Feeds

New study: 'Fraud behind two-thirds of pulled medical papers'

Surge in retracted findings linked to funding cuts

Security for virtualized datacentres

Medical boffins are rarely wrong when they publish in journals - but some are prepared to lie quite a lot, according to a new study on retracted scientific papers.

Previous studies have claimed that most papers are pulled from publication because there's some error in them, but this fresh investigation claims malpractice is actually responsible for two-thirds of all retractions.

Boffin misconduct includes copying others' findings and plagiarism, but fraud and suspected fraud are the biggest problem and that's increased ten-fold since 1975. For this new study, 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed that were retracted by 3 May, 2012 were reviewed.

The researchers aren't sure why so many scientists are now willing to steal their results, but the increasingly desperate competition for funding might have something to do with it.

Milking governments for cash for projects with no obvious monetary value has always been tough, but the global recession is making it worse - and it's feared some scientists have bent their findings to suit paymasters' agendas to guarantee funding.

"Scientists are human, and some of them will succumb to this pressure, especially when there's so much competition for funding," said Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology, immunology and medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

The academic, who is the senior author of the study, continued: "Perhaps our most telling finding is what happened after 2005, which is when the number of retractions began to skyrocket. That's exactly when National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding began to get very tight.

"What's troubling is that the more skilful the fraud, the less likely that it will be discovered, so there likely are more fraudulent papers out there that haven't yet been detected and retracted.

"Particularly if you get your papers accepted in certain journals, you're much more likely to get recognition, grants, prizes and better jobs or promotions. Biomedical research has become a winner-take-all game - one with perverse incentives that entice scientists to cut corners and, in some instances, falsify data or commit other acts of misconduct."

Previous studies took the word of the journals' retraction notices, which are written by the boffins who penned the pulled papers, for why the work was withdrawn. Prof Casadevall's study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at secondary sources such as the NIH Office of Research Integrity and Retractionwatch.com, which investigates scientific misconduct. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.