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Misconduct, Not Error, Is the Main Cause of Scientific Retractions 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the fake-data-looks-much-better-than-real-data dept.
ananyo writes "One of the largest-ever studies of retractions has found that two-thirds of retracted life-sciences papers were stricken from the scientific record because of misconduct such as fraud or suspected fraud — and that journals sometimes soft-pedal the reason. The study contradicts the conventional view that most retractions of papers in scientific journals are triggered by unintentional errors. The survey examined all 2,047 articles in the PubMed database that had been marked as retracted by 3 May this year. But rather than taking journals' retraction notices at face value, as previous analyses have done, the study used secondary sources to pin down the reasons for retraction if the notices were incomplete or vague. The analysis revealed that fraud or suspected fraud was responsible for 43% of the retractions. Other types of misconduct — duplicate publication and plagiarism — accounted for 14% and 10% of retractions, respectively. Only 21% of the papers were retracted because of error (abstract)."
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Misconduct, Not Error, Is the Main Cause of Scientific Retractions

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  • Just stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UnresolvedExternal (665288) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:13PM (#41528617) Journal
    What surprises me is that these scientists actually weigh the risk reward in favour of damn lies. Fifteen minutes of fame then a dead career.
  • by spikenerd (642677) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:21PM (#41528731)

    ...The academic community needs to find another metric for researcher quality other than papers published...

    such as?

    Number of citations? No, it would take a 30-year probationary period before the trend was reliable.
    Have experts evaluate your efforts? No, that would require extra effort on the part of expensive tenured experts.
    Roll some dice? Hmm, maybe that could work.

  • And that's why.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:25PM (#41528775) Journal

    this [] is a bad idea.

  • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:35PM (#41528911)

    Journals don't only publish papers reporting "positive results," whatever that may be. Even if your study comes out a way you didn't expect, if you did it right, you should still be able to get it published. There's something beyond publish or perish that is at work here.

    That's what you might think, but getting (most) journals to publish negative results is very difficult.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @02:37PM (#41528939)

    Journals don't only publish papers reporting "positive results," whatever that may be

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahaha... ha... oh, oh I'm sorry, but that's funny.

    Yes. Journals have a very long history of not publishing 'negative results'. (id est: "We tested to see if X happened under situation Y, but no it doesn't.") Mostly because it's not 'interesting'.

    If you want a good example of this, check out the medical field, where the studies which don't pan out aren't published, the ones which do are, leading to severely misleading clinical data [], and it leads to problematic results.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:54PM (#41530729)

    How about calculated gross earnings of the students you have taught? Of course that puts a value on teaching, which is something being discouraged for tenured faculty (which I obviously don't agree with).

    That would also make it in new professors' best interests to not teach the intro level courses where much of the class will change majors and doesn't want to be there in the first place. They'll instead focus on the upper level courses where the weak links have been weeded out.

    Guess which courses new faculty get stuck doing now? That would be rewarding the really weaselly ones who were able to skip the hard work.

    Furthermore, the students don't care about quality teachers, or else they'd be going to smaller schools known more for teaching than for research grants. They're voting with their wallets for schools where research is valued more than instruction. So your solution is lacking a problem, at least according to the teachers and students of such schools.

  • by Aardpig (622459) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @05:18PM (#41531097)

    The REAL peers are the folks doing work in the profession day in and day out.

    As an astrophysicist in a research University, I'd like to know where these REAL peers are. I thought I was the expert, but now you tell me there's someone working hard at an astrophysics day job — so hard, in fact, they're too busy to review the papers I write while quaffing champagne by the bucket-load in the penthouse suite of my ivory tower.

    I'm all ears.

COBOL is for morons. -- E.W. Dijkstra