Introduction to Research Frauds
The term Research Frauds (RF) refers to “the activities which may or may not be illegal, but are always immoral” or the term RF may also be referred to as Scientific Misconduct. The term RF over internet mainly refers to the immoral activity of the Researchers but this may be related to the students or researchers conducting research and publishing research in journals or conferences.
“Research fraud is characterized as a deliberate attempt to deceive, going well beyond carelessness, incompetence or bad practice. Of greatest concern are data falsification and fabrication, that is, making-up and changing (or removing) data values” .
The first part of this definition is related to researchers, teachers, journals and conferences, while the second part of this definition is only related to students or researchers doing research. Moreover, with the category of RF by researchers, plagiarism, duplication of self text and co-authorship issues are also related.
Types of Research Frauds
There are two main types of research frauds as mentioned below:
This first category may be classified as scientific negligence. The negligence in research has impact on the results of reviewer and reader as researcher provides erroneous information unintentionally, due to which the public and reviewers are mistaken, fooled or deceived . This may be caused due to the fact that the scientist may not have an accurate or sound idea of any assumption he has made in her research.
The second category of research fraud involves the intentional attempt by a researcher to be fraudulent by acts of fraud that may include forged or fabricated data, plagiarism, falsified results, piracy, hoaxes and other such fraudulent activities . These activities are inacceptable even if performed to very small extent because e.g., even 0.01% change in any value can result in strong positive increase in results. The research papers of researchers often get rejected by progressing journals if this category is detected in their research.
The U.S. National Science Foundation defines three types of research fraud (misconduct) with respect to the researcher or scientist conducting the research as: fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism .
- Fabrication means constructing the results of any research activity like experiment or survey without actually conducting the research activity and presenting those results in the research paper as to be genuine. This is sometimes referred to as outright manufacturing of experimental data. Another appearance of fabrication is in the attitude that references are included from sources in favor of a research postulate / hypothesis / argument. However, those references actually do not support the postulate / hypothesis / argument and / or are actually fake. These references are included to give a perception of common acceptance of the postulate / hypothesis / argument.
- Falsification means that the research activity like experiments or survey has been conducted but the results are changed (slightly or considerably) in order to have a positive impact on the postulate / hypothesis / argument, whereas, actually it was not. Moreover, this term is also used if the research materials, equipment or processes are also influenced. For example, if a researcher performs experiment and his results are 70% accurate but he shows that his results are 75% which are better than the previous method whose results were 72%. Actually his results were 70% but to show them better he deliberately increased results to 75%.
- Plagiarism is that when a scientist or researcher includes the idea, text, hypothesis, process or results of another researcher without giving the appropriate credit to that researcher. Another type is that when a researcher gets the idea / hypothesis from one researcher’s work and the results from another researcher’s work and present and publish it like all the work, processes and experiments have been performed by him. A breaking up of plagiarism is citation plagiarism which means determined or undetermined failure in appropriately crediting the original discoverers or resolvers, so as to give an unjustified impression of priority.
- Fake Co-Authorship is that when a researcher includes the names of his friends in research paper even they do not have any contribution in that research work. The sometime do it on alternative basis that A puts name of B in his paper and B puts A’s name. This is especially the problem of under developed countries where research ethics have not yet got strong and people do not care much about right and wrong.
Research Publishing Frauds
The RF we talked above were individual misdeeds but there are RF which may influence many researchers at a time when journals and conferences are publishing research without proper peer review. The category of deliberate dishonesty is not only associated with researchers, but also with the journals /conferences publishing the articles. The journals use different methods to increase their impact factor such as forced self citations. Impact factor is a value to calculate the progress of the journal in last two years). “The impact factor is a measure of the number of the citation in last year’s. It is calculated by dividing the number of current citations a journal receives to articles published in the two previous years by the number of articles published in those same years” . The different ways used by the journals to increase their impact factor are:
- Self Citation is the method in which journals requests the researchers, who want to publish their research material, to include references from research papers published in their journal.
- Group Citation is the method in which journals requests the researchers, who want to publish their research material, to include references from research papers published in their group of journals.
- Ungrouped Citation is the method in which journals requests the researchers, who want to publish their research material, to include references from research papers published in certain journals which are not marketed as a group but actually are a group.
- Almost 90% journals are free to publish but a few journals asks for handsome amount of money such as more than 100 USD 1000 USD to publish paper. They usually accept paper with a month and ask the researcher to submit publishing fee. They also most of the time do not perform the process of peer review. They simply made some 4-5 set of comments which they randomly send to researchers to revise paper and resubmit in a week or a month. But mostly they accept paper after submission without any revisions. Unfortunately there are some journals of this type also have impact factor which bring fake researchers publishing in these type of journals competitors with real researchers especially in under developed countries where the people publishing in money based journals have strong groups to support their immoral acts.
Not only the journals, but conferences are also fraudulent. They call for papers, and accept almost all the papers which are submitted to them and ask to submit a handsome amount for registration. Later, the conference may not produce the desired results for the researchers. Even it may happen that the conference does not take place. All these types of frauds lie in the deliberate dishonesty category.
There may be many reasons for RF which may also be multidimensional. The main reasons are competition to publish the research material in high impact factor journals, career growth, money, anxiety, pressure and enmity. Publishing in high impact factor journals, of-course has impact on status of the researcher. Moreover it is helpful in career growth and consequently helps in earning more money. Moreover researcher gets involved in research fraud due to pressure of publishing the material before any other possibly researching on the same postulate.
Considering the perspective of journals and conferences to be involved in fraudulent activities two main points evolve. One is progress of journals / conferences and the second is money again. Of course, money is very important factor for which the journals and conferences use deliberate dishonesty.
Researchers and scientists must take initiatives to discourage fraudulent activities. For the purpose, universities, colleges and international organizations involved in policing the scientific materials should play their roles. The researchers and scientists should conduct their research in favor of science to produce value addition to the work and not to produce faulty science. They must consider high standards and honesty in their research and publishing material. The community demands that sincere and honest research must have a good edge from the fraudulent research.
The institutes must provide an environment where the fraudulent activities are discouraged and strongly promote integrity. Policies and procedures must be enforced in order to deal with evidences of fraud. Moreover, the environment must be progressive and not offensive for genuine researchers. An atmosphere must be created which must not discourage openness and creativity. “Moreover, it is particularly important to distinguish fraud from the honest error and the ambiguities of interpretation that are inherent in the scientific process and are normally corrected by further research” .
If the researchers and scientist and enforcement organizations for genuine research do not play their role for honesty, clarity and creativity then the results will be reflected in the community. The community will start adopting this ideology that the research ethics have been devolved and no more actual research is in the academia, but only frauds.
“We must recognize that good science resembles art more than it resembles the law, accounting, or government. If scientific research is beset with paperwork and regulation, much of the joy and creativity in doing science could disappear, impeding scientific progress and making our field much less attractive to the dedicated and talented young researchers who represent the future” .
1- Parsons N., Smith C. R., Griffin X. L., Stengel D., Costa M. L. “Editorial – Research Fraud and The Bone & Joint Journal”. The Bone & Joint Journal July 2013;95-B:866-867
2- Hammer N.V. “Misconduct in Science: Do Scientist Need a Professional Code of Ethics?”, May 1992: www.files.chem.vt.edu/chem-ed/ethics/vinny/ethix_1.html
3- No authors listed. “Wikipedia”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_misconduct
4- Amin M., Elsevier M. “IMPACT FACTORS: USE AND ABUSE”. Perspectives in Publishing October 2000:1
5- No authors listed. “Tulane University Faculty Handbook”. http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/upload/Faculty_Handbook_FraudinReseach.pdf
6- Dr. Dov Greenbaum1. “RESEARCH FRAUD: METHODS FOR DEALING WITH AN ISSUE THAT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS SOCIETY‘S VIEW OF SCIENCE”. The Columbia Science & Technology Law Review, X, 2009