'Somebody Might Actually Make Up Data': An Empirical Qualitative Study on How to Screen for Fake Research

36 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2022

See all articles by Lisa Parker

Lisa Parker

The University of Sydney

Stephanie Boughton

Independent

Rosa Lawrence

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Lisa Bero

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

Objective: Fraudulent research exists but can be hard to spot. Made-up studies and results can affect systematic reviews and clinical guidelines, causing harm through incorrect treatments and practices. Our aim was to explore indicators of research fraud that could be included in a screening tool to identify potentially problematic studies warranting closer scrutiny. 

Study Design & Setting: A qualitative international interview study, purposively recruiting participants with experience and/or expertise in: research integrity, systematic reviews, biomedical publishing; whistle-blowing research fraud. We used thematic analysis to identify major concepts and ideas.

Results: We contacted 49 potential participants and interviewed 30 from 12 countries. Participants described research fraud as a growing concern, with a lack of widely accessible resources or education to assist in flagging problematic studies. They discussed early warning signs that could be contained in a screening tool for use either pre or post publication. We did not speak to participants from indexing services, information software/analytics companies, or the public. Our suggested screening tools are empirically derived but are preliminary and not validated.

Conclusion: Collating early warning signs of research fraud into a practical tool would be useful for peer reviewers, editors, publishers and systematic reviewers.

Note:
Funding Information: This work was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, APP1139997.

Declaration of Interests: LP and RL have no conflict of interest. LB is Senior Research Integrity Editor, Cochrane, for which the University of Colorado receives remuneration. SB is employed by Cochrane as Research Integrity Editor.

Keywords: scientific misconduct, research fraud, fraudulent data, publication ethics, research ethics, qualitative research

Suggested Citation

Parker, Lisa and Boughton, Stephanie and Lawrence, Rosa and Bero, Lisa, 'Somebody Might Actually Make Up Data': An Empirical Qualitative Study on How to Screen for Fake Research (2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4071671 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4071671

Lisa Parker (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, 2006
Australia

Stephanie Boughton

Independent ( email )

Rosa Lawrence

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus ( email )

Lisa Bero

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus ( email )

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