Fraud in medical research: an international survey of biostatisticians. ISCB Subcommittee on Fraud

Control Clin Trials. 2000 Oct;21(5):415-27. doi: 10.1016/s0197-2456(00)00069-6.


The characteristics of scientific fraud and its impact on medical research are in general not well known. However, the interest in the phenomenon has increased steadily during the last decade. Biostatisticians routinely work closely with physicians and scientists in many branches of medical research and have therefore unique insight into data. In addition, they have methodological competence to detect fraud and could be expected to have a professional interest in valid results. Biostatisticians therefore are likely to provide reliable information on the characteristics of fraud in medical research. The objective of this survey of biostatisticians, who were members of the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics, was to assess the characteristics of fraud in medical research. The survey was performed between April and July 1998. The participation rate was only 37%. We report the results because a majority (51%) of the participants knew about fraudulent projects, and many did not know whether the organization they work for has a formal system for handling suspected fraud or not. Different forms of fraud (e.g., fabrication and falsification of data, deceptive reporting of results, suppression of data, and deceptive design or analysis) had been observed in fairly similar numbers. We conclude that fraud is not a negligible phenomenon in medical research, and that increased awareness of the forms in which it is expressed seems appropriate. Further research, however, is needed to assess the prevalence of different types of fraud, as well as its impact on the validity of results published in the medical literature.

MeSH terms

  • Biometry*
  • Data Collection
  • Research*
  • Scientific Misconduct* / trends