Good practices

More fraud than errors

An analysis published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that scientific misconduct, such as fraud and plagiarism, is more frequently the cause of retraction of articles by scientific journals than unintentional errors. Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, analyzed 2,047 articles retracted by the medical journals that had published them.

He concluded that 67% were due to misconduct, and 43.4% were due to fraud, 14.2% were duplicate publications and 9.8% were due to plagiarism. Only 21% of the total were related to unintentional errors. The remaining 12% could not be classified, since most publications do not usually indicate the reason for the retraction. Most cases of misconduct involve major journals such as Science, Nature and Cell, which, according to Casadevall, suggests a correlation between the occurrence of fraud and publications with a high impact factor.

The article’s conclusion contradicts those of two studies published in 2006 and 2011, which claimed that errors were the most frequent cause of article retraction.