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Penkowa's archive is a mess

The international panel investigating the fraud in Milena Penkowa research is looking for evidence in the archives. But it is uncertain whether all the correct material has been found

The Committee on Scientific Dishonesty’s (UVVU) is currently scrutinising Milena Penkowa’s research to decide whether or not she is guilty of fraud.

It has, however, proven difficult to find all the necessary lab reports and tissue tests from the alleged lab rat tests.

Read our background article on the Penkowa case here.

Documentation ‘confusing’

Penkowas archive is »unstructured and confusing,« according to the latest report presented to the University of Copenhagen Board of Executives 13 March.

The committee spent 8 and 9 February sifting through the material from Penkowa’s office and lab, currently in store at the Faculty of Health Sciences. They found tissue tests and written evidence that »in all likelihood is the background documentation for the articles in question.«

The committee is still working to confirm this: Documentation often exists in several more or less complete versions, often with incomplete results, it says.

Stricter rules on archiving needed

At the 13 March meeting, Nils Strandberg Pedersen, Chairman of the Board of the University of Copenhagen, says that Milena Penkowa likely isn’t the only scientist with an unsorted archive.

And this is confusing to others, he said.

He predicted that there will be stricter demands for keeping a tidy archive in the future »if scientists do not wish to be banished.«

Don’t hold scientists back

Rector Ralf Hemminsen said that the Penkowa case shows that more transparency and clarity is needed as far as the rules of storing research data goes.

The current rules are both unclear and complicated, but it is perhaps not actually a task for the University of Copenhagen to solve, he said. The University has to work out – nationally or internationally – what the criteria are for how, and how long, data should be stored in the future.

Several board members stressed the importance of keeping the rules simple, so honest scientists aren’t held back and the creative process isn’t stilted.

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