Fabrication of Scientific Publications

Waste in Research Funding and Thinking




Due to the recent allegations of falsified results against one of the most cited studies on Alzheimer's titled; “A specific amyloid-beta protein assembly in the brain impairs memory”, we are discussing the ethics of publishing research articles and making some recommendations for an improved peer review process (1).


A six-month investigation by the Journal of Science found strong support that the images provided from a research study titled “A specific amyloid-beta protein assembly in the brain impairs memory”, published in the Journal of Nature, NIH and PubMed”, could have been tampered with. Inconsistencies were found in some images that appeared to have been replicated and spliced together with images from other studies. This tempering could have been done to validate the study's hypothesis. Read more about inconsistencies found in the study here: PubPeer - A specific amyloid-beta protein assembly in the brain. If found legally guilty, this could have strong implications for the world of Alzheimer's research as this particular study has been cited over 2300 times and may compromise the validity of other studies, including scientific thinking in the field (1).


The ethics of research publication and scientific misconduct extended to falsified or fabricated data to generate favorable outcomes. Other forms of misconduct include plagiarism or conducting experiments without consent or ethical approval. The publishing house's editor may also be held responsible for any wrongdoing. If the fault is found with the author, the author will be blacklisted and prevented from publishing any new study in respected Journals (2). Furthermore, legal action could be taken against authors and editors (3).


A well-implemented peer review process is meant to prevent misleading research from reaching the public. In this case, the journal should have conducted an extensive peer review of the manuscripts, picked up inconsistencies and dealt with the findings before official publication. Referees who conduct peer review are typically not compensated for their work. They mostly do it to get recognition, CV accreditation and the privilege of reading the new study. This could give room for bribing and decrease the frequency of well-reviewed articles. We recommend that scientists be compensated for their reviews of articles. Although, this may have further drawbacks as research papers can face more scrutiny, which hinders the pursuit of more experimental research (4).


Healthcare professionals must utilise peer-reviewed studies to inform clinical practice and use credible peer review websites to check if there are any concerns in specific articles. It is essential to analyse data consistency and any image irregularity such as colour, duplication and or misrecorded information. More importantly, the medical and scientific fraternity must uphold the highest ethical standards and institute accountability mechanisms where unethical and fraudulent behaviour is observed.


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References

  1. Piller C. Blots on a field?. Science [Internet]. 2022 [cited 7 August 2022];377(6604):358-363. Available from: