Skip to comments.Fraud Growing in Scientific Research Papers
Posted on 10/10/2012 6:32:38 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum
Fraud in scientific research, while still rare, is growing at a troubling pace, a new study finds. A review of retractions in medical and biological peer-reviewed journals finds the percentage of studies withdrawn because of fraud or suspected fraud has jumped substantially since the mid-1970s. In 1976, there were fewer than 10 fraud retractions for every one million studies published, compared with 96 retractions per million in 2007.
The study authors aren't quite sure why this is happening. But they and outside experts point to pressure to hit it big in science, both for funding and attention, and to what seems to be a subtle increase in deception in overall society that science may simply be mirroring.
Fraud in life sciences research is still minuscule and committed by only a few dozen scientific scofflaws. However, it causes big problems, said Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Casadevall is the lead author of the study which looked at the reasons for 2,047 retractions among many millions of studies published in journals and kept in a government database for medically focused research.
Fraud was the No. 1 cause of retractions, accounting for 43 percent of them. When fraud was combined with other areas of misconduct, such as plagiarism, it explained about 2 out of 3 retractions, the study found.
"Very few people are doing it, but when they do it, they are doing it in areas that are very important," Casadevall said. "And when these things come out, society loses faith in science."
Prominent retractions that Casadevall cited for fraud include a notorious British study that wrongly linked childhood vaccines to autism, nine separate studies on highly touted research at Duke University about cancer treatment, and work by a South Korean cloning expert who later was convicted in court of embezzlement and illegally buying human eggs for research.
Casadevall said he was surprised because he didn't set out to study fraud. His plan was to examine the most common avoidable errors that caused retractions. What he found was that 889 of the more than 2,000 retractions were due to fraud or suspected fraud.
While other studies have shown a rise in retractions, no previous study has found scientific misconduct as the leading cause, said Nicholas Steneck, director of the research ethics program at the University of Michigan, who wasn't involved in the Casadevall study. That shows a need for better, more honest reporting of retractions by the science journals themselves, he said.
He and others also said the findings suggest there may just be better detection of scientific fraud overall.
Most "scientists out there are well meaning and honest people who are going to be totally appalled by this," Casadevall said.
The study was published online October 1, 2012, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which had the second most retracted articles for all reasons, behind only the journal Science.
The publication with the most fraud-based retractions was the Journal of Biological Chemistry. PNAS ranked fifth.
Casadevall said that, even if society as a whole has become more deceptive, "I used to think that science was on a different plane. But I think science is like everybody else, and that we are susceptible to the same pressures."
In science, he said, "there's a disproportionate reward system" so if a researcher is published in certain prominent journals they are more likely to get jobs and funding, so the temptations increase.
"Bigger money makes for bigger reasons for fraud," said New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan. "More fame, more potential for profit... Some of the cheating and fraud is not too dissimilar to the cheating and fraud we've seen in banking."
Science historian Marcel LaFollette, author of a book about science fraud Stealing into Print, said researchers can't prove that more people are lying in general in society, but they get the distinct feeling it's happening more. And, in 2006, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that, while most people say they don't approve of lying, 65 percent of those questioned said it is OK to lie in certain situations.
The world has become accustomed to lying and forgives politicians when they do it in relationships, LaFollette said. But it's different when it's a doctor, scientist or an engineer because people can get hurt, she said.
Casadevall and Caplan pointed to the 1998 study in Lancet by Andrew Wakefield temporarily linking childhood vaccines to autism a study later retracted because it was found to be what another scientific journal called "an elaborate fraud."
"Think about the damage society took when mothers started to question vaccines," Casadevall said. "That's damage, and it's still going on."
Reached at home in Texas, Wakefield, who was banned from practicing medicine in his native Great Britain and whose claims are contrary to what prevailing established medical research shows about vaccine and autism, said: "There was no fraud and to use this and to use me as a poster child of fraud really compounds that error."
Casadevall said his work is about science trying to clean its own house. And because it's about fraud, he said he did one extra thing with his study: He sent reviewers not just a summary of their work, but all the data, "so they can check on us."
The corrupting influence of ill-gotten government money.
It tends to propagate through the system, as papers are quoted in future papers, ad infinitum.
What will the count be when "anthropogenic global warming" becomes recognized as the fraud that it is?
I can see how this article might apply to medical research (including psychology, which I don’t consider to be a “science”) but I’m not so sure it would apply very well to something like chemistry which doesn’t rely heavily on statistics.
People are paid taxpayer money to produce so called “scientific” papers that no one reads or uses. Most of these awards are made based on political considerations, friendships or connections to people close to the money pipeline. None of this has anything to do with real science.
The results of these studies are often predetermined. They are expected to support the politically correct worldview.
The scientific community in America is becoming politicized and corrupted. Michael Mann is just one example. There is little enforcement of scientific integrity.
Science research has become political. It has become fraudulent. It has become corrupt.
As a scientist I have seen numerous instances of plagarism usually from scientists in foreign countries. For example my Ph.D. advisor showed me an article published in an Indian scientific journal that was a direct copy of one of his papers except for the authors names. I have personally received manuscripts for review where entire paragraphs were lifted out of my papers. As far as fraud numerous times I have talked to professors who are unable to reproduce promising experiments done by foreign students who graduate and then return to their home countries. I cant prove they faked their data to graduate but I have strong suspicions.
Results that cannot be reliably and consistently reproduced using valid methodology should be viewed with some measure of skepticism, as it indicates either fraud (faked data) or sloppy methods. This is one aspect of the scientific method I have been taught. In either case, it is a black mark against both the author of the study, the adviser, and the institution that granted the degree. There have been cases where degrees have been withdrawn when fraud has come to light. Credibility and reputation is everything to anyone who purports to be a scientist. Or so I am told.
“Results that cannot be reliably and consistently reproduced using valid methodology should be viewed with some measure of skepticism, as it indicates either fraud (faked data) or sloppy methods.”
Absolutely. I dont think someone should graduate until another student reproduces at least part of what you’ve done. That wont happen because people are too busy on their own projects.
Starts off with a fraud.
It's nothing new. It was this way back when I was in college in the 70's.
Science is now a business. The scientist who reports results that make it more likely he will get future grants will be more secure in his university, more likely to get tenure, and more wealthy.
“As a scientist I have seen numerous instances of plagarism usually from scientists in foreign countries.”
...and then there is the pressure to add the names of others to your research papers so they can fake their research accomplishments. I’ve seen this at two universities where the pressure is put on the junior faculty. That is fraudulent. There is also the fraud associated with “blind peer review” where the field of scholars is small and everyone can readily tell who wrote and who is reviewing a research paper submitted for publication. That could result in exclusion of papers by those who want to control the publication pipeline. There is also fraud in other areas of science and I suspect, considering the quality of measurement and the claims made, that a lot of data should be examined for integrity.
They are predominantly the enemy of America, and they consistently side with anyone else who would denigrate and destroy by nature: islamists, communists, anarchists, of which our so-called president is the prime example and instigator.
“...and then there is the pressure to add the names of others to your research papers so they can fake their research accomplishments. Ive seen this at two universities where the pressure is put on the junior faculty. That is fraudulent.”
I work at an industrial research lab and have had people want to add my name to their papers even though I only had a very minor role in their study. I always refuse which surprises the heck out of some. Same is true on patent applications. Some do it to be polite, others because it might help to have someone’s name on their patent/pub.
“The media rarely makes the distinction between life sciences and physical sciences because its correspondents are ignorant of the difference and because they are loathe to attribute anything that would contribute any modicum of value or substance to American society.”
I dont understand your point.
Data from physical sciences, ie, physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, are harder to gin-up as their fundamentals are generally more rigorous than say, anthropolology, sociology, climatology and even basic biology, to the extent that their conclusions may be subject to greater degrees of interpretation.
The weather tomorrow, for example, is more statiscally viable than is a long term climate model from someone perhaps with an axe to grind.
“Scientific Research Papers, onedoug wrote:
Data from physical sciences, ie, physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, are harder to gin-up as their fundamentals are generally more rigorous than say, anthropolology, sociology, climatology and even basic biology...”
You might be surprized at how rigorous modern biological research has become.
When there’s ‘politically correct’ scientific research - and large sums of money on the table - corruption becomes a natural...
“I work at an industrial research lab and have had people want to add my name to their papers ...”
Thanks for noting this happens outside academic institutions, too, although it seems to be for different motives.
When I see this behavior—pressuring someone to add a name to a publication—it is often the case that the person applying the pressure couldn’t research his or her way out of a paper bag.
But this is research?