On Tuesday, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences heard testimony that the number of scientific papers that had to be retracted increased more than tenfold over the last decade; the number of journal articles published rose only 44 percent.
Ferric Fang of the University of Washington, speaking to the panel, said he blamed a hypercompetitive academic environment that fosters poor science and even fraud, as too many researchers compete for diminishing funding.
"The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high-profile journal," said Fang. "This is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior."
The academic reward system discourages efforts to ensure a finding was not a fluke. Nor is there an incentive to verify someone else's discovery. As recently as the late 1990s, most potential cancer-drug targets were backed by 100 to 200 publications. Now each may have fewer than half a dozen.
"If you can write it up and get it published you're not even thinking of reproducibility," said Ken Kaitin, director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. "You make an observation and move on. There is no incentive to find out it was wrong."
Edited by Nittany Lioness, 01 April 2012 - 01:45 PM.