A compilation of articles regarding Research Misconduct issues. 

Research Misconduct News

‘Honorary authors’ of scientific papers abound—but they probably shouldn’t

Up to one-third of authors don’t meet criteria for adding their name to a paper, study finds

September 28, 2022
By Jeffrey Brainard

It’s a practice that makes some scientists cringe: The lead author of a paper pays homage to a department chair, or a colleague who helped secure a grant, by listing them among the manuscript’s authors—even though the person made no intellectual contribution to the paper. Such “honorary authorship” is discouraged by many journals, publishing industry groups, and universities, who say it undermines the integrity of scientific literature.

Despite such disapproval, however, honorary authors appear to be common, a new study concludes. Up to one-third of more than 600,000 authors examined by the study appear to have been granted authorship even though they didn’t meet some commonly used criteria.


Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: recommendations from the RISRS report


September 19, 2022
BMC Part of Springer Nature: Research Integrity and Peer Review
By Jodi Schneider, Nathan D. Woods, Randi Proescholdt, & the RISRS Team

Retraction is a mechanism for alerting readers to unreliable material and other problems in the published scientific and scholarly record. Retracted publications generally remain visible and searchable, but the intention of retraction is to mark them as “removed” from the citable record of scholarship. However, in practice, some retracted articles continue to be treated by researchers and the public as valid content as they are often unaware of the retraction. Research over the past decade has identified a number of factors contributing to the unintentional spread of retracted research. The goal of the Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: Shaping a Research and Implementation Agenda (RISRS) project was to develop an actionable agenda for reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science. This included identifying how retraction status could be more thoroughly disseminated, and determining what actions are feasible and relevant for particular stakeholders who play a role in the distribution of knowledge.


It takes a laboratory to avoid data loss

Lab members are typically in charge of their own data and notes. But institutional memory is better served if the team works together, say Stephen McInturff and Victor Adenis.


September 15, 2022
By Stephen McInturff & Victor Adenis

During the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, one of us (S.M.), a graduate student at the time, was asked to write a short manuscript using a previous laboratory member’s unpublished data. Thinking it would be a quick and easy pandemic project that would lead to a publication and a chapter in his dissertation, he happily took on the project. But the happiness didn’t last.

After weeks of trudging through poorly documented programming codes and data files, S.M. realized that much of the raw data he needed were missing. V.A., a postdoc in the lab, was recruited to help with the project. Together, we were ultimately able to locate some of the lost data, but they were spread across two other hard drives, saved using file names that were inconsistent with the original data set. We spent the following year repeating experiments, but some data could not be re-collected, because the animal models used in the original project were long gone. Two years later, the paper remains unpublished and has no clear narrative because of inconsistencies and gaps in the data. Sadly, such stories of data loss seem common in academia.


Guest Post — Who Cares About Publication Integrity?

August 18, 2022
The Scholarly Kitchen
By Andrew Grey, Alison Avenell, Mark Bolland

"No one questions the critical importance of a reliable biomedical literature. Universities teach research integrity, publishers espouse it fulsomely, government agencies debate and endorse it. There are definitions, recommendations, and guidelines. Yet the cases described above are but a few of the many examples of the slow, opaque, inconsistent, frustrating, and unsatisfactory outcomes of tumbling into the rabbit hole of publication integrity. Watching paint dry is ultimately more fulfilling: at least the paint will be dry eventually. Why is achieving and maintaining publication integrity so fraught? Could it be that the main protagonists don’t actually care?"


Rethinking the retraction process

August 18, 2022
By H. Holden Thorp

"High-profile examples of scientific fraud continue to plague research. Recently, Science published two news stories on alleged image manipulation in Alzheimer’s research and unreliable data in an ecology study, sadly showing that the problem persists. Each case involved back and forth among the journal, authors, and institutions to correct the scientific record. Journalists and advocates for research integrity (including courageous whistleblowers) are understandably frustrated about how long it takes to retract papers or at least to post editorial expressions of concern. It’s time to devise a more efficient solution."


Guest Post — Has Peer Review Created a Toxic Culture in Academia? Moving from ‘Battering’ to ‘Bettering’ in the Review of Academic Research

August 16, 2022
The Scholarly Kitchen
By Avi Staiman

Peer review can be an opportunity for authors to rethink and refine their arguments. For example, vaccines developed by leading pharmaceutical companies to combat Coronavirus were scrutinized by scientists the world over using the peer review process to ensure the veracity of the research and to suggest tweaks and improvements. Trust in the scientific review process in general, and peer review specifically, was put to the test and much of the public debate hinged on the reliability and transparency of the expedited review process.


Promoting trust in research and researchers: How open science and research integrity are intertwined

Promoting trust in research and researchers: How open science and research integrity are intertwined

August 12, 2022
MetaArXiv Preprints
By Tamarinde Have, Gowri Gopalakrishna, Joeri Tijdink, Dorien van der Schot, Lex Bouter

Proponents of open science often refer to issues pertaining to research integrity and vice versa. In this commentary, we argue that concepts such as responsible research practices, transparency, and open science are connected to one another, but that they each have a different focus. We argue that responsible research practices focus more on the rigorous conduct of research, transparency focuses predominantly on the complete reporting of research, and open science’s core focus is mostly about dissemination of research.


Why scientists might cheat (and how to prevent it)

More than ethics or knowledge of procedure, it may be a result of the competitive way we fund science. 


August 11, 2022
Start Tribune
By Raymond De Vries

“In the U.S.,” writes Raymond De Vries, “we believe that competition, not collaboration, is the best way to increase scientific knowledge. We ask scientists to compete for research grants, for publications, for recognition via traditional and social media. To the winner goes the spoils — the best jobs, promotions and continued funding.”

"In late July, the Star Tribune published the discouraging news that Sylvain Lesné, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist, is alleged to have doctored data in an influential paper exploring the causes of Alzheimer's disease. A few days later we learned that an Ohio State University cancer research lab manipulated images in its publications.

It is disheartening to learn that scientists cheat. Misbehavior among researchers slows the search for cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer and adds to a growing skepticism about science.

As one who has studied cheating in science, I have good news and bad."


Benchmarking Scientific Image Forgery Detectors

August 2, 2022
Science and Engineering Ethics
By Joao P. Cardenuto & Anderson Rocha

The field of scientific image integrity presents a challenging research bottleneck given the lack of available datasets to design and evaluate forensic techniques. The sensitivity of data also creates a legal hurdle that restricts the use of real-world cases to build any accessible forensic benchmark. In light of this, there is no comprehensive understanding on the limitations and capabilities of automatic image analysis tools for scientific images, which might create a false sense of data integrity. To mitigate this issue, we present an extendable open-source algorithm library that reproduces the most common image forgery operations reported by the research integrity community: duplication, retouching, and cleaning.


Cardenuto, J.P., Rocha, A. Benchmarking Scientific Image Forgery Detectors. Sci Eng Ethics 28, 35 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-022-00391-4  

The Amyloid Theory: Questions Arise Around Possible Research Misconduct and the Validity of Aß as a Therapeutic Target

After an investigative report published in Science called to question years of research around the existence of an amyloid oligomer known as Aß*56, debates about the amyloid hypothesis have been reignited in the Alzheimer community.

July 29, 2022
By Matt Hoffman

In late July, just days ahead of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, the Alzheimer disease (AD) clinical community was lit ablaze with controversy with the publication of a multimonth report from Science bringing to light potentially dubious research practices related to an amyloid-ß (Aß) oligomer that many now claim does not exist, known as Aß*56—the consequences of which could have had downstream effects totaling millions of dollars invested and thousands of hours of research wasted.


Faked Beta-Amyloid Data. What Does It Mean?

Faked Beta-Amyloid Data. What Does It Mean?

July 25, 2022
By Derek Lowe



Late last week came this report in Science about doctored images in a series of very influential papers on amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s attracted a lot of interest, as well it should, and as a longtime observer of the field (and onetime researcher in it), I wanted to offer my own opinions on the controversy.

First off, I’ve noticed a lot of takes along the lines of “OMG, because of this fraud we’ve been wasting our time on Alzheimer’s research since 2006”. 


When A Science Journal Does The Right Thing

July 25, 2022
By Steven Salzberg

Today I want to tell a positive story, where a science journal did the right thing.

I’ve written a lot over the years about bad science. A particular gripe of mine is when bogus scientific results, sometimes fraudulent, sometimes just sloppy, manage to sneak into the peer-reviewed scientific literature. This happens all too often, especially as the number of papers published each year has grown. These bad papers are then used by fraudsters and charlatans (and sometimes by innocent people who just don’t have the expertise to understand) to “prove” an unscientific claim.

Fortunately, a growing number of journals–the better ones, in general–are showing more concern than in the past, and taking actions (sometimes) to retract papers, even over the objections of the authors.



A neuroscience image sleuth finds signs of fabrication in scores of Alzheimer’s articles, threatening a reigning theory of the disease

July 21, 2022
By Charles Pillar

In August 2021, Matthew Schrag, a neuroscientist and physician at Vanderbilt University, got a call that would plunge him into a maelstrom of possible scientific misconduct. A colleague wanted to connect him with an attorney investigating an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease called Simufilam. The drug’s developer, Cassava Sciences, claimed it improved cognition, partly by repairing a protein that can block sticky brain deposits of the protein amyloid beta (Aβ), a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The attorney’s clients—two prominent neuroscientists who are also short sellers who profit if the company’s stock falls—believed some research related to Simufilam may have been “fraudulent,” according to a petition later filed on their behalf with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).



Exclusive: investigators found plagiarism and data falsification in work from prominent cancer lab

Ohio State University investigations identified misconduct by two scientists in lab of high-profile cancer researcher Carlo Croce. The university has cleared Croce of misconduct, but disciplined him over management problems.

July 20, 2022
By Richard Van Noorden

Over the past decade, questions have swirled around the work coming out of a prominent US cancer-research laboratory run by Carlo Croce at the Ohio State University (OSU). Croce, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, made his name with his work on the role of genes in cancer. But for years, he has faced allegations of plagiarism and falsified images in studies from his group. All told, 11 papers he has co-authored have been retracted, and 21 have required corrections.


Dynamics of cross-platform attention to retracted papers

June 14, 2022
By Hao Peng, Daniel Romero, and Emoke-Agnes Horvat

“Retracted papers often circulate widely on social media, digital news, and other websites before their official retraction. The spread of potentially inaccurate or misleading results from retracted papers can harm the scientific community and the public. Here, we quantify the amount and type of attention 3,851 retracted papers received over time in different online platforms. Comparing with a set of nonretracted control papers from the same journals with similar publication year, number of coauthors, and author impact, we show that retracted papers receive more attention after publication not only on social media but also, on heavily curated platforms, such as news outlets and knowledge repositories, amplifying the negative impact on the public.”



The Peer-Review Crisis

The peer-review system, which relies on unpaid volunteers, has long been stressed. COVID-19 has made it worse. Possible solutions include paying reviewers or limiting revise-and-resubmits. Are these Band-Aids on structural problems?

June 13, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty

"Gale Sinatra, professor of psychology and the Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education at the University of Southern California, is stepping down as associate editor of the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Officially, it’s because she’s becoming an associate dean for research and won’t have as much time to devote to her editorship. But the new job is only part of it: like so many other journal editors, Sinatra is facing a serious shortage of available scholars to review submitted articles, and it’s a problem she can’t solve on her own.

Worse Than Ever

This issue isn’t new: academic publishing has long been a delicate system that operates—tenuously—on goodwill, in the form of comprehensive, unpaid article analyses from expert volunteers."


Putting an End to Abusive Workplaces

How do we optimize the learning environment in academic research labs, Patrick Brandt asks, and what must we do when the environment is toxic to trainees?

June 13, 2022
By Patrick Brandt


"Every graduate student or postdoc deserves to be trained in a supportive environment by a respectful adviser. Yet you don’t have to search far to hear stories from graduate students and postdocs who suffer under abusive ones.

Most of those stories do not rise to the level of national outcry, and as is generally the case with any kind of bullying, it is the unrelenting microaggressions of badly behaved (tor)mentors compounded over months and years that snuff out the career aspirations of trainees. This is a tragedy not only for those trainees personally but also for science as a whole. We lose out on new and diverse discoveries when young scientists are not allowed to thrive."


AI-generated images could make it almost impossible to detect fake papers


May 24, 2022
Chemistry World
By Katrina Kramer

"In mid-March, a one minute video of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy appeared first on social media and later on a Ukrainian news website. In it, Zelenskiy told Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender to Russian troops. But the video turned out to be a deepfake, a piece of synthetic media created by machine learning.

Some scientists are now concerned that similar technology could be used to commit research fraud by creating fake images of spectra or biological specimen."


Is There an Epidemic of Research Fraud in Natural Medicine?


May 21, 2022
By Alan Gaby, MD

"During the past 49 years, I have reviewed and analyzed more than 50 000 papers from the biomedical literature, most of which were related to the field of nutritional medicine. Doing this work has given me some understanding of how to assess the reliability of a study. Over the past 10 to 15 years, an uncomfortably large and growing number of published papers related to my area of expertise have left me wondering whether the research was fabricated; that is, whether people were writing papers about research that had not actually been conducted. If the studies were not actually conducted, the publishing of this research is an affront to all who value integrity in science, and it has the potential to harm practitioners and patients who rely on its findings."


Improving research integrity: a framework for responsible science communication


May 15, 2022 
BMC Research Notes
By Ilinca I. Ciubotariu & Gundula Bosch

"Science has a credibility problem. The underlying issues are multi-factorial such as inadequate training in rigorous research methods, irreproducibility of results, logical fallacies and statistical mistakes during data analysis and interpretation, erroneous communication, sloppy literature outputs, and outright misconduct. The result is an ongoing pandemic of retractions. That in turn can undermine public confidence in research outcomes and transparent policy, along with societal factors such as geography or culture. It is of utmost importance to properly train the next generation of scientists and protect the integrity of the central principles of scientific inquiry and discovery.

This commentary discusses the role of institutional graduate programs in promoting good research practice through teaching the core values of reliable science, while at the same time, focusing on a framework for embracing responsible scientific communication."


NIH gains new power to police sexual harrassment

New law requires institutions to tell NIH about disciplinary actions

May 12, 2022
Science Insider
By Jocelyn Kaiser

"The National Institutes of Health announced this week that—at the direction of Congress—it is tightening rules for reporting sexual and workplace harassment by NIH-funded investigators. Institutions will now be legally required to tell NIH if a grantee has been disciplined because of harassment findings.

NIH calls the policy a “major step” to close loopholes that have allowed institutions to hide harassment cases from the agency. “There’s no question that we’re going to be hearing about cases that we either would not have heard about at all, or only after a substantial delay,” says NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Michael Lauer.

Observers welcome the law, but they note that NIH’s reporting requirements still fall short of those at the National Science Foundation (NSF). That could leave the agency in the dark about some ongoing investigations."


Construction and Validation of the Research Misconduct Scale for Social Science University Students


May 9, 2022
Frontiers in Psychology
By Saba Ghayas, Zaineb Hassan, Sumaira Kayani, and Michele Biasutti

"Misconduct in research and academic dishonesty are important, persistent issues for universities, as most students have engaged in academic misconduct at some point of their careers. Almost all (92%) surveyed students reported having cheated at least once or knowing someone who had. Unethical research practices and research misconduct can also be found among scholars."


It's Time for Science to Take Down Bullies in Its Own Ranks

Academics too often use intellectual attainment to excuse abusive behavior. That needs to stop.

May 1, 2022
Scientific American
By Naomi Oreskes

"Early this year one of the world’s most prominent scientists, Eric Lander, had to resign his position as President Joe Biden’s science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He was forced to quit because of evidence that he had bullied staff members and created a hostile work environment. Lander, a leader in the successful effort to sequence the human genome, had headed the prestigious Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T. before being tapped for the White House job. He now joins the ranks of other top scientists who have been sanctioned over behavior ranging from disrespect and bullying to illegal sexual harassment."


China focuses on ethics to deter another ‘CRISPR babies’ scandal

But some question whether a statement from the government will deter scientists from carrying out research that violates ethical norms.

April 27, 2022
By Smriti Mallapaty

"China’s powerful State Council is calling on research institutions to expand and improve their ethics training. The directive, one of several detailed in a comprehensive ethics statement, is intended to address gaps in oversight exposed when Chinese researcher He Jiankui shocked the world by creating the first babies with edited genomes in 2018.

Researchers have mostly welcomed the statement, which was released with the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party last month. They say it sends the strongest warning yet to scientists who might consider carrying out research that violates ethical norms, such as genome editing of human embryos. But some have also questioned how effective the document will be at preventing such practices."


 Creating a science legacy

Senior academics offer tips to develop world-class research programmes and train successfel protégés.

April 5, 2022
By Andy Tay

"Researchers have many ways to establish a legacy, including technical innovation, commercialization and changes to scientific culture. All of these approaches require input from talented people who can generate ideas and execute them. Here, five senior research leaders offer their tips on building a legacy in science.

KRISTI ANSETH: Build long-term collaborations

Professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Building a science legacy requires the willingness to take risks: many problems are complex, and solving them requires innovative, out-of-the-box approaches.

During my postdoctoral research from 1995 to 1996 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge , I decided to get out of my comfort zone and investigate the use of soft materials in biological applications."


PLOS ONE Pulls Five Papers Tied to Alzheimer's Drug Controversy

The retracted studies were coauthored by a scientist who worked on an Alzheimer's therapy in development by Cassava Sciences, a company reportedly under investigation for providing falsified data to the FDA.

March 31, 2022
The Scientist
By Jef Akst

"Five studies coauthored by Hoau-Yan Wang at the City University of New York and colleagues were pulled from PLOS ONE over concerns about data integrity yesterday (March 30), Retraction Watch reports. Wang, who already had another retraction to his name and who contributed to three other papers that have received expressions of concern, conducted research on an Alzheimer’s therapy called Simufilam that is under development by Austin, Texas–based Cassava Sciences (formerly Pain Therapeutics). Wang is also a paid advisor to the company, and Cassava employee Lindsay Burns is a coauthor on two of the newly retracted papers, which don’t pertain to Simufilam or Alzheimer’s disease.

Citing 'people familiar with the matter,' The Wall Street Journal reported in November that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking into claims that the company submitted Simufilam-related materials to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that included altered data."


Fraud and Peer Review: An Interview with Melinda Baldwin

March 24, 2022
The Scholarly Kitchen
By Robert Harington


"In 2018, I talked with Melinda Baldwin (Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland) about a fascinating article she authored entitled “Scientific Autonomy, Public Accountability, and the Rise of “Peer Review” in the Cold War United States” (Isis, volume 109, number 3, September 2018).

In talking again with Melinda this month, we initiated a discussion of whether peer review has a role to play in uncovering scientific fraud. Perhaps in the first blush, one may suggest that peer review is entirely appropriate as a fraud detector, but Melinda suggests this is not the role of peer review

I ask Melinda here to take us through her perspective on the role of peer review in context for scientific fraud from her perspective as a historian of science – a perspective that I hope you agree sheds a clear light on the benefits and limitations of peer review in the scientific endeavor."


Science Knows No Country: Culture’s Impact on Research Misconduct Proceedings



February 22, 2022
Cohen Seglias
By Paul S. Thaler and Paul E. Simon

As Louis Pasteur once said, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” Science is, in many ways, a universal language. However, as a practical reality, science relies on other languages to be communicated. While the very earliest science we know of today was published in Egyptian hieroglyphs, early Greek, and Latin, developing eventually to a rough split between French, German, and English, English became the dominant language during the past hundred years. This, unsurprisingly, presents a challenge to non-native English-speaking scientists, who must often learn a new language alongside their scientific training and research.


How to Be a Great Leader in Science

Building a positive research environment requires intention, support and a belief that kindness isn’t weakness

February 11, 2022
Scientific American
By Alison L. Antes


There is a common narrative, in academia and beyond, that says, “You have to be a jerk to be successful.” As a scientist who studies what makes a great leader, it is disheartening how often research trainees and junior faculty in the sciences ask me if this is true.

So, it’s been an especially eye-opening week for science, as academics reflect on Eric Lander’s resignation from his roles as the director the Office of Science and Technology Policy and White House science adviser. A whistleblower investigation found that he had bullied and mistreated his staff, and seemed to be especially abusive toward women who worked with him.


PLOS Publication Ethics: A frank discussion on handling difficult cases

February 22, 2022
PLOS Blogs
By Renee Hoch


Since 2003, PLOS has published nearly 300,000 research articles, contributing a tremendous body of knowledge to the scientific corpus. However, our roles in scientific communications do not end at the time of publication. PLOS, like many other scholarly publishers, has a Publication Ethics team dedicated to addressing ethics and integrity concerns raised about PLOS content, many of which arise after publication. 


 U.S. scientific research agencies tighten foreign affiliation rules

American effort responds to China's aggressive talent recruitment program

February 15, 2022
Roll Call
By Gopal Ratnam

"U.S. research institutions and universities are gearing up to implement steps announced last month by the Biden administration to ensure that scientists seeking federal grants are not beholden to foreign governments or interests.

The White House National Science and Technology Council issued a set of guidelines in January designed to ensure that scientists seeking federal grants do not have conflicts of interest stemming from their participation in foreign talent recruitment programs. The guidelines address a presidential national security memorandum issued in early 2021. 

That memorandum required any research institution receiving more than $50 million in federal science and technology grants in a year to certify that it has a research security program that can identify conflicts of interests."


Course corrections needed in peer review publication process

February 14, 2022
Research Matters
By Dr. Vikram Singh and Dr. Sukumar Kalvapudi


"In early 2020, as the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists the world over were scrambling to characterise the novel pathogen. Research findings were being generated at an astonishing pace and within the first 6 months of the pandemic, nearly 61000 articles had been published!

The ominous flip side to this was that the sheer number of submissions completely overwhelmed the peer review process, particularly for medical journals. In their haste to publish the next important finding about the virus, journals apparently cut corners.

In May 2020, the Lancet retracted a paper that claimed that hydroxychloroquine was almost miraculously effective in treating COVID-19 (it isn’t)."



How bullying becomes a career tool

February 7, 2022
By Susanne Tauber and Morteza Mahmoudi

Amongst recent high-profile bullying and (sexual) harassment scandals in academia, many have involved perpetrators who are ‘star academics’, yet had records of bullying and multiple complaints over many years1. People often believe that these scientists are bullies despite being star academics. Their misbehaviours are attributed to an unfortunate decoupling between being a good scientist and being a decent person. However, academics who have experienced bullying often describe patterns that suggest a different explanation entirely: bullying is a means for mediocre scientists to rise to the top. Some star academics reached their position because they are bullies, not in spite of it.


DOJ Increases Focus on Clinical Trial Fraud

February 1, 2022
Ropes & Gray
By Mark Barnes, Andrew O'Connor, Samantha Barrett Badlam, Beth P. Weinman, & Kyle S. Shaub

"While speaking at the Food & Drug Law Institute’s Enforcement, Litigation and Compliance Conference in December, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun Rao identified clinical trial fraud as one of four key areas of enforcement focus by the Consumer Protection Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Rao warned against the 'dangerous consequences' of research fraud (often referred to as 'research misconduct'), which he said serves to 'undermine confidence in the health care industry as a whole.'

Rao’s remarks come at a time of increasing focus on scientific misconduct in clinical trials. Rao cited two recent clinical trial fraud enforcement actions in southern Florida that involved allegedly fabricated data, and he suggested that more enforcement actions may be on the way."


The relationship between readability and scientific impact: Evidence from emerging technology discourses

February 2022
Journal of Informatics
By Lennart Ante



This study examines how the readability of scientific discourses changes over time and to what extent readability can explain scientific impact in terms of citation counts. The basis are representative datasets of 135,502 abstracts from academic research papers pertaining to twelve technologies of different maturity. Using three different measures of readability, it is found that the language of the abstracts has become more complex over time. Across all technologies, less easily readable texts are more likely to receive at least one citation, while the effects are most pronounced for comparatively immature research streams. Among the more mature or larger discourses, the abstracts of the top 10% and 1% of the most often cited articles are significantly less readable. It remains open to what extent readability actually influences future citations and how much of the relationship is causal. If readability indeed drives citations, the results imply that scientists have an incentive to (artificially) reduce the readability of their abstracts in order to signal quality and competence to readers—both to get noticed at all and to attract more citations. This may mean a prisoner dilemma in academic (abstract) writing, where authors intentionally but unnecessarily complicate the way in which they communicate their work.


How fake science is infiltrating scientific journals

January 5, 2022
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Harriet Alexander

"In 2015, molecular oncologist Jennifer Byrne was surprised to discover during a scan of the academic literature that five papers had been written about a gene she had originally identified, but did not find particularly interesting.

'Looking at these papers, I thought they were really similar, they had some mistakes in them and they had some stuff that didn’t make sense at all,' she said. As she dug deeper, it dawned on her that the papers might have been produced by a third-party working for profit.

'Part of me still feels awful thinking about it because it’s such an unpleasant thing when you’ve spent years in a laboratory and taking two to 10 years to publish stuff, and making stuff up is so easy,' Professor Byrne said. 'That’s what scares the life out of me.'"


Who's on first? Duking out scientific paper authorship order

December 13, 2021
Stanford | Scope 10K
By Krista Conger


"It's been over 80 years, but Abbott and Costello's famous comedic skit "Who's on First" lives on in our collective memories. Their increasingly ridiculous conversation about baseball and the name of the player on first base can still reliably produce a giggle in many circles.

But in the lab, questions about order can be anything but a laughing matter - particularly when it comes to the list of authors on a scientific paper. Many nonscientists don't realize that, traditionally, the most important places on the roster are the first - indicating the person who conceived of and performed most of the research discussed in the paper - and the last - a hallowed place reserved for the senior scientist in whose laboratory the research was conducted."


University of Florida launches formal investigation after reports of pressure to destroy COVID-19 research data

December 11, 2021
By Leyla Santiage and Alta Spells


"A formal investigation has been launched by the University of Florida after an internal report detailed a culture of fear among faculty members claiming political influence on campus as well as instances of pressure to destroy and delay publication of Covid-19 research data.

Vice President of UF Research David Norton announced the investigation in an email to faculty and staff Friday morning, according to the university. The email indicates the results of the investigation will be made public upon completion, but did not give a timeline."


Managing up: how to communicate effectively with your PhD adviser

Your supervisor has a vested interest in your success. Set the right tone and communication style when you meet with them.

December 10, 2021
Nature | Career Column
By Lluis Salo-Salgado, Angi Acocella, Ignacio Arzuaga Garcia, Souha El Mousadik, & Augustine Zvinavashe

"When you start a PhD, you also begin a professional relationship with your PhD adviser. This is an exciting moment: interacting with someone for who you might well have great respect and admiration, but who might also slightly intimidate you.

The will have their own management style, but 'managing up' is important, so you need to identify the style that will help you to thrive academically, and communicate that to your adviser.

In September, we ran a panel discussion for new graduate students in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge."


Understand the real reasons reproducibility reform fails

Lack of rigour is often blamed on pressure to publish. But ethnographers can find out what truly keeps science from upping its game.

December 6, 2021
By Nicole C. Nelson

"A decade ago, the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke convened a workshop on how to improve the rigour of preclinical research. Its recommendations were surprisingly straightforward: scientists should mask (or ‘blind’) their studies; randomize; estimate appropriate sample sizes; and specify rules for data handling (S. C. Landis et alNature 490, 187–191; 2012). Ten years on, many preclinical scientists still do not take these basic steps.

Ask most advocates of rigorous science why this is, and they will answer with two words: perverse incentives. Scientists are rewarded for getting things published, not for getting things right, and so they tend to favour speed and ease over robustness."


Violation of research integrity principles occur more often than we think

December 3, 2021

Wentao Li, Lyle C Gurrin, Ben W Mol, Violation of research integrity principles occur more often than we think, Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 2021, ISSN 1472-6483, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2021.11.022.

"The science community generally believes that the violation of research integrity is rare. Built upon this belief, the scientific system takes little effort to examine the trustworthiness of research. Research misconduct refers to an intentional violation of research integrity principles, which has an extensive and far-reaching impact on the trustworthiness and reputation of science."


The Use of Questionable Research Practices to Survive in Academia Examined With Expert Elicitation, Prior-Data Conflicts, Bayes Factors for Replication Effects, and the Bayes Truth Serum

November 29, 2021
frontiers in Psychology
By Rens van de Schoot, Sonja D. Winter, Elian Griffioen, Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen, Ingrid Arts, Duco Veen, Elizabeth M. Grandfield, and Lars G. Tummers

The popularity and use of Bayesian methods have increased across many research domains. The current article demonstrates how some less familiar Bayesian methods can be used. Specifically, we applied expert elicitation, testing for prior-data conflicts, the Bayesian Truth Serum, and testing for replication effects via Bayes Factors in a series of four studies investigating the use of questionable research practices (QRPs). Scientifically fraudulent or unethical research practices have caused quite a stir in academia and beyond. Improving science starts with educating Ph.D. candidates: the scholars of tomorrow. In four studies concerning 765 Ph.D. candidates, we investigate whether Ph.D. candidates can differentiate between ethical and unethical or even fraudulent research practices. We probed the Ph.D.s’ willingness to publish research from such practices and tested whether this is influenced by (un)ethical behavior pressure from supervisors or peers. Furthermore, 36 academic leaders (deans, vice-deans, and heads of research) were interviewed and asked to predict what Ph.D.s would answer for different vignettes. Our study shows, and replicates, that some Ph.D. candidates are willing to publish results deriving from even blatant fraudulent behavior–data fabrication. Additionally, some academic leaders underestimated this behavior, which is alarming. Academic leaders have to keep in mind that Ph.D. candidates can be under more pressure than they realize and might be susceptible to using QRPs. As an inspiring example and to encourage others to make their Bayesian work reproducible, we published data, annotated scripts, and detailed output on the Open Science Framework (OSF).




Transparency of peer review: a semi-structured interview study with chief editors from social sciences and humanities

November 18, 2021

Karhulahti, VM., Backe, HJ. Transparency of peer review: a semi-structured interview study with chief editors from social sciences and humanities. Res Integr Peer Rev 6, 13 (2021).

"Open peer review practices are increasing in medicine and life sciences, but in social sciences and humanities (SSH) they are still rare. We aimed to map out how editors of respected SSH journals perceive open peer review, how they balance policy, ethics, and pragmatism in the review processes they oversee, and how they view their own power in the process."


Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published

Hundreds of junk-science papers have been retracted from reputable journals after fraudsters used ‘special issues’ to manipulate the publication process. And the problem is growing.

November 8, 2021
By Holly Else


"Hundreds of articles published in peer-reviewed journals are being retracted after scammers exploited the processes for publishing special issues to get poor-quality papers — sometimes consisting of complete gibberish — into established journals. In some cases, fraudsters posed as scientists and offered to guest-edit issues that they then filled with sham papers."


University offers to rehire professor acquitted of hiding China ties

Supporters of Anming Hu have decried his treatment by the University of Tennessee

October 18, 2021
By Jeffrey Mervis

"The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), has offered to reinstate Anming Hu, a tenured engineering professor acquitted of federal charges that he failed to disclose ties to China on a grant application."


University of Washington settles DOJ claims of grant fraud

October 12, 2021
AP News

"SEATTLE (AP) — The University of Washington has agreed to pay more than $800,000 to settle Justice Department allegations that a professor submitted false documentation relating to a highly competitive grant."


Federal Research: Agency Actions Needed to Address Foreign Influence

GAO-22-105434, U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: A Century of Non-Partisan Fact-Based Work
Published: Oct 05, 2021. Publicly Released: Oct 05, 2021


"To protect U.S. investments in scientific research from undue foreign influence, federal agencies should have conflict of interest policies and require researchers to disclose foreign interests."


The Mysterious Case of the Nonsense Papers

A peer-reviewed journal published hundreds of them. Why?

Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 28, 2021

“A peer-reviewed journal recently published a mind-bending paper. It begins with a highly technical section about groundwater seepage before delving into a lively discussion of dance training. The paper shifts back and forth between the two topics, informing the reader about rare-earth elements before urging dancers to “tighten buttocks” during warm-ups. There are tables and graphs, citations and hyperlinks. It’s all very sober and scientific-seeming and yet, at the same time, completely bonkers.”


Publishers unite to tackle doctored images in research papers

Eight major publishers have issued joint guidelines for how journal editors can spot and deal with suspicious images or data

Holly Else, Nature
September 28, 2021

“Some of the world’s largest publishers have come together to tackle the growing problem of image manipulation in scientific papers. They have developed a three-tier classification system that editors can use to flag suspicious content, and detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to deal with doctored images.”



Can we fix research culture?

Collection of articles

Chemistry World
September 28, 2021


“Hypercompetition. Overwork. Career instability. Lack of diversity. Discrimination. Misconduct. These are just some of the characteristic problems of current academic research culture. Despite the strain these issues place on researchers, improvement have been slow to emerge due to the complex network of interactions between all the parties involved in academic research – including funders, universities, publishers and the researchers themselves.

In this collection we look more closely at these issues from the viewpoints of the people affected by them, and highlight some of the solutions being proposed to make academic research environments healthier and happier places to do science.”


Why Don’t We Teach Ph.D.s to Be Mentors?

Adding mentoring skills to doctoral training is a key to graduate-education reform

Maria LaMonaca Wisdom, The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 21, 2021


“Since January, I’ve spent hours on Zoom fielding questions from doctoral students and postdocs about mentoring and mentors. They’ve been asking questions like:

  • “Can you sever a relationship with a mentor without burning bridges?”
  • “How important is ‘chemistry’ in a mentor-mentee relationship?”
  • “What’s a ‘mentoring persona,’ anyway? Can I be a good mentor if I don’t have one?”

I never expected to teach a graduate course on mentoring, nor did I expect that, when I did, my students would be so captivated by the topic. But with a pandemic curtailing opportunities for in-person interactions, mentoring — or the lack thereof — has been on everyone’s minds.”


Swedish research misconduct agency swamped with cases in first year

The newly formed government organization tackled 46 research-fraud investigations in 2020 - three times as many as expected.

Holly Else, Nature
September 13, 2021

"Scientists have inundated Sweden’s new national research-misconduct investigation agency with cases, and there is no sign of a let-up in referrals.

Researchers brought 46 cases to the organization — called the National Board for Assessment of Research Misconduct (NPOF) and based in Uppsala — in its first year, according to a report detailing its activities in 2020. This caseload was three times higher than officials were expecting.

In most countries, universities and research institutions deal with misconduct allegations in-house, which can lead to some cases not being handled fairly or transparently."


How misconduct helped psychological science to thrive

Grass-roots action against bad behaviour has spurred reform — and should keep going

Jelte Weichert, Nature
September 7, 2021


“Ten years ago this week, I was startled to see tweets saying that Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel, a former colleague, had admitted to falsifying and fabricating data in dozens of articles. My inbox filled with e-mails from fellow methodologists, researchers who examine and refine research techniques and statistical tools. They expressed disbelief about the extent of the misconduct, but also a sense of inevitability. We all knew that sloppiness, low ethical standards and competitiveness were widespread.

What happened next was inspiring: an open debate that went far beyond misconduct and focused on improving research.”


Leading the charge to address research misconduct

Like all science, the field of psychology is vulnerable to fabrication, falsification, and poor research practices, but psychologists are leading the charge for change

September 1, 2021
By Stephanie Pappas, American Psychological Association
Vol. 52 No. 6, Print version: page 71

"When James DuBois, ScD, PhD, launched a training program in 2013 for researchers caught failing to comply with research protocols, plagiarizing, or falsifying and fabricating data, it was controversial, to say the least. The program’s launch was accompanied by a feature article in Nature’s news section, and much of the feedback was incensed (Cressey, D., Vol. 493, No. 197).

'Oh, my goodness, the chat for the online story!' DuBois, an applied psychologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, recalled. 'There was so much hate.'

It’s no wonder. Misconduct flies in the face of the values of scientific research, which at its heart is about the search for truth."


Why Bad Science Is Sometimes More Appealing Than Good Science

Researchers cite studies that can’t be replicated weirdly often.

Naomi Oreskes, Scientific American
August 1, 2021


“A recent paper makes an upsetting claim about the state of science: nonreplicable studies are cited more often than replicable ones. In other words, according to the report in Science Advances, bad science seems to get more attention than good science.”