Abbott, Alison. "Social Scientists Call for Abolition of Dishonesty Committee," Nature 421 (13

 

Abbott, Alison. "Social Scientists Call for Abolition of Dishonesty Committee," Nature 421 (13
February 2003), p. 681.

Following its controversial ruling on political scientist Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical
Environmentalist, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) is now the subject of
debate itself.

The DCSD has quietly ruled on an average of one case of alleged misconduct per year since it
was established in 1992. But many researchers felt it overwstepped the mark by investigating
Lomborg's book, which paints an unusually rosy picture of the global environment.

In a report published on 6 January, the DCSD said that the book was "objectively speaking,
deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty" (see Nature 421, 195 & 201; 2003).
The decision triggered debate in the Danish Parliament and newspapers. Last week science
minister Helge Sander asked the Danish Research Agency to set up an independent working
group to examine the regulatory basis and procedures of the DCSD.

The affair has split Denmark's academic communities. Given Lomborg;s background, many
social scientists think that his book should not be judged by criteria used to assess dishonesty in
the natural and medical sciences.

Jorn Henrik Petersen,a social historian at the University of Southern Denmark in Dense, says that
selection of information to develop a theory - anathema to natural scientists - is an integral part of
many social sciences. "It is out of the question to argue that any selection can be completely
objective," he says. Petersen is one of many social scientists who say that the DCSD should be
disbanded.

Some 600 natural and medical scientists in Denmark have signed a petition in support of the
DCSD that has been presented to the Danish Research Agency. "We don't object to the
procedures being re-examined, but it is expedient for any society have this kind of committee,"
says Jens Rehfeld, a health researcher at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

The working group, including social and natural scientists and journalists, will be chaired by
Mogens Pedersen, a political scientist at the University of Southern Denmark. Key issues will be
whether the definition of ‘scientific dishonesty' should be included in the DCSD's remit, and
how the results of any deliberation should be presented to the public. It is expected to report
before the summer.