Academic Fraud in the Nordic Region: Professors Criticise New Swedish Model

In Denmark and Norway all accusations of academic fraud are processed by national bodies, external to the research institutions; while Sweden lacks an independent, national body to handle complaints regarding dishonesty in research. – The Swedish system is the poorest in the Nordic region, according to the professors Paul Hjemdahl (Karolinska Intitutet) and Povl Riis (Copenhagen University).
Research Must be Reliable
Accusations of scientific dishonesty should not be handled by the institutions. All accusations of fraud should be processed externally, by an independent national body. This is the opinion of Hjemdahl and Riis, presented in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

It is critical that scientific results are reliable and correct, otherwise the society cannot – and will not – trust and make use of new research results. Society will not support research, and individuals will refuse to participate in research projects if the scientific methods and results are perceived as unreliable and dishonest.

Processing of Scientific Dishonesty in the Nordic Countries
During the 1990s The Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) was established in Denmark. The DCSD is a national body operating under the Danish research council. A case can be brought to the DCSD as a complaint, and/or researchers or institutions can apply to have a case processed, in order to be cleared of accusations.

In Norway a national institution was established in 2006: The National Commission for the Investigation of Scientific Misconduct.

Finland deals with accusations of scientific fraud through a voluntary and more decentralised system.

Hjemdahl and Riis criticise the Swedish system for its lack of an independent body on a national level, corresponding to the Danish and Norwegian committees. In Sweden accusations of dishonesty in research are processed by the institutions. The Swedish Research Council and The Association of Swedish Higher Education have proposed a new Swedish model, accentuating the institutions’ right and obligation to deal with misconduct within the organisation. According to the new model all scientific institutions must establish a committee responsible for investigating accusations of fraud. Head of the institution decides both the question of guilt and whether or not any further inquiries should be made. A central committee, appointed by the Swedish government, shall monitor the institutional committees’ activities.

In Hjemdahl and Riis’ opinion the local “filter” at the institutions will undermine and delay the fight against scientific fraud. “We need a national body responsible for the handling of all accusations of scientific dishonesty in the country; this will secure equal, competent and independent processing of all cases”, they say.