Saturday, 30 December 2017

Fake Science Papers in the News

Image courtesy of Frederick Burr Opper, Public Domain.

Joel Kontinen

In 2015, a group of Chinese scientists published a paper entitled “Nucleolin Promotes TGF-β Signaling Initiation via TGF-β Receptor I in Glioblastoma” in the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience.

While it might sound like a genuine scientific paper, there is little genuine in it. 1) Its stated funding source was not the real funding source. 2) One of the co-authors admitted he had not taken part in the research or in writing the paper and didn’t even know about the study. 3) The senior author acknowledged that he had not taken part in the submission process and did not support its publication. 4) The journal’s editors suspected that the peer-review process was compromised,

The paper was retracted in June 2017. This year, the journal’s publisher Springer has retracted over 100 scientific papers, prompting Live Science to begin an article with the words:

“Lies, exaggerations, criminal acts, unbridled irony, alternative facts,
fake news
… No, we're not talking about 2017 politics. This is the 2017 world of science.”

The article goes on to say:

This past year, hundreds of scientific papers were retracted from professional journals. In the majority of cases involving these retractions, the reason was an innocent, yet sloppy, error in the methodology of the experiment that the authors themselves caught. But for quite a few papers, the retractions reflected scientific misconduct and a not-so-innocent attempt to tweak the data — or make it up entirely.”

And Live Science didn’t even mention the case of a dog sitting on the editorial board of 7 journals.

It seems that scientific misconduct thrives in the Darwinian community.

Quite often, big science gives rise to big lies.


Wanjek, Christopher. 2017. Lies, Mistakes & More: These Scientific Papers Got Nixed in 2017. Live Science (27 December).