Scientific misconduct and accountability in teams

Authors : Katrin Hussinger, Maikel Pellens

Increasing complexity and multidisciplinarity make collaboration essential for modern science. This, however, raises the question of how to assign accountability for scientific misconduct among larger teams of authors. Biomedical societies and science associations have put forward various sets of guidelines. Some state that all authors are jointly accountable for the integrity of the work.

Others stipulate that authors are only accountable for their own contribution. Alternatively, there are guarantor type models that assign accountability to a single author. We contribute to this debate by analyzing the outcomes of 80 scientific misconduct investigations of biomedical scholars conducted by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

We show that the position of authors on the byline of 184 publications involved in misconduct cases correlates with responsibility for the misconduct. Based on a series of binary regression models, we show that first authors are 38% more likely to be responsible for scientific misconduct than authors listed in the middle of the byline (p<0.01). Corresponding authors are 14% more likely (p<0.05).

These findings suggest that a guarantor-like model where first authors are ex-ante accountable for misconduct is highly likely to not miss catching the author responsible, while not afflicting too many bystanders.

URL : Scientific misconduct and accountability in teams

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215962

Correcting duplicate publications: follow up study of MEDLINE tagged duplications

Authors : Mario Malički, Ana Utrobičić, Ana Marušić

Introduction

As MEDLINE indexers tag similar articles as duplicates even when journals have not addressed the duplication(s), we sought to determine the reasons behind the tagged duplications, and if the journals had undertaken or had planned to undertake any actions to address them.

Materials and methods

On 16 January 2013, we extracted all tagged duplicate publications (DPs), analysed published notices, and then contacted MEDLINE and editors regarding cases unaddressed by notices.

For non-respondents, we compared full text of the articles. We followed up the study for the next 5 years to see if any changes occurred.

Results

We found 1011 indexed DPs, which represented 555 possible DP cases (in MEDLINE, both the original and the duplicate are assigned a DP tag). Six cases were excluded as we could not obtain their full text.

Additional 190 (35%) cases were incorrectly tagged as DPs. Of 359 actual cases of DPs, 200 (54%) were due to publishers’ actions (e.g. identical publications in the same journal), and 159 (46%) due to authors’ actions (e.g. article submission to more than one journal). Of the 359 cases, 185 (52%) were addressed by notices, but only 25 (7%) retracted.

Following our notifications, MEDLINE corrected 138 (73%) incorrectly tagged cases, and editors retracted 8 articles.

Conclusions

Despite clear policies on how to handle DPs, just half (54%) of the DPs in MEDLINE were addressed by journals and only 9% retracted. Publishers, editors, and indexers need to develop and implement standards for better correction of duplicate published records.

URL : Correcting duplicate publications: follow up study of MEDLINE tagged duplications

DOI : https://doi.org/10.11613/BM.2019.010201

Authorship of Retraction Notices: “If Names Are Not Rectified, Then Language Will Not Be in Accord with Truth.”

Author : Guangwei Hu

Retraction notices appear regularly in many scholarly journals, especially top-tier journals of science and engineering. One disconcerting feature of this emergent genre is evasion of authorship, that is, the deliberate obscuring of who has authored a particular retraction notice.

This communication illustrates and discusses problems of evaded authorship of retraction notices. To address these problems, it proposes that scholarly journals should require explicit authorship of retraction notices and the inclusion of core generic components such as the content to be retracted, the reason(s) for the retraction, the attribution of responsibility, and the expression of mortification.

URL : Authorship of Retraction Notices: “If Names Are Not Rectified, Then Language Will Not Be in Accord with Truth.”

DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/publications5020010