Statement by the Research Practice Committee in the Nature Case

A 2016 scientific article in the journal Nature has been the focal point for academic criticism and disagreement. Two cases have been presented to the Research Practice Committee in this context. The first case was concluded with a statement from the Research Practice Committee in May 2020. Now, the Research Practice Committee has issued a statement on the second case with a decision regarding the additional points of criticism presented to the Committee for assessment in March 2021.

The second case from March 2020 raised questions about research misconduct. The Research Practice Committee cannot decide on complaints about research misconduct, and therefore passed on the complaint to Danish Committee on Research Misconduct with a request to decide whether the two researchers reported had demonstrated research misconduct.

The Committee found that the report on one of the researchers was manifestly unfounded, and therefore only considered the report on the main author and his role in connection with the article in Nature. Furthermore, the Committee did not find that there was research misconduct in relation to the other researcher and thereby terminated the case.

The Research Practice Committee then examined whether the case instead raises issues of questionable research practices. Such issues are covered by the Research Practice Committee's remit. The Research Practice Committee has declined to consider the issue of questionable research practice in relation to one of the two reported researchers; the same researcher who was acquitted by the Danish Committee on Research Misconduct as described above. The Research Practice Committee has therefore only considered whether the main author of the article has demonstrated questionable research practices.

The Research Practice Committee stated that there is no sufficient basis for concluding that questionable research practices have been demonstrated in relation to the new complaints.

The case has now been presented to the relevant bodies that assess cases of research misconduct and questionable research practices, and thus the case has been concluded.

"Above all it's gratifying that the case has now been concluded. It has taken up a lot of energy for all the parties concerned, but now we're looking forward," says Dean Kristian Pedersen and Head of Department Ulrik Uggerhøj from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“We must learn from this case. At Aarhus University, we vigilantly safeguard the freedom of research and research integrity, and this means that there is room for dialogue, disagreement and debate. Academic integrity is an important part of our culture. To enter into a dialogue about clearing up academic differences is an essential part of a university's research."

With the Research Practice Committee's statement, the case from March 2021 has now been concluded. Read a previous description of the case here: