In a survey of 315 medical scientists in the Netherlands, 15% “admitted to recently fabricating or falsifying research data,” while more than 25% “admitted to deleting negative data or results” that did not confirm their beliefs, according to a study presented at the 27th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress and reported in Medscape Medical News. And a majority of physicians thought the current climate surrounding medical publishing is undermining “the credibility and validity of medical science.”
Physician Joeri K. Tijdink of the Free University Medical Center in Amsterdam led the study, which also found that many scientists blamed many of these problems on increasing pressure to publish in order to further their careers.
“Results showed that 15% of the participants self-reported that they had fabricated, falsified, plagiarized, or manipulated data in the past 3 years,” reported Medscape. “A total of 25% said they had at some time ‘deleted data or results in order to confirm a hypothesis (data cooking/massaging),’ and 70% admitted to assigning authorship to individuals who did not contribute to the study. In addition, 72% rated publication pressure as ‘too high,’ and 61% said that this type of pressure has negative effects on the credibility and validity of medical science.”
Tijdink called the findings “disturbing” and told Medscape that they “have garnered quite a bit of attention” in the Netherlands.
“More than half of a group of professors say the reliability and validity of scientific results are not trustworthy, and 25% say that medical science is sick,” Tijdink told Medscape.
Medscape sought comment from David Kupfer of the Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who also recently chaired the task force designing the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Kupfer said the feelings of publication pressure felt in Europe were “not inconsistent with the way things operate in North America.” However, Kupfer felt that practices have improved in recent years, even though “there are always going to be a few bad apples.”
“Faculty are paying more attention to younger faculty. And maybe the emphasis on career mentoring and working in groups and looking at data collectively, and less Lone Ranger activity, may in fact reduce some of this data manipulation,” said Kupfer. “I think people are paying much more attention to the data that are being analyzed.” Kupfer admitted to Medscape that he “does not have research to support his viewpoint.”