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  1. Søren Holm, Editor
  1. Correspondence to Soren Holme, UK; production.jme{at}bmjgroup.com

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Is research fraud deliberate?

Is research fraud / serious misconduct in medicine deliberate or inadvertent? This is clearly an important question and one that is subject to a lot of controversy. Many researchers seem to believe that fraud is always either the result of some kind of psychiatric condition, or just at one extreme of a spectrum of inadvertent error. How do we find out? We could ask fraudulent researchers, but would probably not get honest answers.

The ingenious study by Steen published in this issue points towards fraud often being deliberate (see page 113). Steen's sample are all papers retracted from the PubMed database between 2000 and 2010. He divides these up in papers retracted due to error and papers retracted due to fraud and hypothesises that if fraud is deliberate then we can expect that “… fraudulent authors target journals with a high impact factor (IF), have other fraudulent publications, diffuse responsibility across many co-authors, delay retracting fraudulent papers …

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