Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The rise in scientific retractions

Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal. ...

Why the backpedaling on more and more scientific research? Some scientific journals argue that the increase could indicate the journals have become better at detecting errors. They point to how software has made it easier to uncover plagiarism.

Others claim to find the cause in a more competitive landscape, both for the growing numbers of working scientific researchers who want to publish to advance their careers, and for research journals themselves. ...

Retractions related to fraud showed a more than sevenfold increase between 2004 and 2009, exceeding the twofold rise in retractions related to mere error, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The analyst, Grant Steen, reached that conclusion after studying 742 medicine and biology papers that were withdrawn from 2000 to 2010. He said 73.5% were retracted simply for error but 26.6% were retracted for fraud.
--Gautam Naik, WSJ, on crime and punishment in science