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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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July 2, 2012

If They Pretend to Read It, He'll Pretend to Write It

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Posted by Derek

Is this the record? At least 172 faked publications from a Japanese anaesthesiology researcher. He doesn't seem to have been a particularly high-impact person in the field, but that makes you wonder, too. Sitting around all day, making up data for papers that no one reads. . .what a life! I don't how anything on quite this scale could happen in chemistry, but perhaps that's wishful thinking.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. The Iron Chemist on July 2, 2012 11:11 AM writes...

Well, there were those two guys who published all of those fake crystal structures in Acta Cryst journals.

Not as ambitious as doing it 172+ times, but still.

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2. milkshake on July 2, 2012 11:49 AM writes...

I have seen several carbon-copy plagiarized papers from Indian and Turkish chemistry groups. Apparently they would take someone's marginal methodology paper published in a low-impact journal and republish it under their names in an even lower impact journal few years later. It is not fake, only totally plagiarized, but I wonder what it must feel like to be at some regional university with lousy resources, trying to get ahead by padding up the publication list in this way...

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3. DC on July 3, 2012 12:53 AM writes...

Question for the experts after reading the article:

Why is a study not valid if the hypothesis is not stated in advance? Surely data is data and correlations are correlations?

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4. NJBiologist on July 3, 2012 11:40 AM writes...

@3 DC--It's not an all-or-nothing situation where you discard any study where hypotheses weren't laid out in advance. However, pre-specifying is a safeguard against post-hoc shifting of the goalposts. This is probably of most concern in clinical trials, where the concern is that a failed primary endpoint may be quietly substituted for a secondary endpoint that reached significance. Data are data until you re-process them, change the measures and create subgroups.

Although I'm picking on the clinical people in that example, I've seen preclinical scientists do it, too--mainly by repeatedly finding new baseline measures to compare post-treatment data to. As the statisticians say, torture your data long enough, and they'll confess.

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5. Lindsay on July 4, 2012 3:42 AM writes...

And interestingly the previous record holder, with 90 retracted papers, was also an anaesthesiologist.

Does anyone know who's in "third place"?

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6. Li on July 10, 2012 6:55 AM writes...

DC- There are many ways to post hoc transform a failed study to one with significant results.
The two most common are 1) changing the criteria for a positive signal (have to be vague about what that means) 2) changing the hypothesis. The first has been discussed, above. As an example of the second, most of the time more than enough variables can be extracted from a study so that random error will promote one variable combination to significance. This is "fishing", and is not always inappropriate. A blatant (and rarely seen) example is collecting 5 dependent variables (outcome variables) and 5 input variables. It is almost certain that some spurious relationship will be found between them at teh, say, 95% confidence limit. Not PRE specifying your hypothesis increases false positives enormously.

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