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How research on scientific integrity has evolved

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore analyzed studies on research integrity and ethics published between 1990 and 2020 and published an article in the journal Scientometrics in June showing how the field has flourished and evolved over the last three decades. According to the review, led by Michael Khiam Aik Khor, director of talent recruitment, career support, and bibliometric analysis at NTU, 9,742 articles on the Dimensions database were analyzed, including studies on plagiarism, falsification, research protocols, and several other topics. The number of papers published in the field grew at a rate of 12.5% per year over the period—there were 1,265 in 2020 compared to just 37 in 1990.

Both in absolute numbers and in proportion to general scientific output, articles written as a result of international cooperations have grown over time. In 2020, 30% of papers were written by authors from more than one country—in 2015, it was 20%, and in 2010 around 10%. These collaborations, however, were short-lived and involved few nations. Most partnerships were between scientists from the USA and colleagues from the UK or Canada. Between 2007 and 2020, the number of collaborations between rich and middle-income countries grew eightfold, according to the data obtained by NTU. There were almost no collaborations between low-income countries.

High-income nations accounted for the majority of articles and international collaborations. The USA published most papers on the topic, at 2,444, closely followed by the UK. Canada, Australia, and Brazil occupied a second tier, with Germany, South Africa, Holland, and China in the third.

The profile of Brazil’s output in the field is unusual. Although it ranks 5th among the 30 nations with the highest volume of published articles on research integrity and ethics, it is placed last when it comes to the number of papers published through international collaborations. Contrary to international trends, most of the Brazilian papers were written in Portuguese and published in regional medical journals. The main conclusion of the study was that the community dedicated to scientific integrity has been growing progressively, with international standards on ethics and responsible conduct spreading worldwide.