Fraud in Scientific Literature Appears Intentional

Characteristics of articles retracted for fraud versus error suggest deliberate effort

THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Scientific papers retracted after publication due to fraudulent data represent a calculated, deliberate effort to deceive, according to research published online Nov. 15 in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

R. Grant Steen, Ph.D., of Medical Communications Consultants in Chapel Hill, N.C., studied all 788 English language research papers retracted from the PubMed database between 2000 and 2010. The reasons for retraction were obtained from the retraction notice and characterized as either fraud or error.

Compared to the rest of the world, the researchers found that the papers from the United States contained significantly more fraud than error. Fraudulent papers were more likely to have been published in a journal with a high impact factor than were erroneous papers, and there were more "repeat offenders" -- first authors already having had another paper retracted -- among the authors of fraudulent papers (53 percent) than the authors of erroneous papers (18 percent). Fraudulent papers had a significantly higher number of authors than did erroneous papers, and the retraction process was significantly slower for fraudulent papers than for erroneous papers.

"This study reports evidence consistent with the 'deliberate fraud' hypothesis: authors of fraudulent retracted papers appear to target journals with a high impact factor, often have several other retracted papers, tend to diffuse responsibility across [at least] four co-authors, delay retracting fraudulent papers, and collaborate with co-authors who also have other retracted papers," the author concludes.

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