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Ferreting out fraud: The Nordic track.

Since 1992, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden have all established federal agencies to investigate allegations of scientific misconduct. In all but 9 of their 37 completed investigations, "no dishonesty has been confirmed," according to a report in the July 3 LANCET.

In contrast to U.S. groups, which have created lists of misdeeds that constitute fraud, among the Nordic agencies, "formal definitions have never been considered critical or even feasible," according to Magne Nylenna of the Research Council of Norway in Oslo and his colleagues, who prepared the report. Instead, they find, the general Nordic criterion for dishonesty has been whether any "deviation from good scientific practice is serious or intentional." Gross negligence also qualifies as misconduct in Denmark.

In some cases where investigators found no blatant dishonesty, Nylenna's team notes, there had been some "deviation from good research practice." To deal with this, the Nordic fraud squads have evolved a policy of explicitly describing and publicly reporting such questionable activities.

"Given the great publicity research misconduct has received, there were surprisingly few cases of serious scientific misconduct," observes LANCET Editor Richard Horton in an accompanying editorial. "Yet the pressure for even greater oversight of research is increasing," he says. With researchers worldwide fearing that "excessive regulation and the threat of public witch hunts will deter investigators from doing important research," Horton notes, a researcher "backlash" is developing.
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Title Annotation:investigating scientific misconduct
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E0SC
Date:Jul 31, 1999
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