The race for scientific discovery and research has led to plagiarism, if not fraud, in some Chinese research papers, which raise doubts about the integrity of studies, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Potentially fraudulent data and repetitious images in internationally peer-reviewed journals suggest a company has become a "paper mill" for expedient research, according to a finding by California-based microbiologist Dr. Elisabeth Bik.
Paper mills are "polluting the scientific body of work," Dr. Bik told the Journal.
Bik found reports from over a four-year period including identical photos of cell colonies – if not cropped or rotated to appear different – and captions published verbatim. The reports made it through the scientific review process at six international journals, including the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences publishing 113 of the 121 papers under Bik's investigation of research misconduct.
"I'm worried they might be the tip of the iceberg," Bik told the Journal.
The studies were also frequently cited in other research, showing just how fast and dangerous misinformation can spread and cause harm to the scientific process, per the report.
"It is alarming how adept paper mills have become," Portland Press' Richard Reece told the Journal.
The alarm is magnified amid the rush for research and data amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
"Science builds upon science," Dr. Bik told the Journal. "It's sort of this brick wall that builds upon each other. If one of those bricks is not good, that means that the whole wall could collapse."
On top of that, China has incentivized expedient research with cash rewards, ranging from $30 to $165,000, fueling business for paper mills, according to the report.
"Sometimes, the purpose of research evaluation in China is not to promote the research but differentiate people," Hangzhou Dianzi University's Fei Shu told the Journal.
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