A secret dossier that warns that fraud in biomedical research is even more prolific than feared is being considered by Jo Johnson, the universities and sciences minister, documents passed to Times Higher Education appear to show.
Senior figures in UK science have warned that despite decades of awareness of the cultural problems driving misconduct in science, little progress has been made.
The draft “Confidential dossier on fraud in UK biomedical research” concludes that some research institutes, university administrators, funders, journals and science leaders have been covering up malpractice.
The past three decades have seen an “alarming” increase in paper retractions, mainly due to misconduct, it warns.
It catalogues a series of high-profile misconduct scandals involving senior scientists in the UK and abroad.
The dossier points out that although the number of retracted papers is tiny compared with the huge number published, only a small proportion of articles are genuinely scrutinised.
It calculates that of papers that are actually closely checked, as many as one in 20 contain errors or falsifications.
Another reason that the problem may be larger than thought is that “scientists and journals are extremely reluctant to retract their papers, even in the face of damning evidence”, meaning that misconduct may go unreported.