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Danish neuroscientist convicted of embezzling society funds


Something’s rotten in the state of Danish research. A high-profile neuroscientist, Milena Penkowa, has received a 3-month suspended sentence for embezzling 28,000 Danish kroner (about US$5200), while treasurer of the Danish Society for Neuroscience.

In January, Nature reported that some of Penkowa’s research on brain repair mechanisms was being investigated for potential fraud by the Danish government’s Committee on Scientific Dishonesty. She was also suspected of misspending a grant from a private charity, the IMK General Fund, on expenses not described in the grant application. The University of Copenhagen, where she was a full professor, repaid IMK roughly 2 million kroner (about $375,000). She is no longer employed by the University of Copenhagen.

Penkowa was convicted of misspending the Neuroscience Society funds and sentenced in December 2010. But the conviction was not made public, pending appeal. Penkowa has now withdrawn her appeal, the Copenhagen Post and other Danish newspapers report today.

Penkowa’s troubles may not end here. The neuroscientist, who was recognized as an elite young researcher by the Danish government in 2009, is facing a second criminal case, according to Copenhagen Post. The University of Copenhagen has also accused her of fraud on her doctoral thesis.

A member of her first thesis committee, Per Soelberg Sørensen, previously told Nature that the committee rejected her thesis, in part, because she claimed to have performed experiments on around 1700 rats over several months. More than 200 Danish scientists have signed a petition calling for a complete investigation into Penkowa’s case.

Image courtesy Danish Science Ministry EliteForsk


  1. Report this comment

    Michael Pyshnov said:

    When government is serious about science, the office is called “Committee on Scientific Dishonesty”, not a committee on Honesty or Integrity or Ethics. When a university is serious about science, they are talking about “fraud” and a “criminal case”, not about “research misconduct”.

    The newest world trend of course is to play it all down, down to the formula teaching “prevention of research misconduct”. That of course is an absurdity because research misconduct is defined as an INTENTIONAL dishonesty. Canada is leading the trend by removing ALL accountability of the universities, see the last “canadian compromise” at

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