Blatant misconduct

Publish or perish!

That’s more or less how it works, and how it probably needs to be. But sometimes it has humorous consequences. A retraction was just published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research. I quote it in full (except the references):

The corresponding author submitted this article [1] to Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research although this article had been accepted and previously published by Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharmaceuticals [2]. The article was also received and subsequently accepted and published by Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids [3]. Since it has been brought to the attention of all authors that duplicate submission and publication have taken place the decision has been made to retract the article published in Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research. The authors are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused to the editorial staff and readers.

Amazingly, these people seem to have published the same article three times, but with different titles and wildly different author lists. And they would probably have gotten away with it if somebody hadn’t noticed and started making trouble over it.

Notice that their retraction contains no admission of actually doing anything wrong! They apologise for causing inconvinence by their retraction, but not for the actual multiple publication. Could it be that there are quarters where this sort of behaviour is accepted – or, perhaps, even encouraged?

I have always believed that fabrication and plagiarism are more widespread than reported. My guess is that about 15-20% of scientific papers contain deliberate fabrication or plagiarism, and at least 80% of the rest contain subtle omissions, “dressing up” of data, manipulation of images, changes of outcome criteria, and other dubious practices.

What to do?

I don’t know. Open online lab books might be a solution, although they are hard to reconcile with the need, in some cases, for secrecy. In the mean time, we must continue to doubt everything we read.

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One Response to Blatant misconduct

  1. A says:

    They ought to be ashamed of themselves! I’d like to know what work has actually been done and by whom, ie which of the three submissions is the most accurate one?

    Fabrication, plagiarism, cheating- it’s all very worrisome. I read about the STAN study yesterday. The truth will inevitably be revealed.

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