After reviewing nearly 20 years of retractions from researchers based in China, researchers came up with some somewhat unsurprising (yet still disheartening) findings: The number of retractions has increased (from zero in 1997 to more than 150 in 2016), and approximately 75% were due to some kind of misconduct. (You can read more details in the paper, published this month in Science and Engineering Ethics.) We spoke with first author Lei Lei, based in the School of Foreign Languages at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, about what he thinks can be done to improve research integrity in his country.
Retraction Watch: With “Lack of Improvement” right in the title (“Lack of Improvement in Scientific Integrity: An Analysis of WoS Retractions by Chinese Researchers (1997-2016)”), you sound disappointed with your findings. What findings did you expect — or at least hope — to find, and what are your reactions to the results you did uncover?
Lei Lei: Before we began to work on the project, we had occasionally heard of news reports on the retraction of articles by Chinese researchers. It seemed that the issue occurred more often than before. Since my team has been working on several projects with bibliometric methods, I thought we could investigate this issue with the methods. Thus, the results we found from the study provided scientific evidence to our hypothesis, though I was disappointed, as you mentioned, with the findings.