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February 04, 2011

New twist in Copenhagen misconduct case

The case of Milena Penkowa, the Danish neuroscientist accused of unauthorized use of funding, took another turn on 3 February.

The University of Copenhagen issued a statement that Penkowa had been reported to the police on suspicion of falsifying documents relating to her research.

The case dates back to 2002 and relates to experiments on rats that Penkowa carried out for her doctoral dissertation. Doubts were raised at the time about the validity of those tests, but they were overruled. However, there is now “grounds for strong suspicions” that documents were falsified, according to a university statement.

The university also said that talks are under way with Denmark's research councils in order to investigate Penkowa's research results.

This marks quite a u-turn for the university. Penkowa was described as "a comet" in Danish health research as recently as 2009, when she was lauded with the top prize from the science ministry. When the allegations surfaced she left her professorship in Copenhagen in December in order to not “embarrass the institution further”, the university said at the time.

Penkowa may not be part of its staff any more, but the case has brought the University of Copenhagen much unwanted attention, nationally and internationally.

Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, Denmark's minister for science, said in a statement that she wants a final report from the university on the cases related to Penkowa by next week.


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