A December article in Nature highlighted an alarming new record: more than 10,000 academic papers were retracted in 2023 alone, largely stemming from manipulation of the peer review and publication processes. Over 8,000 of the retractions came from journals run by the Egyptian company Hindawi, a subsidiary of Wiley, and many were in special issues, which are collections of articles often overseen by guest editors that can have laxer standards than normal.
For now, researchers from countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia and China face the highest retraction rates, but it is sensible to ask: what would happen if a major scandal hit a mainstream American discipline? The idea seems less far-fetched than it used to. With disgraced ex-Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and former Harvard President Claudia Gay’s academic records fresh in public memory, a scandal involving elite American researchers and universities is all too plausible.
The field of behavioral psychology has even faced a painful reckoning in recent years as key findings failed replication tests and data manipulation allegations piled up against elite researchers in the field. The next major scandal is not an if, but a when, and students of the scientific process as well as scientists themselves need to be prepared.
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