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A review of misconduct in Sweden

Sweden’s National Board for Assessment of Research Misconduct (NBARM), created by the Swedish government in 2020 to ensure scientific integrity in the country, has published a review of its first year. In total, it opened 46 investigations, 25 of which have already been completed. Four researchers were found guilty of misconduct and 10 were exonerated. Eleven cases were not looked into because they were outside the agency’s jurisdiction. Margaretha Fahlgren, a researcher at Uppsala University and NBARM member, told the journal Nature that several cases referred to the agency involved disputes between doctoral students and their advisors, which is beyond the agency’s scope. “This is an issue with the work environment—not misconduct,” she said.

The cases relate to almost all fields of research—except agricultural and veterinary science—but the majority (30 investigations) were from medicine, health care, and natural sciences. Plagiarism and data falsification were the most frequent accusations.

After two of the four guilty verdicts, the researchers involved appealed to the courts. Biomedical scientist Karin Dahlman-Wright, former vice-president at the Karolinska Institute, was found guilty of manipulating images in four scientific papers. She appealed to an administrative court, which reversed the agency’s decision, finding that she had not acted negligently. A case relating to the fabrication of X-ray results in four papers by 13 materials science and nanotechnology researchers at Linköping University was also appealed, with a verdict yet to be reached.