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Mystery deepens over top men's Penkowa role

Former science minister Sander helped his friend Penkowa to penalise opponents, say media reports. Focus on Rector Ralf Hemmingsen’s oversight

Former Minister of Science Helge Sander helped his personal friend the scientist Milena Penkowa in an extraordinary attempt to penalise her opponents.

This is according to an upcoming article in the Danish weekly Weekendavisen as reported on Danish national TV and radio broadcasters DR.

Milena Penkowa is accused of forging documents in connection with laboratory experiments with rats.

Read article: Media: Brain scientist faked lab reports, lied.

Attempt at revenge

For ten years running, the independent research and grant approval agency Research Council for Health and Research had rejected all Milena Penkowa’s applications for funding.

Then, in 2009 according to Weekendavisen, the former Minister Helge Sander forwarded 30 questions from an anonymous source to the Research Council. The questions indirectly accused the Council of nepotism, and were about grants to Mette Rosenkilde, a competitor to Milena Penkowa for a professor chair.

The questions were anonymous and libellous, the chairman of the council answered to the minister, and the council would not respond to them.

»We were not in any doubt that it was Milena Penkowa who had formulated the questions as punishment for not getting any of the money,« one of the members of the council says to Weekendavisen.

Wants immediate report

Opposition parties in parliament want to investigate the role of former minister Helge Sander in the case, and call for an independent inquiry into the role of the University of Copenhagen. Sander himself says to media that he will not say who is behind the 30 questions.

The present Minister of Science Charlotte Sahl-Madsen has asked for an immediate report on the Penkowa case from the University of Copenhagen.

One thing is the former Minister of Science Sander, another is the role of Rector Ralf Hemmingsen.

Rector should have known

His role should be the subject of an inquiry too, say opposition parties to media.

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen chose to recommend Penkowa for the elite researcher prize EliteForsk in 2009, but should have known about Penkowa’s lack of documentation for the more than 700 rats used in her laboratory experiment, say critics.

»It seems like the University had information on Penkowa and her actions, that they should have acted on,« says science spokesman of the Social Democrats, Rasmus Prehn to Jyllands-Posten.

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