Misconduct on the Rise

Retractions of scientific studies due to plagiarism, falsification, and other instances of researchers behaving badly have skyrocketed in the past decade.

May 21, 2012
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, EVAN-AMOS

Research misconduct and the fallout from such behavior is increasingly common, according to a new report compiled by a company that makes software to detect plagiarism in submitted scientific manuscripts. The makers of iThenticate—software that combs a database, called CrossCheck, with more than 25 million published articles—published the report, which collates previously published research on misconduct and plagiarism, and sprinkles in a few iThenticate customer testimonials.

A couple of years ago, iThenticate helped determine that plagiarism was a far more common occurrence in the scientific literature than anyone expected, and the new report confirms that finding with some standout figures: retractions have increased tenfold over the past decade, 1 in 3 scientists admits to questionable research practices, and $110 million was spent on misconduct investigations in the United States in 2010.

But beyond the regurgitated factoids, iThenticate's own data is a striking illustration of how common plagiarism may be in the scientific community. The report claims that iThenticate identified more than 10 million content "matches" to already-published work in manuscripts submitted in 2011 and 2012. The folks at iThenticate worked up a little infographic containing most of the information.