The time is right to confront misconduct: Scientific journals publish 20,000 fraudulent papers every year
One problem with having worked as a journalist for a long time is that every story comes with a feeling of déjà vu. You keep thinking: I’ve been here before. So it is refreshing to report one issue where something has actually changed: the vexed and perennial problem of research misconduct, which scientific leaders are finally taking seriously. Talking to several leaders in recent weeks, I have found that their mood has hardened — and not before time.
For too long, scientists’ instinctive defensiveness has produced general denial that misconduct constitutes a serious problem.
I arrived in Washington DC to work for Nature in 1993, in the aftermath of congressional hearings into allegations of misconduct involving a paper by biologists David Baltimore and Thereza Imanishi-Kari at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The researchers were correctly found innocent. But the case led an independent commission chaired by reproductive biologist Kenneth Ryan to call for a much more rigorous approach to the investigation of misconduct.