Nature 566, 9 (2019)
Here is an excerpt:
Some might argue that my efforts are inconsequential, and that the publication of potentially fraudulent papers in low-impact journals doesn’t matter. In my view, we can’t afford to accept this argument. Such papers claim to uncover mechanisms behind a swathe of cancers and rare diseases. They could derail efforts to identify easily measurable biomarkers for use in predicting disease outcomes or whether a drug will work. Anyone trying to build on any aspect of this sort of work would be wasting time, specimens and grant money. Yet, when I have raised the issue, I have had comments such as “ah yes, you’re working on that fraud business”, almost as a way of closing down discussion. Occasionally, people’s reactions suggest that ferreting out problems in the literature is a frivolous activity, done for personal amusement, or that it is vindictive, pursued to bring down papers and their authors.
Why is there such enthusiasm for talking about faulty research practices, yet such reluctance to discuss deliberate deception? An analysis of the Diederik Stapel fraud case that rocked the psychology community in 2011 has given me some ideas (W. Stroebe et al. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 7, 670–688; 2012). Fraud departs from community norms, so scientists do not want to think about it, let alone talk about it. It is even more uncomfortable to think about organized fraud that is so frequently associated with one country. This becomes a vicious cycle: because fraud is not discussed, people don’t learn about it, so they don’t consider it, or they think it’s so rare that it’s unlikely to affect them, and so papers are less likely to come under scrutiny. Thinking and talking about systematic fraud is essential to solving this problem. Raising awareness and the risk of detection may well prompt new ways to identify papers produced by systematic fraud.
Last year, China announced sweeping plans to curb research misconduct. That’s a great first step. Next should be a review of publication quotas and cash rewards, and the closure of ‘paper factories’.
The info is here.