly to the (secretariat of the) Committee. The idea is that all Danish cases of research misconduct are handled by the Committee and all questionable research practices by the research institutions. A research institution shall submit a notification with the Committee if there is a reasonable suspicion that a specific case at the research institution involves research misconduct covered by the Committee’s authority. In the event that the Committee assesses that a case may involve issues concerning questionable research practices not considered to constitute research misconduct, the Committee may refer such issues to the relevant research institution for further consideration. It is within the jurisdiction of the Committee to deal with cases (i) concerning public funded research and (ii) research carried out at a public Danish research institution. If the case concerns privately funded research, the Committee can deal with the case if the private company consents. It may reject examination of cases when (i) the case is not covered by the Committee’s authority (ii) the case is deemed to be manifestly ungrounded (iii) costs of processing the case are disproportionate in relation to the significance of the case, or (iv) the case has very little connection with Denmark. The main rule is, that the Committee does not handle anonymous allegations. However, anonymous allegations can cause the Committee to process a case on its own initiative. The Committee does not handle alleged research misconduct cases of students on bachelor- or master level: these are handled at the institutional level. The Committee only handles cases concerning researchers (PhD students, persons with a PhD degree or similar qualifications).
For the Committee to begin an investigation of an allegation of research misconduct (1) the allegation must relate to a scientific product, for example a scientific paper, a PhD thesis or similar; (2) the case must concern a researcher who has contributed to the scientific product; (3) the case must concern research misconduct. Research misconduct shall not include (i) cases of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism which have only had minor importance when planning, performing or reporting on the research (ii) questions about scientific disagreements, and (iii) questions on the quality of research. When a complaint is handed in at the relevant research institution, it assesses whether or not the information listed above is present in the case. If so, the institution must compose a report on the facts of the case and send the case and the report to the Committee which will open an investigation based on the material from the institution. As part of the investigation, the Committee must ensure that the case is adequately informed and obtain all necessary further information required for the Committee‘s decision in the matter. This means that the Committee has to carry out consultations in accordance with the Danish Act on public administration giving the accused a chance to provide a statement. The Committee may obtain (external) expert advise. The Committee reaches decisions at meetings by majority voting. In the event of parity of votes, the Chairperson shall have the casting vote. The Committee will handle the case confidential and will exclude the case from public access until it has completed its deliberations, but it may also decide under the Freedom of Information Act during the process to make it public. There is no statute of limitations concerning alleged research misconduct cases.
Definition of research misconduct (and questionable research practice)
For the Committee, in concluding whether there is research misconduct, the Act on Research Misconduct of 2017 is decisive, together with the Danish Code on Research Misconduct which must followed by researchers and research institutions. The Act on Research Misconduct of 2017 defines research misconduct as: “Fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism committed wilfully or gross negligent in planning, performing, or reporting of research. Fabrication: Undisclosed construction of data or substitution with fictitious data. Falsification: Manipulation of research material, equipment or process as well as changing or omitting data or results making the research misleading. Plagiarism: Appropriation of others’ ideas, processes, results, texts or specific terms without rightfull crediting.” It defines questionable research practice as “Breaches of current standards on responsible conduct of research, including those of the Danish code of conduct, and other applicable institutional, national and international practices and guidelines on research integrity.”
Opinions and appeal
In handling cases, the Committee must give an opinion on whether research misconduct has, or has not, occurred. Cases that are not accepted for examination shall be rejected by no later than 3 months after the Committee received the case. Cases that are accepted shall be completed by no later than 12 months after the Committee received the case or has decided at its own initiative to process the case. This 12-month time limit can be extended if special circumstances apply. The decisions of the Committee are sent directly to the parties involved in the case, that is in general the accused researcher and the research institution involved. The reporter only receives the decision, if he/she is party to the case and he/she does not get the status of party by reporting the alleged research misconduct. The reporter is party to a case, e.g. when his/her work has been plagiarized by a researcher. The Committee’s opinions are binding including the decision it may give (i) that the researcher be requested to withdraw the scientific product (ii) that the affected research institution(s) be informed of the research misconduct (iii) that the researcher’s employer be informed of the research misconduct (iv) that the editor publishing the scientific product be informed of the research misconduct, possibly with a requirement that the editor withdraw this or take similar measures, or (v) that any foundation which has provided full or partial funding for the research carried out, be informed of the research misconduct. The Committee’s opinions cannot be appealed.
Follow-up and monitoring
The Committee has to publish an annual report on questionable research practice in Denmark based on annual reporting from the institutions to the Committee. In this respect, the Committee works toward strengthening the credibility of Danish research, prevents research misconduct and supports the effort on research integrity as expressed in the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. The Minister of Higher Education and Science supervises compliance with the Act of Research Misconduct of 2017. The monitoring of whether measures are actually taken, takes place by the Committee or research institutions, dependent on who decided on the measures.
The decisions of the previous Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty were made available in anonymous form on its page on the website of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. Also, the Committee intends to publish its decisions in this form, and its annual reports, in Danish and in English on its page of this website.
For illustrative cases in English, see: https://ufm.dk/en/research-and-innovation/councils-and-commissions/The-Danish-Committee-on-Research-Misconduct/decisions?set_language=en&cl=en
For further information, see: www.ufm.dk
For questions, e-mail to: Sofie Hom Risor (Secretariat)(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last update: May 2019