Misconduct, Not Error is Main Cause of Life-Sciences Retractions

A study, the largest of its kind published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that after a detailed review of biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 reveals that only 21.3% of articles were retracted due to errors.  The remainder were attributable to misconduct, including fraud, duplicate publication and/or plagiarism.

The percentage of articles retracted has increased 10-fold since 1975.

And people wonder why there is so much skepticism regarding science in general.  Science, as well as philosophy is supposed to be a form of searching for truth and has yielded many spectacular results. But where greed and a sociopathic disregard for the truth comes into play, everyone loses.

When someone does this kind of thing, you would hope that their career would be damaged for a very long time.

The full text is behind a paywall at pnas.org.

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this has been a fascinating issue that has been studied a lot in the US.

I'll try to find some of the reports on this that have been published.

The issue with life-sciences etc. is that sometimes the ability to duplicate work (part of peer-review, checking results etc.) is really expensive. Some studies go for years. etc.

The ability to check and reproduce is not there for many. Obviously many results can be repeated in many cases.

The question is also:  even if it is not too expensive to check... still a sizable source of funds (effort/time as well) has to be available to reproduce the stuff. No one funds the reruns. Imagine putting in grants just to check someone else's work.....  NSF, NIH etc. really do not have that big a budget.

there is fortunately software now that is actually pretty good at spotting things which are possibly an issue.

Just having that is a deterrent.

getting caught is a career breaker. usually forever.

Honesty is in short supply these days - I remember when we were weaned on things like " Our integrity is an omen of our destiny , the more we have and keep , the simpler and nobler our destiny is bound to be'' or the famous " Father I cannot lie'' and a lot of others.


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