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« Passive smoking and the price of propaganda | Main | Smoking, pregnant women and their criminal offspring »

Thumbs up for fake science!!

The same press release issued by BMJ Journals (see previous post) also points us to an article in the latest edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics:

US scientists significantly more likely to publish fake research

US scientists are significantly more likely to publish fake research than scientists from elsewhere, finds a trawl of officially withdrawn (retracted) studies, published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Fraudsters are also more likely to be “repeat offenders,” the study shows.

The study author searched the PubMed database for every scientific research paper that had been withdrawn—and therefore officially expunged from the public record—between 2000 and 2010.

A total of 788 papers had been retracted during this period. Around three quarters of these papers had been withdrawn because of a serious error (545); the rest of the retractions were attributed to fraud (data fabrication or falsification).

The highest number of retracted papers were written by US first authors (260), accounting for a third of the total. One in three of these was attributed to fraud.

The UK, India, Japan, and China each had more than 40 papers withdrawn during the decade. Asian nations, including South Korea, accounted for 30% of retractions. Of these, one in four was attributed to fraud.

The fakes were more likely to appear in leading publications with a high “impact factor”. This is a measure of how often research is cited in other peer reviewed journals.

More than half (53%) of the faked research papers had been written by a first author who was a “repeat offender.” This was the case in only one in five (18%) of the erroneous papers.

The average number of authors on all retracted papers was three, but some had 10 or more. Faked research papers were significantly more likely to have multiple authors.

Each first author who was a repeat fraudster had an average of six co-authors, each of whom had had another three retractions.

“The duplicity of some authors is cause for concern,” comments the author. Retraction is the strongest sanction that can be applied to published research, but currently, “[it] is a very blunt instrument used for offences both gravely serious and trivial.”

Fake charities, now fake research. You couldn't make it up.

Reader Comments (5)

Even if it isn't fake, it's probably wrong anyway.

"Over the years, hundreds of published papers have warned that science’s love affair with statistics has spawned countless illegitimate findings. In fact, if you believe what you read in the scientific literature, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the scientific literature.". (my emphasis)


"There is increasing concern,” declared epidemiologist John Ioannidis in a highly cited 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, “that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.”

Ioannidis claimed to prove that more than half of published findings are false, but his analysis came under fire for statistical shortcomings of its own. “It may be true, but he didn’t prove it,” says biostatistician Steven Goodman of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. On the other hand, says Goodman, the basic message stands. “There are more false claims made in the medical literature than anybody appreciates,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”"(my emphasis again)

Never assume that statistical methods impart truth to data - it is usually the opposite.

caveat emptor

November 16, 2010 at 13:46 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Bond

My God, how bad must that research be for it to actually be retracted? Just look at the toilet paper "research" churned out by Stanton Glantz and the like which is not only never retracted but is used as "evidence" by mindless politicians despite its being debunked dozens of times. Absolute piffle yet not retracted.

That other stuff must be real Janet and John/Earth is flat/third hand smoke is real bunkum.

November 16, 2010 at 22:10 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

Talking of fake science I have written personally to Professor Martin Jarvis of ASH and the author of the SCOTH report and posted this on public forums and have yet to get a response. I wonder why?

Most people base their opinion on the supposed harm of second hand smoke (SHS) from the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) (1) movement.

The questions include information acquired under a Freedom Of Information Request.

I would publically like to put these questions to Professor Jarvis. The first question is based on information gleaned from a Freedom Of Information Request on the SCOTH minutes (2) of meetings.

1. "Most of the studies were not felt to be sufficiently conclusive in their findings."

Is Prof Jarvis saying the there is insufficient evidence from the scientific papers?

2. On SHS and lung cancer SCOTH on page 5 says "In most studies considered individually the observed odds ratios failed to reach statistical significance."

SCOTH quotes for lung cancer (LC) a relative risk of 1.25 and is in epidemiological terms statistically insignificant. That is, at 1.25 the case for the harm of SHS is scientifically and medically impossile to prove.

3. There are 30 studies done into ACTIVE smoking. The findings are that cigar smokers and pipe smokers (because they do not inhale) do not run any higher risk of lung cancer, emphysema and an early death. In fact pipe smokers live on average 2 years longer than non smokers. Of the 30 studies done into active smoking the range of daily cigarette smoking which does not effect mortality, raised lung cancer and emphysema rates range from 0.9 to 6.3 cigarettes a day. 6.3 a day is the figure quoted by Hill and Doll in their paper on smoking, lung cancer for British GPs.

On page 8, point 14 of SCOTH it states "..although uptake of smoke by non-smokers is typically only about 1% of that by active smokers."

So a 24 hour exposure to SHS will mean less than a 1/4 of a cigarette. Can Prof Jarvis explain how SHS aetiologically (causation) induces illness in non smokers?

4. This is for anoraks. Lung cancer in smokers is caused by a guanine to thymine transversion, a genetic mutation of the p53 gene. Can Prof Jarvis and the SCOTH team name me one non smoker who has been genetically tested for this mutation and hence proves SHS induces lung cancer?

According to the World Health Organization/International Reserch Agency for Cancer there are not many if at all: "In 1998, Pierre Hainaut and his collaborators at IARC analyzed the mutations in lung cancers that were at the time in the IARC p53 database. They found that the positions of damage by benzo(a)pyrene spotted by Pfeifer and his team were frequently the sites of mutations in lung cancers of smokers but rarely in lung cancers of non-smokers." (3)

ASH have a history of misleading Parliament like misquoting the cost of covering up tobacco displays in shops. They said £200 when the real cost is £2,000 and counting. (4)





November 17, 2010 at 8:50 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dave, have you seen this paper about the differences between lc in smokers and none smokers?

November 17, 2010 at 12:37 | Unregistered Commenterjon


I have indeed and thanks for posting. This has been a debate going on since 1994 when the genetic differences were first noted and documented by WHO/IARC in 2003. The K-Ras gene is what is described as an Oncogene, i.e. cancer.

A lady geneticist called Dr. Asluag Helland produced this paper in 2009.

"RESULTS: ....A number of molecular and clinical characteristics differ between lung cancer related to tobacco use and those not related to tobacco use. 62 % of lung cancers among never-smokers are adenocarcinomas and 18 % are squamous cell carcinomas, while corresponding numbers among patients who smoke are 19 % and 53 %. The K-Ras-gene is often mutated in tumours from smokers, but seldom in tumours from non-smokers; whereas the EGFR-gene is mutated in tumours from non-smokers, and not in smokers. Also, age and sex distribution, therapy response and prognosis are shown to differ between the groups.

INTERPRETATION: Lung cancer in never-smokers should probably be regarded as a different disease-entity than smoking-induced lung cancer. This could impact prognosis as well as treatment."

November 17, 2010 at 13:10 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

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