I found an article in the Wall Street Journal that shows that the rate of retractions of scientific studies in scientific journals has proliferated over the last decade. Data compiled for the WSJ by Thompson-Reuters shows that the number of research articles published since 2001 increased by 44%, while during the same period the number of articles retracted increased 15 times.
This has an effect on all scientific research, even cancer research and treatment. In one instance, research at the Mayo Clinic was set back about a decade. They found that some experiments that were related to the use of the body’s own immune system to fight cancer had been fabricated. This incidence of fraud ended up leading to the retraction of 17 research papers that were published in nine scientific journals.
Another analysis published by the Journal of Medical Ethics found that article retractions due to fraud had increase over 17 times between 2004 and 2009. This is much more than the twofold increase in article retractions related to researcher error. The analyst, Grant Steen, said that 73.5% of the articles were retracted for error, and 26.6% were retracted for fraud.
I can understand how researchers can make errors. It’s a human thing. Nobody’s perfect, not even scientists. It would be unfair to attempt to hold scientists to an impossible standard. Honest, trailblazing, original research is not easy. It’s never easy to be a pioneer.
But by the same token, we must realize that there are incredible pressures on researchers to publish papers in scientific journals. One scientific paper published in a prestigious journal like the Lancet or the New England Journal of Medicine can launch a researcher’s career. There is a lot of money and prestige at stake. This creates a powerful tendency to motivate researchers into getting their articles published ‘by any means’. Financial and career elements can have more influence on a researcher if being honest will kill opportunity to make money and get tenure.
This isn’t to say that all researchers and physicians are less than ethical. But it would be naive of us to blindly believe all scientific papers that are published in research journals. It may sound ‘unscientific’ to suggest this, but we need to learn to use our powers of discernment when receiving information. As I have discussed before, mainstream scientists have been used to falsify experiments on orthodox cancer treatments to make it appear that they are more effective than they really are. And they have also ran experiments on alternative cancer treatments that appear to suggest that they aren’t effective by failing to follow the treatment protocol that makes it work. I have seen a lot of scientists and scientific minded people who have been lulled into believing false information with reference to cancer treatments that work, and those that do not work. It is very important for people interested in the results of scientific research to make sure they understand the conflicts of interest and financial ties and incentives that researchers and physicians may have before accepting the validity of their articles and recommendations.