Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

False findings: The rise in retraction of scientific results

By Andi Horvath

Medical journalist and educator Prof Ivan Oransky talks about research misconduct that, once uncovered after publication, leads to retractions of scientific papers, damaged careers, and an undermining of the scientific process. Prof Oransky suggests why retractions are on the increase, and how technology is being enlisted in the fight against fraud.

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ANDI HORVATH
I'm Dr Andi Horvath. Thanks for joining us. Today we bring you Up Close to an essential part of what makes science a reliable evidence based source of new knowledge, peer review. Science prides itself as a self-correcting form of knowledge generation. Researchers typically collect, interpret and document their experimental data according to the accepted conventions of laboratory science. Now that documentation includes the preparation and acceptance of a scientific paper for publication in a scientific journal. To accept a paper for publication, a journal assigns scientists and experts in the area of the publication; the so-called peers in the term peer review. They scrutinise the draft paper's details, the methodology employed, and the soundness of the author's interpretations. They then recommend to the journal whether to publish or reject the paper, or they may advise to go back and fix things before re-submitting. Once a paper is accepted and published, this allows for other scientists to quote the paper as valid knowledge, but it's still provisional knowledge. So the peer review process builds critical foundations for science.

But what happens when a published paper is...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.