A case of admitted scientific fraud has shed new light on the system that ensures the integrity of the scientific literature. Certain lapses from generally accepted standards of research may be more frequent than is commonly believed.
KIE: John Darsee was found to have fabricated much of the data that formed the basis of over 100 articles that he coauthored with 47 researchers at the medical schools of Harvard and Emory universities. Stewart and Feder analyzed these publications to investigate the vigilance of scientific referees, journal editors, and Darsee's coauthors in meeting accepted publication standards. They characterize their findings as revealing two types of frequently occurring lapses. Type A lapses--such as the presence of errors or inconsistencies, failure to obtain relevant data, and honorary authorship--may simply reflect carelessness. More serious Type B lapses include misleading statements or citations and failure to acknowledge sources of data or to respond appropriately to charges of fraud. The authors discuss reasons for these lapses and recommend a random study of published papers to ascertain the extent of such poor publishing practices.