Fraud in science is alarmingly common. Sometimes researchers lie about results and invent data to win funding and prestige. Other times, researchers might pay to stage and publish entirely bogus studies to win an undeserved pay rise – fuelling a “paper mill” industry worth an estimated €1 billion a year.
The fraudulent and shonky work of cheats and charlatans have been on the rise for a while. They have been polluting and befouling the body of scientific knowledge and causing serious harm. The growing capabilities of artificial intelligence to create text, data and fabricated images is only going to accelerate this trend. This is not a future diaspora, it is the reality we are living in right now. This piece that appeared in The Conversation takes are you sobering but still alarming look at the issues.
The latest idea among academic publishers is to use automated tools to screen all papers submitted to scientific journals for telltale signs. However, some of these tools are easy to fool.
I am part of a group of multidisciplinary scientists working to tackle research fraud and poor practice using metascience or the “science of science”. Ours is a new field, but we already have our own society and our members have worked with funders and publishers to investigate improvements to research practice.
The limits of automated screening
The problems with automated screening are highlighted by a new screening tool publicised last month. The tool suggested around one in three neuroscience papers might be fraudulent.