While the rate of retractions has been rising in recent years, it may not mean more scientists are fudging the data. Some experts believe text comparison tools and other means for catching plagiarism or data fraud are being used more widely by journals, possibly leading to an increase in detection, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
The rate of retractions has exploded, from around 40 per year in the 1990s to 407 in 2011. But more journals routinely use software to catch plagiarism, which has greatly increased their ability to uncover misconduct. In addition, the average age of a retraction has increased from 5 months to 32 months from 2000 to 2009, according to The Chronicle. In other words, journals may are unearthing problems in older papers, so the number of new offenders may not be rising.
Editors may also have gotten wise to the problem and increased their vigilance, potentially making it harder to get away with plagiarism. The number of repeat offenders has dropped over time, possibly suggesting that it’s more difficult now to sneak through fudged data or duplicated text.