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Frauds in scientific research and how to possibly overcome them
  1. Erik Boetto1,
  2. Davide Golinelli1,
  3. Gherardo Carullo2,
  4. Maria Pia Fantini1
  1. 1 Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Italian and Supranational Public Law, University of Milan, Milano, Lombardia, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Davide Golinelli, Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna 40126, Italy; davide.golinelli{at}


Frauds and misconduct have been common in the history of science. Recent events connected to the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted how the risks and consequences of this are no longer acceptable. Two papers, addressing the treatment of COVID-19, have been published in two of the most prestigious medical journals; the authors declared to have analysed electronic health records from a private corporation, which apparently collected data of tens of thousands of patients, coming from hundreds of hospitals. Both papers have been retracted a few weeks later. When such events happen, the confidence of the population in scientific research is likely to be weakened. This paper highlights how the current system endangers the reliability of scientific research, and the very foundations of the trust system on which modern healthcare is based. Having shed light on the dangers of a system without appropriate monitoring, the proposed analysis suggests to strengthen the existing journal policies and improve the research process using new technologies supporting control activities by public authorities. Among these solutions, we mention the promising aspects of the blockchain technology which seems a promising solution to avoid the repetition of the mistakes linked to the recent and past history of research.

  • scientific research
  • professional misconduct
  • research ethics
  • publication ethics
  • public health ethics

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  • Contributors All authors equally contributed to the study and to the manuscript. EB and DG conceived the idea of the study, reviewed the literature and wrote the paper. DG and GC conceived, wrote and reviewed the technical contents of the paper. MPF reviewed the manuscript for intellectual content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement statement Not required

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.