Paid off journal editors, Scientific Fraud, Inappropriate image duplication, Hoaxes,

Medical Research Issues and Peer-Review

By —— Bio and Archives--December 1, 2018

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Medical Research Issues and Peer-Review
John Ioannidis reported in 2005 that most published medical research findings are false. 1 His statistical analysis and logic are impeccable and his paper has never been seriously refuted. Furthermore, he has had a tremendous impact: the paper has been viewed more than 2.5 million times.

In 2009, Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote that, “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor.” 2


Now, many years after Ioannidis’s and Angell’s comments, the situation appears even worse.

Here are some examples.

- One in four statisticians say they were asked to commit scientific fraud:
A stunning report concludes that researchers often make ‘inappropriate requests’ to statisticians. And by ‘inappropriate,’ the authors of the report aren’t referring to accidental requests for incorrect statistical analysis; instead, they’re referring to requests for unscrupulous data manipulation or even fraud. The researchers surveyed 522 consulting biostatisticians and received sufficient responses from 390. 3

The absolute worst offense (i.e., being asked to fake statistical significance) occurred with 3% of the survey respondents. Another 7%  asked to change data, and a whopping 24%, nearly 1 in 4, said they were asked to remove or alter data. Unequivocally, that is a request to commit scientific fraud, says Alex Berezow, 4

- Paid off journal editors:
About half of journal editors receive payment of some type from drug or device companies. Of all journal editors that could be assessed, 50.6% were on the take. The average payment in 2014 was $27,564 each. This does not include an average $37,330 given for ‘research’ payments. The most egregious may be the Journal of American College of Cardiology. In 2014, each editor received an average of $475,072 personally and another $119,407 for ‘research.’ With 35 editors, that’s about $15 million in bribes.5

- Inappropriate image duplication
This appeared in numerous papers covering molecular and cellular biology. Image sleuths scanned hundreds of papers published over a seven year period in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), published by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The researchers found 50 potentially problematic papers, of which five were retracted. Extrapolating from these findings and those of another paper that scanned duplication rates, the researchers propose that tens of thousands of papers might need to be purged from the literature. 6,7

- Hoaxes
Academic journals are caught up in a massive hoax involving 20 fake papers on ‘dog rape culture,’ ‘a conceptual penis’ and re-printing a version of Mein Kampf. The aim of the writers was to expose how ‘absurdities’ get published in legitimate peer-reviewed academic papers due to a lack of critical review. In total the team of three researchers wrote 20 hoax papers on a field of study loosely defined as ‘grievance studies.’  These papers, seven of which were accepted and four published online, were based on just ‘nutty or inhumane’ ideas. 8

Commenting on hoax papers, Kenneth Richard writes, “Hoax papers can get published in 70% of peer-reviewed journals. Analyses indicate that ‘fake peer-review’ often goes undetected, and as many as 7 of 10 peer-reviewed journals are apt to publish a deliberately written hoax paper.” 9

Also on the subject of peer-review, Berlin-based Spring Nature, who publishes the journal Nature announced the retraction of 64 articles in 10 journals in an August 18th statement in 2015. This followed an internal investigation which found fabricated peer-review write-ups linked to the articles. 10

Reality Check

Looks like what Ioannidis reported in 2005 and Angell in 2009 is still with us and perhaps even worse. As Brendan Murphy notes, “Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields.” Given the already outlined problems, is it really surprising that, in Ioannidis’ words, “claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias?” Dr. Marc Girard has written, “The reason for this disaster is too clear: the power of money. In academic institutions, the current dynamics of research is more favorable to the ability of getting grants, collecting money and spending it, than to scientific imagination or creativity. 10


  1. John P. A. Ioannidis, “Why most published research findings are false,” August 30, 2015
  2. Dr. Jason Fung, “The corruption of evidence based on medicine—killing for profit,”  June 28, 2018
  3. Min Qi Wang et al.,, “Researchers requests for inappropriate analysis and reporting: a US survey of consulting biostatisticians,” Ann. Intern. Med., 169(8), 554, October 16, 2018
  4. Alex Berezow, “1 in 4 statisticians say they were asked to commit scientific fraud,” American Council on Science and Health, Oct. 30, 2018
  5. Jessica J. Liu et al., “Payments of US pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to US medical journal editors: retrospective observational study,” BMJ, 2017;359:j4619
  6. 35,000 papers may need to be retracted for image doctoring, says new paper,” retractionwatch.com, June 29, 2018
  7. Elisabeth M. Bik, et al., “Analysis and correction of inappropriate image duplication: the molecular and cellular biology experience,” June 27, 2018
  8. Anthony Watts, “Scientific sting operation shows how fake science garbage gets published in peer-reviewed journals,” wattsupwiththat.com, Oct. 4, 2018
  9. Kenneth Richard, “Quality control sorely needed in climate science: half of peer-reviewed results non-replicable, flawed,” notrickszone.com, Nov. 8, 2018
  10. Brendan D. Murphy, “The failure of peer-review (especially in medicine),” wakeup-world, 2017



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Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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