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Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications

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A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.
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Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted
scientic publications
Ferric C. Fang
a,b,1
, R. Grant Steen
c,1
, and Arturo Casadevall
d,1,2
Departments of
a
Laboratory Medicine and
b
Microbiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195;
c
MediCC! Medical
Communications Consultants, Chapel Hill, NC 27517; and
d
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461
Edited by Thomas Shenk, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved September 6, 2012 (received for review July 18, 2012)
A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research
articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed
that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast,
67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including
fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and
plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retrac-
tion announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the
role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of
scientic articles retracted because of fraud has increased 10-fold
since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic
patterns that may reveal underlying causes.
bibliometric analysis
|
biomedical publishing
|
ethics
|
research misconduct
The number and frequency of retracted publications are im-
portant indicators of the health of the scientic enterprise,
because retracted articles represent unequivocal evidence of
project failure, irrespective of the cause. Hence, retractions are
worthy of rigorous and systematic study. The retraction of awed
publications corrects the scientic literature and also provides
insights into the scientic process. However, the rising frequency
of retractions has recently elicited concern (1, 2). Studies of se-
lected retracted articles have suggested that error is more com-
mon than fraud as a cause of retraction (35) and that rates of
retraction correlate with journal-impact factor (6). We undertook
a comprehensive analysis of all retracted articles indexed by
PubMed to ascertain the validity of the earlier ndings. Retracted
articles were classied according to whether the cause of re-
traction was documented fraud (data falsication or fabrication),
suspected fraud, plagiarism, duplicate publication, error, un-
known, or other reasons (e.g., journal error, authorship dispute).
Results
Causes of Retraction. PubMed references more than 25 million
articles relating primarily to biomedical research published since
the 1940s. A comprehensive search of the PubMed database in
May 2012 identied 2,047 retracted articles, with the earliest
retracted article published in 1973 and retracted in 1977. Hence,
retraction is a relatively recent development in the biomedical
scientic literature, although retractable offenses are not neces-
sarily new. To understand the reasons for retraction, we consulted
reports from the Ofce of Research Integrity and other published
resources (7, 8), in addition to the retraction announcements in
scientic journals. Use of these additional sources of information
resulted in the reclassication of 118 of 742 (15.9%) retractions in
an earlier study (4) from error to fraud. A list of 158 articles for
which the cause of retraction was reclassied because of consul-
tation of secondary sources is provided in Table S1. For example,
a retraction announcement in Biochemical and Biophysical Re-
search Communications reported that results were derived from
experiments that were found to have aws in methodological
execution and data analysis,giving the impression of error (9).
However, an investigation of this article conducted by Harvard
University and reported to the Ofce of Research Integrity in-
dicated that many instances of data fabrication and falsica-
tion were found(10). In another example, a retraction notice
published by the authors of a manuscript in the Journal of Cell
Biology stated that In follow-up experiments ...wehave shown
that the lack of FOXO1a expression reported in gure 1 is not
correct(11). A subsequent report from the Ofce of Research
Integrity states that the rst author committed research mis-
conduct by knowingly and intentionally falsely reporting . . . that
FOXO1a was not expressed ...byselecting a specic FOXO1a
immunoblot to show the desired result(12). In contrast to earlier
studies, we found that the majority of retracted articles were
retracted because of some form of misconduct, with only 21.3%
retracted because of error. The most common reason for re-
traction was fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), with additional
articles retracted because of duplicate publication (14.2%) or
plagiarism (9.8%). Miscellaneous reasons or unknown causes
accounted for the remainder. Thus, for articles in which the
reason for retraction is known, three-quarters were retracted
because of misconduct or suspected misconduct, and only one-
quarter was retracted for error.
Temporal Trends. A marked recent rise in the frequency of re-
traction was conrmed (2, 13), but was not uniform among the
various causes of retraction (Fig. 1A). A discernible rise in re-
tractions because of fraud or error was rst evident in the 1990s,
with a subsequent dramatic rise in retractions attributable to
fraud occurring during the last decade. A more modest increase
in retractions because of error was observed, and increasing
retractions because of plagiarism and duplicate publication are
a recent phenomenon, seen only since 2005. The recent increase
in retractions for fraud cannot be attributed solely to an increase
in the number of research publications: retractions for fraud or
suspected fraud as a percentage of total articles have increased
nearly 10-fold since 1975 (Fig. 1B).
Geographic Origin and Impact Factor. Retracted articles were auth-
ored in 56 countries, and geographic origin was found to vary
according to the cause for retraction (Fig. 2). The United States,
Germany, Japan, and China accounted for three-quarters of
retractions because of fraud or suspected fraud. China and India
collectively accounted for more cases of plagiarism than the
United States, and duplicate publication exhibited a pattern sim-
ilar to that of plagiarism. The relationship between journal impact
factor and retraction rate was also found to vary with the cause of
retraction. Journal-impact factor showed a highly signicant cor-
relation with retractions because of fraud or error but not with
those because of plagiarism or duplicate publication (Fig. 3 AC).
Moreover, the mean impact factors of journals retracting articles
Author contributions: F.C.F., R.G.S., and A.C. designed research, performed research, an-
alyzed data, and wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
1
F.C.F., R.G.S., and A.C. contributed equally to this work.
2
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: arturo.casadevall@einstein.yu.
edu.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.
1073/pnas.1212247109/-/DCSupplemental.
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because of fraud or error differed signicantly from that of jour-
nals retracting articles because of plagiarism or duplicate publi-
cation. Accordingly, retractions for fraud or error and retractions
for plagiarism or duplicate publication were encountered in dis-
tinct subsets of journals, with differences in impact factor (Fig. 3D)
and limited overlap (Table 1).
Time-to-Retraction. The time interval between publication and
retraction varied according to the cause of retraction, with arti-
cles retracted because of fraud taking substantially longer to
retract (Table 2). A gradual trend toward increasing time-to-
retraction over time was detected (Fig. 4A). Journal-impact
factor did not correlate with time-to-retraction for manuscripts
retracted because of error, plagiarism, or duplicate publication,
but did exhibit a modest correlation for manuscripts retracted
because of fraud in high-impact journals, which tended to exhibit
a shorter time-to-retraction (Fig. 4B). A small number of authors
were responsible for multiple retractions. Thirty-eight research
groups with greater or equal to ve retractions accounted for
43.9% (n=390) of retractions for fraud or suspected fraud in the
modern biomedical literature (Fig. S1). Nearly all retracted
articles by authors with 10 or more retractions were retracted
because of fraud (Table S2). This nding is attributable to the
discovery of multiple fraudulent articles during the course of
investigation of a single instance of fraud. For example, the re-
traction of a 2010 Blood article by Sawada et al. (14) was fol-
lowed in rapid succession by the retraction of 30 additional
articles originating from the laboratory of Naoki Mori (Fig. S2).
Citation of Retracted Articles. Previous investigators have found
that many retracted articles continue to be cited as if still valid
work (15, 16), but others have documented an immediate effect
of retraction on citation frequency (17). Although we did not
examine this question comprehensively, we found considerable
variation among the most frequently cited retracted articles
(Table 3). Some retracted articles exhibited a rapid and sus-
tained decline in citations following retraction, but others have
continued to be cited (Fig. S3).
Discussion
In addition to conrming a recent rise in the incidence of re-
tractions, this study provides a number of additional insights.
Perhaps most signicantly, we nd that most retracted articles
result from misconduct, and nearly half of retractions are for
fraud or suspected fraud. In addition to a larger sample size
encompassing all retractions in the biomedical research litera-
ture, this study differs from some previous analyses in the use of
alternative sources of information, such as reports from the Ofce
Fig. 1. (A) Number of retracted articles for specic causes by year of re-
traction. (B) Percentage of published articles retracted for fraud or suspected
fraud by year of publication.
CB
A
noitacilbuPetacilpuDmsiraigalP
Fraud or Suspected Fraud
Fig. 2. Country of origin of publications retracted
for fraud or suspected fraud (A), plagiarism (B), or
duplicate publication (C).
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of Research Integrity, Retraction Watch, news media, and other
public records. The US Ofce of Research Integrity was formed
in 1992 and is charged with the oversight of misconduct allega-
tions involving federally sponsored research. As the consider-
ation of secondary sources led to changes in the perceived cause
of retraction in 158 instances (Table S1), we conclude that for
many retractions, the retraction notice is insufcient to ascertain
the true cause of a retraction.
We further note that not all articles suspected of fraud have
been retracted. The Lancet and British Medical Journal expressed
serious reservations about the validity of the Indo-Mediterra-
nean Diet Heart Study after the primary author was unable to
present original records to document ethics review and informed
consent (18, 19), yet the original articles have not been retracted
(20, 21). Several articles authored by Mark Spector when he was
working in the laboratory of Efraim Racker remain in the liter-
ature (22, 23), despite documentation that Spector committed
data fabrication (24). R. K. Chandra was found to have com-
mitted fraud in the performance of clinical trials, but only a single
article was retracted (25), even though considerable evidence was
obtained to suggest that other publications were also fraudulent
(26). Therefore, the current number of articles retracted because
of fraud represents an underestimation of the actual number of
fraudulent articles in the literature.
Although some retraction announcements are specic and
detailed, many are uninformative or opaque. In 119 instances, no
information regarding the reason for retraction was provided by
the journal. Announcements are often written by the authors of
the retracted article themselves (27), who may be understandably
reluctant to implicate themselves in misconduct. Furthermore, in-
vestigation of suspected misconduct is a lengthy process, and re-
traction notices are frequently made before the full results of in-
vestigations are available. Among 285 investigations concluded by
the Ofce of Research Integrity from 2001 to 2010, the length of
investigation averaged 20.48 mo in duration and ranged up to more
than 9 y (28). Policies regarding retraction announcements vary
widely among journals, and some, such as the Journal of Biological
Chemistry, routinely decline to provide any explanation for re-
traction. These factors have contributed to the systematic un-
derestimation of the role of misconduct and the overestimation of
the role of error in retractions (3, 4), and speak to the need for
uniform standards regarding retraction notices (5).
Differences in the temporal and geographic patterns of re-
traction according to cause (Figs. 1Aand 2) militate against
a simple explanation for retractions. One factor is the increased
detection of misconduct. The rst discernible increase in
retractions followed the formation of the Ofce of Scientic
Integrity (the predecessor of the Ofce of Research Integrity)
and passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989. The
recent increase in the incidence of retractions and the differing
patterns by region (Fig. 2) argue that incentives may vary with
the type of misconduct. Most articles retracted for fraud have
originated in countries with longstanding research traditions
(e.g., United States, Germany, Japan) and are particularly prob-
lematic for high-impact journals. In contrast, plagiarism and
duplicate publication often arise from countries that lack a
longstanding research tradition, and such infractions often are
associated with lower-impact journals (Fig. 3 and Table 1). A
highly signicant correlation was found between the journal-
impact factor and the number of retractions for fraud or sus-
pected fraud and error (Fig. 3 Aand B); the mean impact factor
was found to be signicantly higher for articles retracted for
fraud, suspected fraud, or error, compared with those retracted
for plagiarism or duplicate publication (Fig. 3D). An association
between impact factor and retraction for fraud or error has been
noted previously (4, 6, 29, 30). This nding may reect the
greater scrutiny accorded to articles in high-impact journals and
the greater uncertainty associated with cutting-edge research.
Alternatively, the disproportionately high payoffs to scientists for
publication in prestigious venues can be an incentive to perform
work with excessive haste (31) or to engage in unethical practices
(4). The modest correlation between impact factor and time-to-
retraction argues against an explanation based on increased
scrutiny alone, but the higher proportion of fraud in highly
AB
CD
Fraud or Suspected Fraud Error
Plagiarism or Duplicate Publication Mean IF by Cause
Fig. 3. Relation of journal-impact factor to retractions for fraud or suspected fraud, error, and plagiarism, or duplicate publication. Journal-impact factor showed
a highly signicant correlation with the number of retractions for fraud or suspected fraud (A)(n=889 a rticles in 324 journals, R
2
=0.08664, P<0.0001) and error (B)
(n=437 articles in 218 journals, R
2
=0.1142, P<0.0001), and a slight correlation with the number of retractions for plagiarism or duplicate publication (C)(n=490
articles in 357 journals, R
2
=0.01420, P=0.0243). The mean journal-impact factor of articles retracted because of fraud/suspected fraud or error was signicantly
different from that of papers retracted because of plagiarism or duplicate publication (D) (error bars ±SEM, P<0.0001).
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prestigious journals is consistent with the suggestion that the
benets of publishing in such venues are powerful incentives for
fraud (4, 6, 32). The 20 most highly cited retracted articles (Table
3) include no articles retracted for plagiarism or duplicate pub-
lication. Recent technological advances facilitating word pro-
cessing and access to electronic publications may have made
plagiarism easier to perform but have also facilitated its de-
tection (33). The impact of plagiarism and duplicate publication
on science is therefore limited; although these practices are to be
discouraged, the present study suggests that the reduction of
fraud and error should be a higher priority (32).
Our ndings conrm that retraction can cause a persistent
declineincitationrate(17),butanimmediateandsevere
decline in citations is not inevitable (Fig. S3). The Wakeeld
article in the Lancet (34) is a special case, given its sequential
partial and full retractions, extensive media attention, public
health import, and frequent citation as a source of controversy,
but it is less obvious why other retracted articles continue to be
cited. A PDF version of a 2001 Nature article by Makarova
et al. does not indicate that the article has been retracted, and
two authors disputed whether iron-containing impurities in-
validated the articles conclusions (35), which might contribute
to uncertainty as to whether the work remains valid (36). A
2005 Science article by Fukuhara et al. continues to be cited
even though both the HTML and PDF versions are clearly
marked as retracted, and the PDF version includes a copy of
the retraction notice (37). Many scientists continue to cite the
article by Fukuhara et al. for its initial identication of visfatin
as an adipocytokine, even though the article was retracted
because of concerns about the cytokines reported insulin mi-
metic properties (38). This practice suggests that under certain
circumstances, scientists continue to nd utility in retracted
articles, particularly those retracted because of error, and
supports a policy of continued access to retracted articles as
long as detailed descriptions regarding the reasons for re-
traction are provided.
The longer average time-to-retraction when articles are re-
tracted because of fraud (Table 2) corroborates earlier studies
based on limited datasets (4, 39), and may be attributable in part to
the lengthy investigative process required to establish misconduct.
The trend toward a longer average time-to-retraction for articles
retracted in recent years may reect a growing tendency for editors
to reach back further in time to retract articles. Recognition of
fraud can trigger a systematic review of an authors entire research
output, resulting in a cascade of retracted articles. The correlation
Table 1. Journals with most retracted articles
Journal
No. of
articles IF
Total
Science 70 32.45
Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences
69 10.47
The Journal of Biological Chemistry 54 5.12
Nature 44 36.24
Anesthesia & Analgesia 40 3.07
The Journal of Immunology 34 5.86
Blood 28 9.79
The Journal of Clinical Investigation 23 15.43
Cell 22 34.77
Biochemical and Biophysical Research
Communications
18 2.52
The New England Journal of Medicine 16 50.08
The EMBO Journal 15 8.83
Journal of Hazardous Materials 15 4.55
Molecular and Cellular Biology 15 5.77
Infection and Immunity 14 4.06
Fraud/suspected fraud
The Journal of Biological Chemistry 37 5.12
Anesthesia & Analgesia 33 3.07
Science 32 32.45
The Journal of Immunology 30 5.86
Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences
27 10.47
Blood 21 9.79
Nature 19 36.24
The Journal of Clinical Investigation 17 15.43
Cancer Research 16 8.16
Cell 13 34.77
Journal of Hazardous Materials 13 4.55
British Journal of Anaesthesia 11 3.85
The EMBO Journal 11 8.83
The New England Journal of Medicine 11 50.08
International Journal of Cancer 10 4.92
Molecular and Cellular Biology 10 5.77
Error
Science 37 32.45
Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences
36 10.47
Nature 25 36.24
Biochemical and Biophysical Research
Communications
7 2.52
Cell 7 34.77
The Journal of Biological Chemistry 7 5.12
Journal of Virology 7 5.32
The Lancet 6 33.80
Anesthesiology 5 5.19
Infection and Immunity 5 4.06
11 journals* 4*
Plagiarism/duplicate publication
Molecules and Cells 8 1.99
Phytotherapy Research 7 2.47
Biotechnology Advances 5 10.96
Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 5 1.50
Annals of the New York Academy
of Sciences
5 3.00
Journal of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatric Nursing
4 None
Archives of Iranian Medicine 4 0.97
Resuscitation 4 3.02
Clinical Rheumatology 4 1.72
The New England Journal of Medicine 4 50.08
Table 1. Cont.
Journal
No. of
articles IF
International Journal of Cardiology 4 4.11
Anesthesia & Analgesia 4 3.07
Biochemical and Biophysical Research
Communications
4 2.52
16 journals
3
IF, impact factor.
*Biochemistry,Blood,Contraception,The EMBO Journal,Journal of the
American Chemical Society,The Journal of Clinical Investigation,Journal
of Ethnopharmacology,The Journal of Immunology, Molecular and Cellular
Biology,Neurology,andPlant Physiology.
Blood,Cardiovascular Research,Croatian Medical Journal,Current Eye Re-
search,European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry,FEMS Immunology &
Medical Microbiology,Journal of Cellular Physiology,Journal of Clinical On-
cology,Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research,Journal of Med-
ical Primatology,Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association,Langmuir,
Neurosurgery,Transplant Proceedings,Viral Immunology, and Yonsei Med-
ical Journal.
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between time-to-retraction and impact factor (Fig. 4B)suggests
that the greater visibility and enhanced scrutiny of high-impact
journals may contribute to more rapid retraction of fraudulent
papers by these journals, although the effect appears to be
quite modest.
Most articles by authors with large numbers of retractions (Table
S2) were retracted because of misconduct, and these include some
of the most notorious cases in the history of research ethics. The
Mori case (Fig. S2) demonstrates that fraudulent articles can go
undetected for many years. Such cases may be revealed only for-
tuitously when exposed by an attentive reviewer or whistleblower
(40). Twelve of Moris retracted articles had been in the literature
for 5 y or more, demonstrating that the impact of serial retractions
on the average time-to-retraction can be substantial.
In conclusion, a comprehensive review of 2,047 articles re-
tracted from the biomedical literature reveals that misconduct has
played a more prominent role than previously appreciated. Our
ndings underscore the importance of vigilance by reviewers,
editors, and readers, and investigations by institutions, govern-
ment agencies, and journalists in identifying and documenting
research misconduct. Furthermore, our ndings suggest a need for
increased attention to ethics in the training of scientists. However,
this attention alone is unlikely to be successful in curbing poor
research practices.
The rise in the rate of retractions raises concern about the
health of the scientic enterprise itself (32). Although articles
retracted because of fraud represent a very small percentage of
the scientic literature (Fig. 1B), it is important to recognize
that: (i) only a fraction of fraudulent articles are retracted; (ii)
there are other more common sources of unreliability in the
literature (4144); (iii) misconduct risks damaging the credibility
of science; and (iv) fraud may be a sign of underlying counter-
productive incentives that inuence scientists (45, 46). A better
Fig. 4. (A) Time-to-retraction as a function of year of retraction. R
2
=
0.1236, P=0.0414. (B) Time-to-retraction as a function of impact factor.
Journal-impact factor correlated inversely with time-to-retraction for arti-
cles retracted because of fraud (n=697, R
2
=0.01441, P=0.0015) but not
other causes.
Table 2. Mean time-to-retraction by category
Cause of retraction n
Months to retract
(Mean) SD
All causes* 2,047 32.9 34.2
Fraud (fabrication/falsication) 697 46.8 38.4
Suspected fraud 192 29.4 30.0
Plagiarism 200 26.0 32.6
Duplicate publication 290 27.0 30.1
Error 437 26.0 28.0
Other 108 19.8 31.1
Unknown 182 22.1 25.4
*Some articles fall into more than one category.
Table 3. Most cited retracted articles
First author Journal Year published Year retracted Times cited* Reason for retraction
Wakeeld Lancet 1998 2004; 2010 758 Fraud
Reyes Blood 2001 2009 740 Error
Fukuhara Science 2005 2007 686 Error
Nakao Lancet 2003 2009 626 Fraud
Chang Science 2001 2006 512 Error
Kugler Nature Medicine 2000 2003 494 Fraud
Rubio Cancer Research 2005 2010 457 Error
Gowen Science 1998 2003 395 Fraud
Makarova Nature 2001 2006 375 Error
Hwang Science 2004 2006 368 Fraud
Potti The New England Journal of Medicine 2006 2011 361 Fraud
Brugger The New England Journal of Medicine 1995 2001 336 Fraud
Van Parijs Immunity 1999 2009 330 Fraud
Potti Nature Medicine 2006 2011 328 Fraud
Schön Science 2000 2002 297 Fraud
Chiu Nature 2005 2010 281 Error
Cooper Science 1997 2005 264 Fraud
Le Page Cell 2000 2005 262 Error
Kawasaki Nature 2004 2006 243 Fraud
Hwang Science 2005 2006 234 Error
*As of June 22, 2012.
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understanding of retracted publications can inform efforts to
reduce misconduct and error in science.
Given that most scientic work is publicly funded and that
retractions because of misconduct undermine science and its
impact on society, the surge of retractions suggests a need to
reevaluate the incentives driving this phenomenon. We have
previously argued that increased retractions and ethical breaches
may result, at least in part, from the incentive system of science,
which is based on a winner-takes-all economics that confers
disproportionate rewards to winners in the form of grants, jobs,
and prizes at a time of research funding scarcity (32, 46, 47). We
have also proposed a set of reforms to strengthen the scientic
enterprise, ranging from improved training of scientists to the
identication of mechanisms to provide more consistent funding
for science (32, 46). Solutions to address the specic problem of
retractions may include the increased use of checklists by authors
and reviewers, improved training in logic, probability and statis-
tics, an enhanced focus on ethics, the formation of a centralized
database of scientic misconduct, the establishment of uniform
guidelines for retractions and retraction notices, and the devel-
opment of novel reward systems for science (32). Dedicated
national agencies, such as the US Ofce for Research Integrity,
can play an invaluable role in supporting and overseeing in-
stitutional investigations of alleged misconduct. We hope that the
present study will prompt discussion among scientists and the
society they serve to nd measures to improve the quality and
reliability of the scientic literature.
Methods
The database used for this study was compiled from a search of all articles
indexed by PubMed as retracted publications in English on May 3, 2012.
Articles were classied according to cause of retraction as fraud, suspected
fraud, error, plagiarism, duplicate publication, other, or unknown on the
basis of retraction announcements. In addition, retracted articles were cross-
checked against the annual reports of the Ofce of Research Integrity. An
internet search using the Google search engine was performed to seek ad-
ditional information regarding retracted articles for which the reason for
retraction remained unclear, and included Retraction Watch, news media,
and other public records. In one case, an author was contacted to clarify
a published retraction notice. Each classication decision was independently
reviewed by all authors and any discrepancies were resolved. Impact factors
were based on the 2011 edition of Journal Citation Reports Science Edition
(Thomson Reuters, released June 28, 2012) (48), and 5-y impact factors were
used when available. In one case (Acta Crystallographica A), the 2011 impact
factor (2.076) was used instead of the 5-y impact factor (30.646), because the
latter was felt to be anomalous. Journals without an impact factor were
assigned a value of 0.1. Statistical analyses were performed using Prism
(GraphPad Software).
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MEDICAL SCIENCES
... The immediate consequence of proven misconduct in published works is retraction from journal with its domino effects on all other works that cited the retracted literature (13). The impact on the global scienti c enterprise includes wastage of scarce research dollars, loss of public trust on the research ndings, and misinformed health policies that could be harmful to the public. ...
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Background Research misconduct is often defined as fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. Its occurrence is associated with individual, institutional, national and global factors. Researcher perceptions of weak or non-existent institutional guidelines on prevention and management of research misconduct encourage these practices. Few countries in Africa have clear guidance on research misconduct. In Kenya, the capacity to prevent or manage research misconduct in academic and research institutions has not been assessed. The objective of this study was to explore the perceptions of Kenyan research regulators on the occurrence of and institutional capacity to prevent or manage research misconduct. Methods Key informant interviews with open-ended questions were conducted with 27 research regulators (chairs and secretaries of ethics committees, research directors of academic and research institutions, and national regulatory bodies). Among other questions to explore their perceptions on occurrence of research misconduct and existing institutional capacity to prevent or manage research misconduct, participants were asked: (1) How common is research misconduct in your view? (2) Does your institution have capacity to Prevent research misconduct? (3) Does your institution have capacity to manage research misconduct?. Their responses were audiotaped, transcribed and coded using NVivo software. Deductive coding covered predefined themes including occurrence, prevention detection, investigation and management of research misconduct and illustrative quotes were identified. Results Respondents perceived research misconduct to be very common among students. Their responses suggested there was no dedicated capacity to prevent or manage research misconduct at the institutional and national levels. The national research regulator had no specific guidelines on research misconduct. At the institutional level, the only capacity / efforts mentioned were directed at reducing, detecting and managing student plagiarism. There was no direct mention of capacity to manage fabrication and falsification or misconduct by non-student researchers. Conclusions and Recommendations Our respondents perceived research misconduct to be common mostly pointing to student plagiarism but not by non-student researchers. Additionally, fabrication and falsification were not mentioned among the concerns. We recommend development of Kenya guidelines, at national and institutional levels, on research misconduct in all its nuances, addressing all potential perpetrators and underpinned by relevant laws.
... Manipulation and duplication of data to inflate academic records is a desperate and shameless act, and it truly represents scientific misconduct and fraud. Unfortunately, there is a general trend with an increase in misconduct in research [13], which ultimately account for the majority of withdrawals in modern scientific publications [20]. I would like to believe that even good people could do bad things when extreme pressure is received. ...
Article
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Background: Today, scientists and academic researchers experience an enormous pressure to publish innovative and ground-breaking results in prestigious journals. This pressure may blight the general view concept of how scientific research needs to be done in terms of the general rules of transparency; duplication of data, and co-authorship rights might be compromised. As such, misconduct acts may occur more frequently than foreseen, as frequently these experiences are not openly shared or discussed among researchers. Main body: While there are some concerns about the health and the transparency implications of such normalised pressure practices imposed on researchers in scientific research, there is a general acceptance that researchers must take and accept it in order to survive in the competitive world of science. This is even more the case for junior and mid-senior researchers who have recently started their adventure into the universe of independent researchers. Only the slightest fraction manages to endure, after many years of furious and cruel rivalry, to obtain a long-term, and even less probable, permanent position. There is an evil circle; excellent records of good publications are needed in order to obtain research funding, but how to produce pioneering research during these first years without funding? Many may argue this is a necessary process to ensure good quality scientific investigation, possibly, but perseverance and resilience may not be the only values needed when rejection is received consecutively for years. Conclusion: There is a general culture that scientists rarely share previous bad experiences, in particular if they were associated to misconduct, as they may not be seen or considered as a relevant or hot topic to the scientific community readers. On next, a recent misconduct experience is shared, and a few additional reflections and suggestions on this topic were drafted in the hope other researchers might be spared unnecessary and unpleasant times.
... Doubts have been raised about the methodological rigour of psychology and the social sciences, evidenced by the numbered documented errors in the scientific literature (Casadevall & Fang, 2012). A common source of these errors is problems in statistical inference-making. ...
... The main reason for the retraction of publications in the biomedical field is scientific misconduct, which represents more than 67% of the causes of retractions, including fraud or suspected fraud (i.e., data fabrication and/or falsification of the data), duplicate publication, and plagiarism (8). ...
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Scientific fraud represents, to varying degrees, an increasingly important part of medical literature and is estimated to make up nearly 20% of this literature. The increase in the number of articles accessible in preprint without peer review during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the accessibility of fraudulent articles. In recent years, the viral increase in the number of predatory journals has contributed to polluting the scientific literature with articles whose content is unverifiable. Given the international nature of biomedical research, there is an urgent need to define unequivocally what is considered scientific fraud. In order to counter scientific misconduct, national and supranational procedures should be implemented to inform researchers at the beginning of their medical and biomedical training. Ethics commissions should implement local procedures for monitoring ongoing research. Finally, the fight against predatory journals requires information for researchers and the availability of tools to identify these journals.
... The analysis of retractions from the biomedical literature has been previously reported [11,12], and it is widely noted that the occurrence of retraction continues to be on the rise [13]. In fact, analysis by Fang and colleagues in 2012 further showed that about two-thirds of retractions in PubMed-indexed biomedical and life sciences publications could be attributed to some form of scientific misconduct [14]. We sought to understand how the retraction rate of life and medical sciences may have changed with the onset and duration of the global COVID-19 pandemic. ...
Article
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The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to all human endeavors, and scientific research has not been spared. We queried how the retraction of publications might have been affected during the pandemic years 2020–2021. Searches performed with Retraction Watch Database (RWD) revealed that the total number of retractions (as proxied by retraction-related notices) rose steadily from 2013 into the pandemic years 2020–2021. Interestingly, while retractions in the physical and social sciences tapered during 2020–2021, those of the basic life sciences and health sciences showed robust increases in 2020, with the former maintaining a steep rise in 2021. This rise in retractions belied a tapering of total relevant publications in the same year and is confirmed with a complementary search strategy in Scopus. The retraction rate in the medical sciences, particularly those relating to infectious disease, is clearly affected by the anomalous high retraction rate of COVID-19-related papers. However, the sustained increase in the retraction rate of the basic life sciences papers, could be due, at least partly, to retraction spikes in several journals. The rise in retractions in the life and medical sciences could be attributed to heightened post-publication peer review of papers in online platforms such as PubPeer, where numerous problematic papers have been revealed.
Article
Publication pressure has been touted to promote questionable research practices (QRP) and scientific or research misconduct (RM). However, logically attractively as it is, there is no unequivocal evidence for this notion, and empirical studies have produced conflicting results. Other than difficulties in obtaining unbiased empirical data, a direct causal relationship between perceived publication pressure (PPP) and QRP/RM is inherently difficult to establish, because the former is a complex biopsychosocial construct that is variedly influenced by multiple personal and environmental factors. To effectively address QRP/RM by tackling the sources of PPP would also be difficult because of the competitive nature of the reward and merit system of contemporary science. We might do better with efforts in enhancing knowledge in research ethics and integrity among the practitioners, as well as institutional infrastructures and mechanisms to fairly and efficiently adjudicate cases of QRP/RM.
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Concern over social scientists’ inability to reproduce empirical research has spawned a vast and rapidly growing literature. The size and growth of this literature make it difficult for newly interested academics to come up to speed. Here, we provide a formal text modeling approach to characterize the entirety of the field, which allows us to summarize the breadth of this literature and identify core themes. We construct and analyze text networks built from 1,947 articles to reveal differences across social science disciplines within the body of reproducibility publications and to discuss the diversity of subtopics addressed in the literature. This field-wide view suggests that reproducibility is a heterogeneous problem with multiple sources for errors and strategies for solutions, a finding that is somewhat at odds with calls for largely passive remedies reliant on open science. We propose an alternative rigor and reproducibility model that takes an active approach to rigor prior to publication, which may overcome some of the shortfalls of the postpublication model.
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The rapid emergence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in south Asian people is not explained by conventional risk factors. In view of cardioprotective effects of a Mediterranean style diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid, we assessed the benefits of this diet for patients at high risk of CAD. METHODS: We did a randomised, single-blind trial in 1000 patients with angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, or surrogate risk factors for CAD. 499 patients were allocated to a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, walnuts, and almonds. 501 controls consumed a local diet similar to the step I National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) prudent diet. FINDINGS: The intervention group consumed more fruits, vegetables, legumes, walnuts, and almonds than did controls (573 g [SD 127] vs 231 g [19] per day p<0.001). The intervention group had an increased intake of whole grains and mustard or soy bean oil. The mean intake of alpha-linolenic acid was two-fold greater in the intervention group (1.8 g [SD 0.4] vs 0.8 g [0.2] per day, p<0.001). Total cardiac end points were significantly fewer in the intervention group than the controls (39 vs 76 events, p<0.001). Sudden cardiac deaths were also reduced (6 vs 16, p=0.015), as were non-fatal myocardial infarctions (21 vs 43, p<0.001). We noted a significant reduction in serum cholesterol concentration and other risk factors in both groups, but especially in the intervention diet group. In the treatment group, patients with pre-existing CAD had significantly greater benefits compared with such patients in the control group. INTERPRETATION: An Indo-Mediterranean diet that is rich in alpha-linolenic acid might be more effective in primary and secondary prevention of CAD than the conventional step I NCEP prudent diet.
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C. Glenn Begley and Lee M. Ellis propose how methods, publications and incentives must change if patients are to benefit.
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Little is known about the ultimate scientific fate of retracted, invalid literature. We identified 82 completely retracted articles by electronic and manual methods and measured their subsequent use in the scientific literature by performing citation analysis. After retraction, these studies were cited, for support of scientific concepts, 733 times. Comparison with a control group revealed that retraction reduces subsequent citation by approximately 35%. There was no evidence that small, obscure journals, non-US journals, or non-US authors were disproportionately responsible for these citations. Although, after retraction, US authors accounted for a smaller percentage of citations, they continued to be the single greatest source. Several possible reasons why invalid information continues to be used were identified. These included a dearth of available information on retracted works; inconsistency in retraction format, terminology, and indexing; and an apparent lack of sufficient attention to manuscripts by some authors and editors. (JAMA. 1990;263:1420-1423)
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â–º We analyze the universe of peer-reviewed scientific articles retracted from the biomedical literature between 1972 and 2006 to identify the correlates, timing, and implications of retraction. â–º Relative to a matched control sample, we find that key predictors of retraction are those related to article prominence, including early citation and author institution status. â–º The system of retraction appears expeditious (the mean time to retraction for articles that are retracted in our sample is less than two years) and democratic (retraction timing is not systematically affected by author prominence). â–º Most significantly, retraction causes an immediate, severe, and long-lived decline in future citations.
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Intense competition among scientists has led to abuses. Is there a better way?
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HIGHLIGHT Top journals always brag their so-called "high" impact factors. However, do they confess that they also publish more retractions than any other journals with low impact factors? What do the extremely high retraction rates mean? ABSTRACT Top journals often use the highly exaggerated and even flawed values of the impact factors to boost their circulations among readers and increase their attractions to authors. This commercial strategy apparently worked very well because many scientific administrators have now used the place (journals) of publication as a criterion for evaluating the value of the publication. However, from a historical and objective perspective, top journals' high-profile publications often stand low in comparing with those truly ground-breaking and thus not "trendy" papers in the then "cold" or even ignored fields. More ironically, many such truly great papers were initially rejected by the top journals. In contrast, many "hot" and "trendy" papers published by top journals actually ended up with "spectacular" retractions. Thus, while top journals emphasize their impact factors they should realize that their impacts are double-sided. They should also confess to the world that they are also the world leaders in publishing retractions.
Article
Research misconduct-fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism-is an insidious problem in the scientific community today with the capacity to harm science, scientists, and the public. Federal agencies require that research trainees complete a course designed to deter such behavior, but the author could find no evidence to suggest that this effort has been effective. In fact, research shows that most cases of misconduct continue to go unreported.The author conducted a detailed examination of 146 individual Office of Research Integrity reports from 1992 to 2003 and determined that these acts of misconduct were the results of individual psychological traits and the circumstances in which the researchers found themselves. Therefore, a course in research misconduct, such as is now federally mandated, should not be expected to have a significant effect. However, a course developed specifically for support staff, who currently do not receive such training, might prove effective.Improving the quality of mentoring is essential to meaningfully deal with this issue. Therefore, the quality of mentorship should be a factor in the evaluation of training grants for funding. In addition, mentors should share responsibility for their trainees' published work. The whistleblower can also play a significant role in this effort. However, the potential whistleblower is deterred by a realistic fear of retaliation. Therefore, institutions must establish policies that acknowledge the whistleblower's contribution to the integrity of science and provide truly effective protection from retaliation. An increase in whistleblowing activity would provide greater, earlier exposure of misconduct and serve as a deterrent.