20 Jan 2010

Fraud epidemic in China?

This is a guest post by Joe Dunckley
Last week's Nature included a news feature on scientific misconduct in China which contained the extraordinary (but not unbelievable) claim that a third of all researchers at "top institutions" in China admitted to plagiarism, falsification, or fabrication. The feature contains the extreme example of the systematic fabrication of crystal structures, but one would hope that the majority of the confessions of misconduct represent no more than the borrowing of a few paragraphs by those for whom English is not a first language (a crime, but not a hanging offence). But every publisher has its examples of photoshopped figures and impossible datasets, and it's hard to deny that certain countries pop up more often than others.
The fun part of the article, though, is the comments thread, which is full of readers' speculating about why China should have such a high-rate of misconduct. A drive for quick success and control of the sector by short-sighted bureaucrats with no actual understanding of science are suggested. A rapid expansion of science with a bottom-heavy hierarchy and insufficient supervision, or else the fierce competition and pressure in a publish-or-perish world. Perhaps it's just in the nature of communist societies? Even the impact factor is cited as a contributory cause, and the blame somehow shifted onto the publishers.
Nobody seems to consider the simple possibility that researchers from other countries might have access to better tools for disguising their fraud.

1 comment:

pj said...

Don't studies of clinical trials find that China has impossibly high (even higher than the already dodgily high rates in the West) rates of positive trials.