Sad, this is.
And retractions don’t always mention when data’s fraudulent (43% of the time, in fact).
A number of studies have spotted a worrisome trend: although the number of scientific journals and articles published is increasing each year, the rate of papers being retracted as invalid is increasing even faster. Some of these are being retracted due to obvious ethical lapses—fraudulent data or plagiarism—but some past studies have suggested errors and technical problems were the cause of the majority of problems. (…) The authors find that, since 1975, the rate of retracted articles as a percent of total publications has increased nearly tenfold. Duplicate publications and plagiarism, which didn’t use to be a significant problem, have boomed since 2005. And while retractions due to errors have increased, those due to fraud have increased much faster.
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Patterns of deceit
When it comes to fraud, the traditional research powers are leading the way. The US has the largest number of cases, followed by Germany and Japan. But things like plagiarism and duplicating publications are quite different, with China being a major player, and India having a large presence. These sorts of copying problems are rare in high-profile journals like Nature and Science. Instead, there was a strong correlation between the incidence of fraud and the prominence of the journal, as measured by its impact factor.
The authors suggest that the increasing levels of fraud may come from “the incentive system of science, which is based on a winner-takes-all economics that confers disproportionate rewards to winners in the form of grants, jobs, and prizes at a time of research funding scarcity.” That could certainly explain its prevalence in the US, where competition for grant money has become increasingly fierce in a way that roughly parallels the rising rates of fraud.
Phi Beta Iota: Fraud is sand in the gears of progress, security, prosperity. Name the domain, and fraud appears to be 50% of the problem. This is why transparency and openness are a good starting point in eliminating fraud–fraud proliferates in closed elitist systems that stifle open review. Fraud is worst within systems that are rooted in secrecy (not just secret intelligence, but weapons acquisition and economic decision-making). An Open Source Agency, promoting all the opens, would help bring education, intelligence, and research into a 21st Century configuration supportive of ethical evidence-based decision-making — a Smart Nation.