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article imageThe cost of scientific fraud revealed

By Tim Sandle     Aug 16, 2014 in Science
According to a new study, each science paper exposed as incorrect and which is subsequently retracted because of research misconduct costs taxpayers roughly $400,000.
The estimated cost is relatively high because many scientists in the U.S. are in receipt of generous grants, some running into millions of federal dollars. Ferric Fang of the University of Washington has quantified just how much fraud costs the U.S. government in a new report published in the journal eLife ("Financial costs and personal consequences of research misconduct resulting in retracted publications.")
Fang's analysis has determined that every paper retracted because of research misconduct costs about $400,000 in funds from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The total for, relating to papers retracted between 1992 and 2012, is a colossal $58 million. However, Fang also points out that this total represents a fraction of a percent of the NIH budget for these years.
Nevertheless, there are further costs. Fang told Retraction Watch: "The damage to researchers’ careers (who in some cases have done nothing wrong themselves), the institutional costs of investigating suspected fraud, the misdirection of public policy, and the misleading of other scientists who pursue false leads are other important costs."
Fang draws a parallel with other government agencies, and notes that the cost of research misconduct is comparatively small: “When one compares the total with the estimated $31 [billion]-60 billion out of a total of $206 billion spent on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that were lost to fraud and waste in FY2011 alone, the funds wasted on fraudulent research seem modest relative to some other government agencies and programs.”
Retraction Watch is a website that focuses on exposing science papers that are inaccurate and reporting on the withdrawal of research from the public arena.
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