TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that nearly 800 research papers were retracted by medical journals for serious errors or faked data over the past decade, many of them authored by U.S. researchers.
In fact, U.S. scientists were responsible for 169 of the papers retracted for seemingly inadvertent yet serious errors, as well as for 84 of the papers retracted for outright fraud, more than any other country.
That doesn't necessarily mean U.S. researchers are more prone to deception, said study author R. Grant Steen, president of Medical Communications Consultants in Chapel Hill, N.C., but could perhaps reflect that U.S.-based researchers publish a larger volume of English-language medical studies than scientists from other nations.
"We need to be careful," Steen said. "Some scientists perceive a paper in a high-impact journal as a doorway to fame and fortune and some are willing to fake data to walk through that doorway."
The study appears in the Nov. 16 online issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.
Steen searched the PubMed database for every scientific research paper that had been withdrawn from medical journals between 2000 and 2010. Of 788 retractions, he could find a reason for 742 of them, though the reasons given were sometimes vague.
About three-quarters, or 545, were withdrawn because of serious errors. The remainder, or 197, were withdrawn due to data fabrication (manufacturing false data) or falsification (selective editing of data, such as leaving out findings that don't confirm the hoped-for result).
After the United States, China came next with 89 total retractions, including 20 retractions due to fraud. China was followed by Japan, India, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Germany.
Falsified papers were more likely to appear in high-profile, influential medical journals as opposed to more obscure ones.
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