Fit for print?

The number of flawed papers making it through peer review and into publications tells us something needs to change, say Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky

The Biologist 61(4) p9

These days, it feels impossible to go a month without reading about some scandal involving a scientific paper – from manipulated images in supposedly groundbreaking stem cell research to misconduct in social psychology experiments. But four years ago, when we launched Retraction Watch to monitor retracted scientific papers, we were not sure we would have enough material.

Coincidentally, we had established the blog in the middle of a rapid increase in the rate of retractions. The average annual number of retractions grew tenfold from 2001 to 2010, while the number of papers published per year grew by just 44%.

Why that is the case is not clear, although it is fairly evident that having more eyes scrutinising papers online is one factor, as is the greater use of plagiarism detection software. What many of these retractions reveal, however, are the limitations of peer review as it exists today.

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