What should I do if I suspect fraud in a scientific paper?

+4 votes
79 views
asked Aug 17, 2015 in Open Science by Thomas (915 points)

In a recent, high-profile case, a UCLA graduate student was found to have fabricated data for a widely publicized field experiment. The fraud was detected by other graduate students who hesitated to report the fraud out of fear of damaging their own reputation. If I suspect the results or data reported in a published paper are fraudulent, what should I do?



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3 Answers

+4 votes
answered Aug 17, 2015 by Franck Dernoncourt (540 points)

What I would do:

  • Step 0: Share you doubts with a colleague.
  • Step 1: Try to contact the authors to make sure there's no misunderstanding.
  • Step 2: Contact the publisher to share your suspicions.

Nothing prevents you from saying anonymous if you fear it might backfire on you in any way.



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commented Aug 18, 2015 by jaipel (65 points)
I would add that although you can stay anonymous in reporting, some fields are small enough that anonymity is all but illusory. In these cases, a little more caution may be warranted.

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+2 votes
answered Aug 18, 2015 by Stephen Eglen (100 points)

If all else fails with the authors and journals, you could always head over to http://retractionwatch.com/ and see if anyone else has concerns.



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0 votes
answered Aug 19, 2015 by Felipe G. Nievinski (15 points)

Go to PubPeer, of course; ask for factual clarification, without insinuating misconduct. From their FAQ:

Q: I have seen a paper that claims fraudlent data. Can I report it on PubPeer? Although this is not the main aim of PubPeer, we believe that thse sort of comments need to be reported somewhere. So why not here. However, read ALL of this before making any claims of misconduct: pubpeer.com/misconduct. This is a very serious issue for us.



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