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Rector: Suspicions are unwarranted

Formal rules of procedure were upheld, and suspicions of foul play are without sound basis, says Rector, as he responds to critics' claims that he in 2003-2004 unduly supported Penkowa

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen denies all claims that he hand-picked official scientific opponents to ensure Milena Penkowa her doctorate in 2003-2004.

This is in a written response to the Danish section of this media, the Universitetsavisen. The response thereby refutes claims that he pressured a sceptical scientific community to accept Milena Penkowa’s dissertation and research.

A Universitetsavisen article, cited on University Post here, quoted a number of anonymous sources claiming that Rector contravened normal procedure: In his former capacity as the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, he overruled the recommendations of an academic commitee when he appointed examiners to assess Milena Penkowa’s doctoral dissertation in 2004, the sources claim.

Read the full response to the Danish section Universitetsavisen here (in Danish)

Candidates were disqualified, or declined

Neuro-scientist Milena Penkowa was later accused of manipulating results, forging documents and scientific fraud.

But he did not favour Penkowa, Ralf Hemmingsen argues.

»It is correct, that we at this time, usually used the Faculty’s Research Commitee to propose candidates for the examining committee, and the Faculty Research Commitee did so initially in this case. But as I remember the process, the Research Committee proposed one or more candidates that we had to disqualify – as they were involved in examining the first dissertation – and one or more candidates who subsequently declined,« he writes.

Suspicions are off the mark

»I did not personally put forward candidates for the examining committee in the process, but do remember that it was hard to find suitable candidates. A year passed before a new examining committee had been appointed.«

»I confirm that the process was somehow not ‘normal’, but then the beginning of the process, the process surrounding the first dissertation, was not normal either,« he writes, adding that:

»I think that throwing suspicion on this process is missing the mark«.

Wanted to find out whether criticism was serious

Ralf Hemmingsen adds that the claim by Universitetsavisen and other media, that he sent Penkowa’s rejected first dissertation to be re-examined, is false.

Penkowa’s first dissertation was not re-examined but withdrawn by Penkowa herself, Ralf Hemmingsen writes, adding:

»We obtained a second opinion subsequently on the serious criticism by the examining committee, to find out whether the criticism was so serious that the case should be sent to the [independent of university… ed.] Commitees for Scientific Dishonesty.«

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