Last year the journal Nature reported an alarming increase in the number of retractions of scientific papers—a tenfold rise in the previous decade,to more than 300 a year across the scientific literature.
What are the reasons for the frequent withdrawal of academic papers
Other studies have suggested that most of these retractions resulted from honest errors.But a deeper analysis of retractions,being published this week,challenges that comforting assumption.
In the new study,published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,two scientists and a medical communications consultant analyzed 2,047 retracted papers in the biomedical and life sciences.They found that misconduct was the reason for three-quarters of the retractions for which they could determine the cause.
这篇研究报道刊登于《美国国家科学院院刊》(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)。两名科学家和一位医学信息顾问选取2047篇生物医学和生命科学领域的撤稿论文，并对撤稿原因进行深入分析。结果他们发现，在所有能辨明原因的撤稿论文中，有四分之三的论文撤稿源自学术不端。
“We found that the problem was a lot worse than we thought,”said an author of the study,Dr.Arturo Casadevall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.
“我们发现问题比想象中严重得多，”文章作者之一、阿图罗·卡萨德沃尔博士(Dr.Arturo Casadevall)如是说。卡萨德沃尔博士来自纽约市布朗克斯区的阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦医学院(Albert Einstein College of Medicine)。
Dr.Casadevall and another author,Dr.Ferric C.Fang of the University of Washington,have been outspoken critics of the current culture of science.To them,the rising rate of retractions reflects perverse incentives that drive scientists to make sloppy mistakes or even knowingly publish false data.
文章另一位作者是来自华盛顿大学(University of Washington)的费里克·C·方博士(Dr.Ferric C.Fang)。两位专家对当下的科研文化早有批评。在他们看来，撤稿率上升反映出科研机制的不正常——科学家在不正当的激励之下容易犯下草率错误，甚至冒险发布错误数据。
“We realized we would really like more hard data for what the reasons were for retractions,”Dr.Fang said.
They began collaborating with R.Grant Steen,a medical communications consultant in Chapel Hill,N.C.,who had already published a study on 10 years of retractions.Together they gathered all the retraction notices published before May 2012 by searching PubMed,a database of scientific literature maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
他们与医学信息顾问R·格兰特·斯蒂恩博士(R.Grant Steen)合作，在美国国家医学图书馆(National Library of Medicine)维护的PubMed数据库中搜索2012年5月前发布的撤稿通知。斯蒂恩博士来自北卡罗来纳大学教堂山分校(Chapel Hill,N.C.)，之前发表过文章分析近十年的撤稿事件。<-->纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com<-->
“I guess our O.C.D.kicked in and we started trying to look at every paper we could look at,”Dr.Fang said.
The researchers analyzed the reasons for retractions cited by the scientific journals.But they also looked beyond the journals for the full story.
In the mid-2000s,for example,Boris Cheskis,then a senior scientist at Wyeth Research,and his colleagues published two papers on estrogen.Later,the scientists retracted both papers,explaining that some of the data in them were“unreliable.”In 2010,the Office of Research Integrity at the federal Department of Health and Human Services ruled that Dr.Cheskis had engaged in misconduct,having falsified the figures.
举例来说，博里斯·切斯基(Boris Cheskis)曾在任惠氏制药公司(Wyeth Research)资深科学家时，分别于2002年和2007年，与同事联合发表两篇有关雌激素信号转导机制的文章。他们随后要求撤回两篇文章，理由是文中部分数据“不可靠”。2010年，美国卫生和公众服务部(Department of Health and Human Services)下属机构——科研诚信办公室(Office of Research Integrity)判定切斯基博士伪造实验数据，存在学术不端行为。
Dr.Cheskis settled with the government.Although he neither accepted nor denied the charges,he agreed not to serve on any advisory boards for the United States Public Health Service and agreed to be supervised on any Public Health Service-financed research for two years.
Neither of the notices for the two retracted papers has been updated to reflect the finding of fraud.Dr.Cheskis could not be reached for comment.
Dr.Fang and his colleagues dug through other reports from the Office of Research Integrity,as well as newspaper articles and the blog Retraction Watch.All told,they reclassified 158 papers as fraudulent based on their extra research.
“We haven’t seen this level of analysis before,”said Dr.Ivan Oransky,an author of Retraction Watch and the executive editor at Reuters Health.“It confirms what we suspected.”
“我们从未见过如此高水平的分析，”伊万·奥兰斯基博士(Dr.Ivan Oransky)表示。“它证实了我们的猜想。”奥兰斯基是“Retraction Watch”博客的作者，也是路透社健康版块的执行编辑。
Dr.Oransky said he expected the rise to continue in the near future.He and his co-author,Adam Marcus,have been scrambling to keep up with new cases of fraud.
In July,for example,the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists reported that Dr.Yoshitaka Fujii had falsified data in 172 papers.Most of those papers have yet to be officially retracted.“They’re headed for the fraud pile,”Dr.Oransky said.
Dr.Benjamin G.Druss,a professor of health policy of Emory University,said he found the statistics in the paper to be sound but added that they“need to be kept in perspective.”Only about one in 10,000 papers in PubMed have been officially retracted,he noted.By contrast,112,908 papers have had published corrections.
埃默里大学(Emory University)卫生政策系教授本杰明·G·德鲁斯博士(Benjamin G.Druss)说，他认为论文中数据合理，随后又补充它们“有待查证”。他指出PubMed数据库中的论文撤稿率仅为万分之一，相比之下，该数据库中共有112908篇论文已经刊出修正版。
Dr.Casadevall disagreed.“It convinces me more that we have a problem in science,”he said.
While the fraudulent papers may be relatively few,he went on,their rapid increase is a sign of a winner-take-all culture in which getting a paper published in a major journal can be the difference between heading a lab and facing unemployment.“Some fraction of people are starting to cheat,”he said.
Better policing techniques,like plagiarism-detecting software,might help slow the rise in misconduct,Dr.Casadevall said,but the most important thing the scientific community can do is change its culture.
“I don’t think this problem is going to go away as long as you have this disproportionate system of rewards,”he said.