Fraudulent research papers in scientific journals

I know how daunting it is to scour research databases and libraries looking for good research articles in business or scientific journals from which to write your term paper.

Don't be fooled by fraudulent journals when conducting research. (Credit: FoxNews.com)

Don’t be fooled by fraudulent journals when conducting research. (Credit: FoxNews.com)

I always consulted the research librarian who seemed to know just what I was looking for. To add to the stress is the increasing prevalence of fraudulent articles. Here are some famous cases of fraud and how to detect fraudulent research.

Questionable research published in journals

Very often, researchers and authors publish papers with questionable research techniques so they can boost their careers and make the news. A famous example is South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk, who published a paper in the journal Science in 2005 claiming to have created stem cell lines that could lead to genetically tailored therapies. A panel formed by Seoul National University where Hwang worked later discovered that he faked DNA results and nearly all of his data. That condemnation led to speculation on Hwang’s other published work. “The panel said it would now also investigate Dr. Hwang’s other landmark papers, which include another Science article in 2004 on the world’s first cloned human embryos, and an August 2005 paper in the journal Nature on the first cloned dog,” reported by Associated Press in “Faked Research on Stem Cells Is Confirmed by Korean Panel,” December 23, 2005.

Data is faked

Another case is of award-winning Dutch social psychologist, Diederik Stapel, Dean of the School of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Tilburg University in Netherlands. He had published numerous papers showing that wine glasses on a table improves manners, that cluttered environments encourage discrimination, and that people who are meat eaters are more antisocial than vegetarians. However, committees from the former institutions where Stapel worked found fraudulent data in his research.

“The committees identified numerous flaws in Stapel’s research, ranging from poor statistical methods to incorrect and incomplete descriptions of the way a study had been conducted and data had been collected,” wrote Wolfgang Stroebe and Miles Hewstone in “Primed, but Not Suspect,” published in Times Higher Education Supplement, February 28, 2013. Fifty-five papers by Stapel were found that have been fraudulent. Yet even this many puts him behind Japanese anesthesiologist Yoshitaka Fujii, who has published the most bogus papers.

How fake science is published

Biologist and journalist John Bohannon, Ph.D. proved how bad science is published and disseminated. He conducted a purposely shoddy experiment in which results showed that subjects who ate chocolate lost weight. He found numerous “scientific” journals willing to publish his study (as long as he paid their fee) without any peer review by other scientists. The most common culprits of this practice are open access publishers. In his article, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?,” Bohannon has published a list of disreputable journals that publish virtually anything without peer review.

General media to blame also

After Bohannon distributed a press release with his bogus test results, the general media, and even scientific journalists around the world, picked up the story and reprinted it with little or no followup with Bohannon on how the study was conducted. Reporters should have noticed that his study group was way too small, his data was cherry picked and his statistical results could be interpreted a number of ways. In “I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How,” by Bohannon, published in I09, May 27, 2015, he explains how this can happen: “The key is to exploit journalists’ incredible laziness. If you lay out the information just right, you can shape the story that emerges in the media almost like you were writing those stories yourself. In fact, that’s literally what you’re doing, since many reporters just copied and pasted our text.”

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Fraud in Science.

Will you read scientific journals more carefully to see if the science is sound?

1 reply
  1. Samson says:

    Lol, this is quit some news. I didn’t think that even the so called experts can fake their data. They are the same people who condemn students for not citing their essay . Its sad.

    Reply

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