The Price Tag of Scientific Fraud

Each paper retracted because of research misconduct costs taxpayers roughly $400,000, according to a report.

By | August 15, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, JON SULLIVANIt’s presumed that research misconduct wastes resources, many of them given to scientists through federal dollars. Ferric Fang of the University of Washington and his colleagues quantified just how much fraud costs the government in a new report published yesterday (August 14) in eLife.

It turns out that every paper retracted because of research misconduct costs about $400,000 in funds from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)—totaling $58 million for papers retracted between 1992 and 2012. The authors pointed out that this total represents a fraction of a percent of the NIH budget for these years.

And scientific fraud incurs additional costs. “The damage to researchers’ careers (who in some cases have done nothing wrong themselves), the institutional costs of investigating suspected fraud, the misdirection of public policy, and the misleading of other scientists who pursue false leads are other important costs,” Fang told Retraction Watch.

Still, compared to other government agencies, research misconduct is comparatively small, and less than what Fang had expected. “When one compares the total with the estimated $31 [billion]-60 billion out of a total of $206 billion spent on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that were lost to fraud and waste in FY2011 alone, the funds wasted on fraudulent research seem modest relative to some other government agencies and programs,” he said. Interestingly, the costs of retracted papers correlated with the impact factors of the journals in which they appeared.

It’s also possible that Fang’s team’s numbers are an overestimate of the true impact of these retracted studies. Some of the money may not have been wasted, the authors wrote in their report. “It is conceivable that some of the research resulting in a retracted article still provides useful information for other non-retracted studies.”

“It still has to be conclusively shown . . . that much research actually goes wasted directly because of fabricated findings,” Daniele Fanelli, a misconduct researcher at the University of Montreal, told Retraction Watch. “These results send an important message: we must be careful not to over-dramatise the issue of misconduct.”

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Avatar of: Dodurgali


Posts: 2

August 18, 2014

Science is an open game. If you cheat, someone will find out sooner or later. In spite of this reality, some people still cheat.  They betray the trust we enjoy as scientists and put the rest of us under suspiciian in public eye. 

Avatar of: Murry Cohen

Murry Cohen

Posts: 1

August 29, 2014

I believe there is much more scientific fraud than we realize or than has been uncovered. The reason: MONEY. There is increasing pressure to publish or perish. Medical centers and medical schools need the NIH money to balance their budgets, so the more grants approved the better, which means completing research projects QUICKLY to get more grants and more money. This means either sloppiness or purposeful fudging of the data. And animal experiments are easier to corrupt than other types. Part of the reason is that they are corrupt to begin with.

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