Report exposes tactics used to undermine research integrity – including excessive self-citation, complex plagiarism, and ‘fake’ peer review – and which tools can combat them
Clarivate Plc, a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation, today released a report, “Research Integrity: Understanding our shared responsibility for a sustainable scholarly ecosystem”. Recent analysis from the Institute for Scientific Information™ at Clarivate has found that research malpractice is becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, threatening the value and long-term sustainability of scientific literature. It highlights the urgent need for all research stakeholders to agree a code of ethics and action, working collaboratively and decisively to protect research integrity amidst a rapidly evolving ecosystem.
The report exposes the range of tactics used to subvert research integrity, as well as the most susceptible points in the research cycle. It also outlines the shared responsibilities of those involved in the process – including funders, institutions and publishers – emphasizing the crucial role of collaboration and calling for community guidelines around ethics and actions, especially in terms of research assessment and incentivisation. Finally, the report analyzes how the research community can use technology, data, and analytics to uphold the principles of research integrity, highlighting six major areas for improvement.
Drawing on Web of Science™ data, the findings show how deviant publication practices have risen drastically in recent years, with more researchers misrepresenting their work to garner kudos in their field, or simply doing what they feel they must to survive in a ‘publish or perish’ world. However, considering current trends in the scholarly ecosystem, such as increasing transparency through open research and digital transformation and acceleration, the authors highlight an opportunity for clarity and action.
The report acts as a guide for anyone with a stake in the research process. Many stand to benefit from upholding research integrity, with a wide variety of motivating factors:
- Researchers want to improve their standing through the publication of many research articles in high-quality journals that receive a high number of citations. This improves their chances of receiving funding, enables them to take on better positions (institutional, editorial, advisory) and generally ensures longevity of their career.
- Journals want to attract and publish the very best research articles in their field or increase their publication volumes to ensure their profitability, long-term sustainability and growth in readership.
- Publishers want to build a portfolio of successful journals, possibly specialized by field, access model, threshold for acceptance or otherwise.
- Institutions want to attract, develop, promote, and retain academics that produce world-leading research with wide socio-economic benefits. In turn, a better research profile improves their standing in rankings which bolsters student applications, increases alumni support, and enables recruitment of first-rate faculty.
- Funders want to invest money in the teams and projects that will deliver high-impact outcomes.
- Governments want to build and invest in productive research systems with high quality governance that deliver political, economic, and cultural advantage.
- Database and Analytics providers seek to provide useful search and discovery features that help researchers work quickly and more efficiently, and to provide analytical tools (including metrics and indicators) that support research evaluation use-cases.
Dr Nandita Quaderi, Editor-in-Chief of Web of Science at Clarivate and report co-author said: “We need to broaden our view of what ‘research integrity’ means. The traditional focus on fabrication, falsification and plagiarism is no longer enough – we’re seeing new forms of manipulation emerge as some stakeholders try to game the system to gain an unfair advantage. Our report makes it clear that collective and proactive efforts are needed to address the many opportunities for misconduct. The tools are here, but it is up to all the key players in the research ecosystem to align and take action together.”
Joel Haspel, SVP Strategy, Science at Clarivate said: “Research integrity should be a top priority for anyone involved in the creation, delivery and assessment of academic literature. The risks are clear: if someone pollutes the record of research, it can sabotage future research efforts, undermine aspects of open science, and frustrate those whose work relies on a sound research system. We all have a responsibility to monitor and protect the integrity of our research system, and this report clearly outlines who, what, and how.”