Experiences under the new committee system

Apart from the chairman, each of the committees has only four appointed members. This is a weakness, given that authority of the committees relies entirely on the recognition of its members as opinion leaders in their respective research fields. Especially in medicine, research covers such a huge and diversified area that it is necessary to draw on more experience than the appointed four members represent themselves. So the committee dealing with medical science has decided to invite also the alternate members to participate in its meetings. That their participation - under the rules of the committee - is without voting power is of no significance. It is the participation in the discussion of personalities with a wide experience in research that is so valuable.

Another weakness is that the rules of the committees have no provision for preventive work. Even so, all the committees have recognised this as part of their responsibilities, and to fulfil this task, have questioned the universities and institutes of higher education about the kind of knowledge junior researchers get in this field. Later on, the committees will prepare information material to be used in the education of junior researchers.

It would have also been helpful, if the rules had contained a provision regarding exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. However, all the committees have decided not to give the public (the media) access to documents during the investigation. In a case decided upon in 2000 a journalist complained to the Danish Ombudsman about this practice, and the complaint is still under consideration.

Finally, even if most complaints still relate to medical research in medicine, in 1999 and 2000 there were complaints referred to the committee covering natural science and to that dealing with social science and the humanities.

All the committees have decided to decide on not only whether a behaviour is dishonest or not, but also whether the accused has shown behaviour contrary to good scientific practice. It is premature to say whether the norms in the various research areas will be the same. This is one of the reasons why it is found necessary to have one or two meetings in a year where all the members and alternates from the three committees are called for a common discussion.

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