Saturday, September 28, 2013

Scientific Research Fraud is on the Rise--Especially in China

In accounting research, we had the first retraction in decades in the past year. Soon after the retraction, evidence was provided suggesting that the retracted article reported some very suspicious claims that were essentially impossible. The author(s) never provided a rebuttal to the claims and the author who claimed to obtain the amazing data for the article suddenly retired and is reportedly very hard (or impossible) to contact. While the retraction never stated that the article was a fraud, it all seems very suspicious...

In the harder sciences, The Economist reported this week that there has recently been a sudden uptick in fraudulent scientific research, especially in China. Here is a taste of the article:
As China tries to take its seat at the top table of global academia, the criminal underworld has seized on a feature in its research system: the fact that research grants and promotions are awarded on the basis of the number of articles published, not on the quality of the original research. This has fostered an industry of plagiarism, invented research and fake journals that Wuhan University estimated in 2009 was worth $150m, a fivefold increase on just two years earlier. Chinese scientists are still rewarded for doing good research, and the number of high-quality researchers is increasing. Scientists all round the world also commit fraud. But the Chinese evaluation system is particularly susceptible to it.
The rest of the short article is worth reading too...

Overall, I think it's safe to say that the scientific community needs to do a better job of preventing and detecting fraudulent research. I know that in the accounting community, many of the journals are thinking of ways to do that. For example, the retracted article was based on data that only one coauthor could verify. When others tried to verify the data, the author stated that he had a confidentiality agreement that even precluded a journal editor from verifying the source of the data. I personally don't think science should be based on data that only one person is able to verify.

1 comment:

  1. The practice of fabricating research results in order to win research funding is not restricted to China. I have been struggling to expose a very serious case in the UK that may have cost lives for the last nine years.
    Initially I strove for a discrete solution that would protect the good name of British science. But nobody in the science establishment wanted to know. So, with a heavy heart I have published the evidence online at