We must be able to talk about both responsible and questionable research conduct
Professor Ebba Nexø from the Department of Clinical Medicine will be Health's outpost in providing guidance on responsible conduct of research. As an independent adviser, she is part of Aarhus University's efforts to retain an honest research culture.
Professor, DMSc and former consultant in clinical biochemistry Ebba Nexø (71 years old) is Health's first adviser in responsible conduct of research. The independent guidance service is part of Aarhus University's efforts to promote a good research culture. Ebba Nexø is looking forward to taking on the task.
"For many people, good research practice represents tacit knowledge. Something that most people live up to, but do not talk about. For this reason it can be difficult to put things into words or to discuss if a situation arises in which the individual researcher or member of staff is in doubt as to whether everything is being done correctly. And it is here that I come into play as an adviser. I can help to legitimise discussing what we understand by responsible conduct of research," says the professor, sitting in her fourth floor office at Aarhus University Hospital in Nørrebrogade.
Questionable or a misunderstanding?
"Responsible conduct of research adviser” is the latest item to be added to Ebba Nexø’s long CV, which testifies to an extensive career in the world of research. In addition to being a researcher and PhD supervisor, she has been a member of the Board of the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) under the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, as well as chairman of the Danish Medical Research Council (SSVF), and has also held a number of honorary offices. She therefore feels well prepared:
"As an adviser it is important to be a good listener, take problems seriously and to be really able to work confidentially. First and foremost my role is to uncover whether there has been questionable conduct of research, or whether it is more a case of a misunderstanding between people," says Ebba Nexø.
Help to take the next step
Neither codes of practice nor advisers can stop researchers who deliberately manipulate or exploit the system, but they can help to ensure that dishonesty is discovered as early as possible, according to Ebba Nexø:
"I hope to be able to contribute to getting people who are involved in research to clarify whether it is a case of a suspicion of misconduct. I can give them guidance on taking the necessary steps to get the case handled professionally. Either by AU's Committee for Responsible Conduct of Research or by DCSD," says Ebba Nexø.
She emphasises that her function does not replace management’s responsibility for creating a healthy research environment. She sees herself as an informal point of contact.
"I should be where you can let of steam before the whole thing boils over. Starting the process of making a complaint is full of taboos and also very stressful, not least for a young PhD student or a laboratory technician. I think that has stopped some people from proceeding with cases that have instead festered and led to enmity. Perhaps without reason," says Ebba Nexø.
CoC at AU
On 25 March 2015, Aarhus University adopted a new code of practice for responsible conduct of research, which commits to the lines laid out in the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. With the new code of conduct, the Research Practices Committee was replaced by the Committee for Responsible Conduct of Research. Health supplements the new code of conduct with its own “Standards for responsible research practice”.
Each faculty appoints an advisor and substitute.
Professor Michael Væth has been appointed as substitute special advisor for responsible conduct of research.
Michael Væth (66 years old) has been professor of biostatistics at the Department of Public Health since 1994. He graduated as a statistician from the University of Copenhagen in 1974 and has a PhD in mathematical statistics from Aarhus University.
In addition to lecturing and student guidance, Michael Væth works on developing statistical methods for the analysis of health data. This generally takes place in collaboration with doctors or dentists and over the years he has collaborated with researchers from the majority of the faculty's departments and sections. He has particular focus on waiting time data and methods for the analysis of studies based on information from the Danish registers. Michael Væth has also spent a total of four years in Hiroshima, where he has worked on studies of life-long complications from radioactive radiation based on data from the Life Span Study. This is a follow-up on the original 100,000 survivors after the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Read more about responsible conduct of research at AU
Professor Ebba Nexø
D: +45 7846 3083
Professor Michael Væth
D: +45 8716 7987
Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen
D: +45 2548 8522