9 August 2012

Penkowa may loose her doctorate and PhD degree


An international panel of experts has concluded that Milena Penkowa may have falsified results in 15 scientific articles. The University of Copenhagen is passing the cases onto the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) whose ruling may result in Penkowa losing her PhD and doctorate.

In Denmark, only the DCSD, and not specific educational institutions, are mandated to consider cases of scientific dishonesty after allegations have been raised. The DCSD is currently already processing several allegations of misconduct by Penkowa during her research, with verdicts on two cases expected in the autumn. An international panel of experts has now identified an additional 15 cases of serious fraud in Penkowa’s published articles. Among them are five articles that serve as the basis for the doctorate she was awarded in 2005, and her PhD.

“As a result of the panel’s conclusion we will forward all 15 suspicious articles to the DCSD as well as calling a meeting with the committee due to the extraordinary nature of the case. We are particularly interested in seeking clarification regarding the four articles that were used in Penkowa’s doctoral thesis and one that was used in her PhD,” prorector Thomas Bjørnholm said.

The academic councils at each of the University of Copenhagen’s faculties are responsible for awarding PhD and doctorate degrees. In regard to the Milena Penkowa case, it will be the academic council at the Faculty of Health Sciences that will ultimately decide whether she will lose her titles.

This would be the case if the basis for her PhD or doctorate is undermined.

“The academic council at the Faculty of Health Sciences will decide whether the fraud in Milena Penkowa’s research will have consequences for her doctorate and PhD. The academic council may use the DCSD’s verdict in their judgment,” prorector Thomas Bjørnholm said.

The University of Copenhagenhas informed the co-authors of the suspicious articles, as well as the journals they were published in, once the independent panel identified the fraud.

Guiding young researchers

The international panel that examined Penkowa’s research noted in their report that the University of Copenhagen could have given Penkowa better guidance in her early education as a researcher between 2000 and 2005 which was the period that the suspicious articles are from.

“In the past 10 years a number of improvements have been made in the way young researchers are educated. Today, PhD students are connected to a professional PhD school with a scientific leader. The researchers participate in annual performance and development reviews and postdocs are increasingly connected to a so-called research group leader which was not as common when Penkowa was a young researcher early in her education. But good guidance can never serve as an absolute guarantee against fraud,” prorector Thomas Bjørnholm said.

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen last year presented a five-point plan in response to the case against Penkowa. The plan consists of new student ambassadors, new rules for award and distinction nominations, better control of research accounts, clearer rules for reporting fraud, and a revision of the PhD programme. More information can be found here:


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Jasper Steen Winkel
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