Financial costs and personal consequences of research misconduct resulting in retracted publications

Elife. 2014 Aug 14;3:e02956. doi: 10.7554/eLife.02956.


The number of retracted scientific articles has been increasing. Most retractions are associated with research misconduct, entailing financial costs to funding sources and damage to the careers of those committing misconduct. We sought to calculate the magnitude of these effects. Data relating to retracted manuscripts and authors found by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) to have committed misconduct were reviewed from public databases. Attributable costs of retracted manuscripts, and publication output and funding of researchers found to have committed misconduct were determined. We found that papers retracted due to misconduct accounted for approximately $58 million in direct funding by the NIH between 1992 and 2012, less than 1% of the NIH budget over this period. Each of these articles accounted for a mean of $392,582 in direct costs (SD $423,256). Researchers experienced a median 91.8% decrease in publication output and large declines in funding after censure by the ORI.

Keywords: Feature article: Research; National Institutes of Health; Office of Research Integrity; financial costs; research misconduct; retractions.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Retraction of Publication as Topic*
  • Scientific Misconduct / ethics*
  • Scientific Misconduct / psychology
  • Scientific Misconduct / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • United States Office of Research Integrity

Grant support

No external funding was received.