Scientific Research Integrity At An All-Time Low?

I keep hearing this asserted, but I see zero evidence that it is the case. What is clearly the case is that there is now an all-time vastly greater ability for interested sleuths to reveal failures of research integrity (e.g., by image analysis, sophisticated statistical analysis, etc).


  1. Pteryxx says

    While that’s true, I’d be willing to believe that there is in fact an increase in research falsification due to companies paying for biased research, combined with cutting of funds to unbiased science departments and to organizations responsible for oversight. When the rewards for bad research increase, it’s reasonable to expect that bad research might increase as well.

  2. jamessweet says

    I don’t think there’s enough data either way to confidently assert a cause for the rise in retractions. My gut feeling is along the same lines as yours, that it’s more about improved detection and rapid feedback than it is about a rise in sloppy/fraudulent research. But more study is probably warranted…

  3. DJMH says

    It may well just be improved detection, but it’s worth noting that a lot of the tech features that enhance detection ability also enhance the ease of falsification. Photoshopping gel bands, e.g.

  4. hn says

    It’s also easier for whistleblowers to put up anonymous blogs and youtube videos. I haven’t heard of any cases yet, but I’m concerned whether such visible anonymity will lead to false accusations from competitors or disgruntled trainees/employees.

  5. DrugMonkey says

    False accusations are going to have to come up with some evidence though. Of the “this band has been copied from their prior paper, figure 6c” variety, no?

  6. Pteryxx says


    Here’s an alternative hypothesis: Your paper got published in Nature because you’re insanely famous and it was incredibly controversial, which Nature eats up. Nature is more about prestige and sexy topics than good science nowadays. Its retraction rate has increased ten fold in the last ten years when its number of papers published has only increased by 44%.



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