Scientific Misconduct: Falsification, Fabrication, and Misappropriation of Credit

  • David L. VauxEmail author
Reference work entry


Much published science, especially biomedical science, is not reproducible.

While most of this is likely due to sloppy research practices, part of it is due to deliberate falsification or fabrication of data, i.e., research misconduct. Plagiarism is also a form of misconduct, and although it might not cause errors to enter the literature, it undermines trust, creates inefficiencies, and deters honest researchers from careers in science. While a growing number of papers are being retracted, and the biggest reason for retractions is misconduct, it is not clear whether there is an increase in the incidence of misconduct, an increase in awareness, or both. Authors, readers, reviewers, editors, publishers, and institutions all have responsibilities in detecting and managing misconduct and correcting the literature. To improve the situation, the incentives to fabricate need to be reduced, and rewards for authors, readers, reviewers, editors, publishers, and institutions who do the right thing should be increased. Every country needs to establish research integrity bodies to provide advice and oversight, collect data, and improve codes of practice.


Journal Editor Research Integrity Research Misconduct Scientific Misconduct Fire Alarm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Ivan Oransky for constructive comments and the NHMRC (Grants 1016701 and 1020136) for funding. This work was made possible through Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support and Australian Government NHMRC Independent Research Institute Infrastructure Support Scheme (IRIISS) Grant 361646.


  1. (1989). On being a scientist. Committee on the Conduct of Science, National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 86(23), 9053–9074.Google Scholar
  2. (2003). Retractions’ realities. Nature, 422(6927), 1.Google Scholar
  3. Begley, C. G. (2013). Six red flags for suspect work. Nature, 497(7450), 433–434. doi:10.1038/497433a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Begley, C. G., & Ellis, L. M. (2012). Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research. Nature, 483(7391), 531–533. doi:10.1038/483531a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Couzin, J. (2006). Scientific publishing. Don’t pretty up that picture just yet. Science, 314(5807), 1866–1868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Curfman, G. D., Morrissey, S., & Drazen, J. M. (2005). Expression of concern: Bombardier et al., “Comparison of upper gastrointestinal toxicity of rofecoxib and naproxen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis”. The New England Journal of Medicine, 343, 1520–1528; 2000. The New England Journal of Medicine, 353(26), 2813–2814. Epub 2005 Dec 2818.Google Scholar
  7. Doody, R. S., Gavrilova, S. I., Sano, M., Thomas, R. G., Aisen, P. S., Bachurin, S. O., & Hung, D. (2008). Effect of dimebon on cognition, activities of daily living, behaviour, and global function in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Lancet, 372(9634), 207–215. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(1008)61074-61070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fanelli, D. (2009). How many scientists fabricate and falsify research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey data. PloS One, 4(5), e5738. 5710.1371/journal.pone.0005738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fang, F. C., Steen, R. G., & Casadevall, A. (2012). Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(42), 17028–17033. doi:10.11073/pnas.1212247109. Epub 1212242012 Oct 1212247101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ferguson, C., Marcus, A., & Oransky, I. (2014). Publishing: The peer-review scam. Nature, 515(7528), 480–482. doi:10.1038/515480a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Horton, R. (2004). Vioxx, the implosion of Merck, and aftershocks at the FDA. Lancet, 364(9450), 1995–1996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ioannidis, J. P. (2005). Why most published research findings are false. PLoS Medicine, 2(8), 30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kapoor, A., Yao, W., Ying, H., Hua, S., Liewen, A., Wang, Q., DePinho, R. A. (2014). Yap1 activation enables bypass of oncogenic Kras addiction in pancreatic cancer. Cell, 158(1), 185–197.Google Scholar
  14. Kennedy, D. (2006). Editorial retraction. Science, 311(5759), 335. Epub 2006 Jan 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Knox, R. A. (1983). Deeper problems for Darsee: Emory probe. JAMA, 249(21), 2867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kornfeld, D. S. (2012). Perspective: Research misconduct: The search for a remedy. Academic Medicine, 87(7), 877–882. doi:10.1097/ACM.1090b1013e318257ee318256a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lawrence, P. A. (2002). Rank injustice. Nature, 415(6874), 835–836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Marris, E., & Check, E. (2006). Disgraced cloner’s ally is cleared of misconduct. Nature, 439(7078), 768–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Merton, R. K. (1968). The Matthew effect in science: The reward and communication systems of science are considered. Science, 159(3810), 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Prinz, F., Schlange, T., & Asadullah, K. (2011). Believe it or not: How much can we rely on published data on potential drug targets? Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 10(9), 712. doi:10.1038/nrd3439-c1031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ross, J. S., Hill, K. P., Egilman, D. S., & Krumholz, H. M. (2008). Guest authorship and ghostwriting in publications related to rofecoxib: A case study of industry documents from rofecoxib litigation. JAMA, 299(15), 1800–1812. doi:10.1001/jama.1299.1815.1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rossner, M. (2006). How to guard against image fraud. The Scientist, 20, 24–24.Google Scholar
  23. Rossner, M., & Yamada, K. M. (2004). What’s in a picture? The temptation of image manipulation. Journal of Cell Biology, 166(1), 11–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Steen, R. G., Casadevall, A., & Fang, F. C. (2013). Why has the number of scientific retractions increased? PloS One, 8(7), e68397. doi:10.61371/journal.pone.0068397. Print 0062013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stern, A. M., Casadevall, A., Steen, R. G., & Fang, F. C. (2014). Financial costs and personal consequences of research misconduct resulting in retracted publications. Elife, 3, e02956. doi:10.7554/eLife.02956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Strange, K. (2008). Authorship: Why not just toss a coin? American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology, 295(3), C567–C575. doi:10.1152/ajpcell.00208.02008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Van Noorden, R. (2011). Science publishing: The trouble with retractions. Nature, 478(7367), 26–28. doi:10.1038/478026a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vaux, D. L. (2004). Error message. Nature, 428(6985), 799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vaux, D. L. (2008). Sorting the good from the bad and the ugly. The Biochemist, 30, 8–10.Google Scholar
  30. Vaux, D. L. (2011). A biased comment on double-blind review. British Journal of Dermatology, 165(3), 454. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10546.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wager, E., & Kleiert, S. on behalf of COPE Council. (2012). Cooperation between research institutions and journals on research integrity cases: Guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Walter and Eliza Hall InstituteParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Medical BiologyThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations