Last May at the American Medical Association's International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publication, I presented a report on the impact of fraud on scientific literature. Much of the current debate on this issue has focused on the small, but growing, number of papers reporting falsified research that escape the traditional quality control filter of peer review. But little attention has been paid to the question of whether and how these papers impact on research. This question is relevant at a time when journal editors are debating what, if anything, they can and should do to prevent the publication of falsified research.

Drummond Rennie, West Coast editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and director of the AMA Congress, suggested that I examine the work of Stephen E. Breuning, the first researcher to have been convicted of scientific fraud in federal court. While at the Coldwater Regional...

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