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To perform this estimate, we added the total grant funding between and for grants that were cited at least once by papers retracted during this period, without normalizing to the total number of papers citing these grants. The impact factor is a bibliometric measure of journal rank based on the number of times that articles in that journal are cited by other articles Thomson Reuters, Philadelphia, PA. Impact factor exhibits a positive correlation with articles retracted for research misconduct or error Fang and Casadevall, ; Fang et al.

Here we determined that impact factor also correlates with attributable cost Figure 1C , suggesting that the direct cost to the NIH is higher for articles retracted due to research misconduct published in higher impact journals. An additional result of research misconduct is the damaging consequences to the careers and reputations of those found to have committed misconduct. A recent report demonstrated a significant decline in the citation of an author's work after one of his or her papers was retracted Lu et al.

However, the degree to which retraction of an author's paper affects his or her own subsequent research productivity has not been quantified. We attempted to quantify this effect by calculating the number of publications per year for individual senior authors before and after an ORI finding of misconduct. PubMed searches were performed for 44 faculty members over 3- and 6-year intervals before and after being named in an ORI report Figure 2A,C , using the authors' names and institutions.

We found that in most cases, authors experienced a significant fall in productivity following a finding of misconduct. However, there were several exceptions in which authors continued to publish as much or more than before an ORI finding, suggesting that an instance of misconduct is not necessarily a career-ending event. In addition to a dramatic percent change in publication rate, we also observed a substantial decrease in the total and median number of publications before and after an ORI misconduct finding Figure 2B,D.

A total of publications by 54 authors were identified in the 3-year pre-ORI period median 1. The additional ten authors in Figure 2B had zero publications in the pre-ORI interval and thus no percentage change was calculated for Figure 2A. Similarly, there were a total of publications for 47 authors in the 6-year pre-ORI period median 1. As above, the additional three authors in Figure 2D had zero publications in the pre-ORI interval, and thus no percentage change was calculated for Figure 2C. The productivity of principal investigators found to have committed misconduct by the ORI was evaluated by a PubMed search by author name and institution for 3-year A and B and 6-year C and D intervals prior to and following the release of the ORI report, excluding the actual year of the ORI report.


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Represented are authors with at least one publication in the 3- or 6-year intervals before the ORI report which in both cases totaled Most of these authors experienced a large negative change, although some experienced a positive change, primarily those who did not falsify or fabricate data. Each dot represents a single investigator before and after the ORI report.

This includes all publications by that author before the ORI finding compared to the interval between the ORI finding and , excluding the actual year of the ORI report. As the identification of an author by institution in a PubMed search might be misleading if researchers are dismissed by an institution after a finding of misconduct, we also used the Author Search from Web of Knowledge Thomson Reuters, , which uses several factors other than institutional affiliation to separate authors with similar names Figure 2E.

Authors were retrieved from this search strategy based upon their affiliation with a research field similar to that of a faculty member with the same name who was named in an ORI finding. In this analysis, all years in which an author was active were analyzed from the year of first publication until We were able to identify 35 investigators using this method, with a median of 2.

These results are qualitatively similar to those obtained with PubMed. Collectively these observations suggest that a finding of misconduct by the ORI typically, though not always, results in a severe decline in research productivity. Censure of a scientist by the ORI for serious infractions usually results in an agreement banning contracts between that scientist and the Public Health Service for a period of time, the length of which is determined by the severity of the infraction.

Although it is frequently assumed that ORI citations result in a meaningful decrease in funding as a result of these policies, this has never been quantified. We then focused on funding during the 5 year intervals before and after the ORI report was published, for ORI reports between and Not surprisingly, the publication of an ORI report was correlated with a significant and sustained drop in funding.

Interestingly, both the total and median funding appeared to decline even before the year of ORI report publication Figure 3A,B. We hypothesize that this may be due to a decline in productivity and funding success during the time in which internal university investigations occur, prior to consultation by the ORI. Alternatively it may be that fiscal stress is a risk factor for PI misconduct. This was performed for ORI reports published between and The complete dataset is available in Figure 3—source data 1. Increasing concern about research misconduct has raised questions with regard to its impact on the scientific and medical communities, including financial costs.

We attempted to determine empirically the amount of money spent by the NIH to support articles that were subsequently retracted due to research misconduct. No such figure has been previously reported, likely because it is difficult to calculate the attributable cost of a particular study. Funding sources are diverse and are not universally reported in manuscripts or in public databases. Multiple grants may be used to fund many different studies, so it is difficult to specifically determine the funds used to support a given article. To verify that bias in our study did not lead to significant underestimation of the true financial cost of research misconduct, we attempted to identify several reasons why our calculations might be too low.

First, many studies retracted due to misconduct did not state their funding sources, or may have stated them incompletely. Second, our analysis only accounted for research misconduct that was detected and investigated. Even with this correction, research misconduct would only account for approximately 1.

In our view, this is still a relatively low number, suggesting that research misconduct does not involve a large percentage of research funding in the United States. In fact, our analysis could represent an overestimation rather than underestimation of the true cost of scientific misconduct. However, it is conceivable that some of the research resulting in a retracted article still provides useful information for other non-retracted studies, and that grant funds are not necessarily evenly distributed among projects and articles.

Moreover, laboratory operational costs for a retracted paper may overlap with those of work not involving misconduct. Thus, considering every dollar spent on retracted publications to be completely wasted may result in an overestimation of the true cost of misconduct.

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Some additional sources of bias in our financial analysis should be acknowledged. However, grants from recent years have funded some articles that have not yet been published. Thus, the denominator for calculations of attributable cost for these grants may be artifactually low, inflating the calculated attributable costs for recent articles funded by these grants. This might be offset by articles from the beginning of the interval, which would have a smaller numerator, since grant years before were not included.

An interesting question generated by our analysis is whether papers retracted due to misconduct cost, on average, more or less than other papers. This might indicate whether misconduct accounts for a disproportionate percentage of funds. On one hand, retracted papers might require fewer materials or personnel if the data are simply fabricated, and thus cost less to publish. On the other hand, papers retracted due to misconduct might be generated by authors who have spent large amounts of funding on otherwise unsuccessful experiments, and thus account for a large percentage of their grants.

This question is unanswered at the present time. The financial costs of research misconduct extend beyond the grants supporting the work. Investigations of misconduct allegations are costly for institutions. These authors analyzed the direct NIH funding costs as well as the cost of the ORI investigation itself, costs to the institution for monitoring the work of the faculty after ORI censure, and the cost of retracting articles.

One must also consider the cost of unproductive research by other scientists who have based their work on retracted publications. This indirect financial cost due to the reverberations of fraud throughout the research community might be even greater than the cost of the retracted research itself. We did not measure these costs in our analysis, which was designed as an empiric measurement of financial costs using actual funding totals.

However, although other indirect costs cannot be measured directly and were not included in this study, they may nevertheless account for a large additional cost of research misconduct. We observed that the attributable costs of retracted manuscripts correlated with the impact factors of the journals in which they were published. There are multiple possible explanations for this observation. One is that high-impact publications tend to require more data for acceptance, which would in turn increase the amount of funds devoted to that study. Another possibility is that authors would be more likely to list a grant on a high-impact publication in order to promote the success of the grant in future applications for renewal.

These explanations could apply to all manuscripts, regardless of whether or not they were retracted. Nevertheless, our data demonstrate that future retracted publications from high-impact journals are likely to have required more funding, on average, than retracted publications from low-impact journals. The personal consequences for individuals found to have committed research misconduct are considerable. When a researcher is found by the ORI to have committed misconduct, the outcome typically involves a voluntary agreement in which the scientist agrees not to contract with the United States government for a period of time ranging from a few years to, in rare cases, a lifetime.

Recent studies of faculty and postdoctoral fellows indicate that research productivity declines after censure by the ORI, sometimes to zero, but that many of those who commit misconduct are able to find new jobs within academia Redman and Merz, , Our study has found similar results. Censure by the ORI usually results in a severe decrease in productivity, in many cases causing a permanent cessation of publication.

However the exceptions are instructive. Of these, only Stricker was found to have falsified or fabricated data; the other four were found to have falsified letters of collaboration or to have committed plagiarism, which might be considered lesser infractions. Even though Stricker left his academic position following the finding of misconduct, he continued to publish actively, although more than half of these publications were correspondence or commentaries.

Scientists who falsified or fabricated data generally experienced severe drop-offs in productivity. Our results suggest that a finding of misconduct by the ORI significantly reduces research productivity. We did not examine the important additional effect of collateral damage to other researchers associated with an investigator found to have committed misconduct, but anecdotal reports suggest that these consequences can also be substantial and even career-threatening Couzin, ; Nature, Our study documents that censure by the ORI results in a significant decline in both citation productivity Figure 2 and the ability to acquire NIH funding Figure 3.

This study provides an analysis of two important effects associated with research misconduct resulting in the retraction of scientific publications: financial costs to funding agencies and damage to the research careers of those who commit misconduct. We found that research misconduct indeed incurs significant financial costs, although the direct financial costs to the NIH were modest when viewed as a fraction of the total research budget. Authorship Guidelines. Heitman, E. International perspectives on plagiarism and considerations for teaching international trainees.

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Preview Preview. Redman An analysis of current biomedical research misconduct policy that proposes a new approach emphasizing the context of misconduct and improved oversight. Request Permissions Exam copy. Overview Author s Praise. Summary An analysis of current biomedical research misconduct policy that proposes a new approach emphasizing the context of misconduct and improved oversight. Instructor Resources Downloadable instructor resources available for this title: answers to study questions.