Publish and perish: Scientific fraud on the rise

ACSH often reports on junk studies that employ dubious statistical methods including our favorites: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and data-dredging in order to produce valid-appearing studies crafted to yield predetermined results. But it seems like some researchers are actually engaging in not just junk science, but conscious fraud.

A report published last year in the journal Nature found a tenfold increase in the number of retractions of scientific papers in the last decade, and the alarming figure caught the attention of two microbiologists, Dr. Arturo Casadevall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Dr. Ferric C. Fang of the University of Washington, who decided to investigate this matter more closely. For their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these two scientists collaborated with a medical communications consultant and looked at all retracted studies for the decade preceding May 2012. After digging through each and every one, they ultimately reclassified 158 papers as fraudulent, meaning they were published based on intentionally falsified data.

Such findings convinced the authors that there is a problem in science, specifically the mounting pressure that researchers face to get published so that they can continue to receive grant funding or become eligible for academic promotion. We see these ridiculous studies which are vaguely based on science, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, and have to wonder how far the researchers may have gone to manipulate the data just to get published and keep their jobs or promote their agendas.

Replication, too, is part of the problem, adds ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. It is possible that other scientists will use these falsified studies to conduct further research, which is ultimately a huge waste of time and resources.