Poul Thorsen: a new Milena Penkowa?

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In Denmark we have the hilarious case of the neuroscientist Milena Penkowa from the University of Copenhagen which involves embezzlement, forgery, the head of the university, allegation of scientific misconduct, personal ties to the former Minister of Science, to an employee of the Ministry of Science, inappropriate use of research funds, change of a Danish law because of anonymous questions, a documentary movie, personal ties to the documentary movie maker, and so on. I have a previous blog post on the case from February 2011.

Now we have a new case. That of Poul Thorsen. Like Penkowa he is/was an industrious researcher and he headed a large research group: North Atlantic Neuro-epidemiology Alliances (NANEA) at the University of Aarhus. I am trying to find heads and tails on this story and begun the Danish version of the Wikipedia article on Poul Thorsen. If you compared with the corresponding article on Milena Penkowa you will see that it is much smaller.

  1. Poul Thorsen gained large grants from the US Center of Disease Control to NANEA: almost 8 million American Dollars in 2000 and a renewal on over 8 millions in 2007. These are a very large sums. Apparently, he is suspected for falsifying documents from the US Center of Disease Control so University of Aarhus paid him 2 million US Dollars (believing that money to cover it would come). The university discovered this in the spring 2009. See Information.
  2. It is unclear who had the responsibility for administering the money. According to Ulla Danielsen the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation was the administrator until the University of Aarhus took over the administration in November 2009. If the university has paid Poul Thorsen before that date it seems that the agency has not done its job well.
  3. On his center in Aarhus Thorsen apparently employed a person that received a special salary support from the state. However Poul Thorsen adds some extra money on top and that is not legal, according to Information.
  4. NANEA is under the University of Aarhus and Thorsen was employed there. However, he has also been employed at the Emory University and this double employment was not approved by the University of Aarhus. See Information.
  5. In the Danish media there has been much less written about Poul Thorsen compared to Milena Penkowa. Penkowa has been keen on interviews before and after her fall from the throne, so the press has lots of interesting citations and photos and videos with her, see one here. For Thorsen there seems to be very few images (one?). I guess the difference in good picture material might be the reason for the discrepancy in press coverage. The case of Thorsen also has little juicy sex. In the case of Penkowa there was speculations around the Minister of Science and the head of the University. Though these speculations are very likely unfounded they nevertheless fueled the story that ran almost each day in February and part of March.
  6. Poul Thorsen has done research in autism and vaccine, see Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Since Andrew Wakefield this area has been a minefield, where some contend that (mercury-containing) vaccination is harmful and causes autism. There are groups that are anxious about the issue. Age of Autism seems to be one. One blogger refers to this as “the anti-vaccine propaganda blog of Generation Rescue“. Age of Autism has not failed to write critical articles about Poul Thorsen. Even one of the Kennedys has written critically about the issue in Huffington Post.
  7. I think the issues around Poul Thorsen moneywise calls his scientific integrity into question. I haven’t heard much of this issue.
  8. Poul Thorsen has fairly few first author articles from recent years. The first author is usually the one with the hands in the data — and that has the possibility to falsify data. Thorsen is not first author on the Thimerosal/autism article. The collegue and medical doctor Kresten Meldgaard Madsen says that Thorsen could not change or compromise the data.
  9. According to Ulla Danielsen Poul Thorsen is charged with tax evation and the case is planned to begin 13 April 2011 (as I am writing this is today). There is a list for court cases in Aarhus. Among them is a case beginning 9:30 with the lawyer Jan Schneider. This might be the one. As far as I understand the court room was packed when Penkowa went to trial. I am not sure Poul Thorsen will attract as many, but we might hear more in the afternoon if any journalist attends.

3 thoughts on “Poul Thorsen: a new Milena Penkowa?

    Anonymous said:
    April 14, 2011 at 1:10 am
    Garbo said:
    April 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Is it possible for the public to get transcripts of the court proceedings? Have there been any local reports from the court?

    Anonymous said:
    April 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    As far as I understand there are two cases: The case on fraud and the Danish tax case. The Danish tax case was scheduled Wednesday this week at a court in ??rhus. However, Thorsen’s lawyer came with new material so the court has postponed the case and scheduled a new meeting in May. I am not sure the transcripts will be available, unless a diligent journalist or other person sits at the court.

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