University gives PhD bonus back to the ministry

UU revokes doctoral degree after violation of scientific integrity

academiegebouw, foto DUB

In 2008, the university conferred a doctoral degree to a candidate not employed by UU. Instead, he worked for a medical institute abroad. The scientist in question regarded his PhD at UU as an "honourable acknowledgement".

His thesis was based on several articles previously published by reputable scientific journals. However, doubts quickly arose about the quality of the articles. As a result, two of them were retracted and two others received an "expression of concern".

Last year, a scientist formally lodged a complaint with the Scientific Integrity Committee (SIC). One of the accusations against the researcher whose PhD has been revoked is that he's copied tables from previous publications in his articles. Besides, the statistical foundation is full of errors. The complainant asked the university to invalidate the dissertation and retract the PhD degree.

The accused researcher defended himself by saying that his articles were based on research that is 13 to 16 years old, when raw data could not be digitised properly. He also attributes the withdrawal of his articles by the journals to quick and hasty decisions based on unjustified allegations. He feels "deeply offended" by the charges as he has been working as a scientist since 1990 — many of these years as a professor.

SIC has since then published an anonymised report on the website of the association of Dutch universities (UNL). According to the document, the complaints are justified on eight grounds. The complainant also asked the committee to rule on the supervisor. However, the committee decided not to do that because the supervisor was not a co-author of any of the articles.

Based on this ruling, the Board for the Conferral of Doctoral Degrees chose to revoke the PhD conferred in 2008 and return the doctoral bonus of 93,060 euros to the Ministry of Education. According to the board, the members of the supervising committee take no blame because they weren't co-authors of the articles and they assumed to be dealing with peer-reviewed pieces from renowned scientific journals.

The university does not want to disclose the name of the scientist and the faculty from where he obtained his PhD. However, it can be inferred from the report that it concerns a medical study.