India should make concerted efforts to curb research misconduct, quite like China has.
China recently announced a set of rules to deal with research misconduct—these build on the existing rules more comprehensively and lay down the punitive framework in a more detailed manner. The intent, as Nature reports, is to crack down on fake research—a problem that is compounded by the incentive system that the country has to encourage R&D—and to also eliminate what are known as “paper mills”—companies and individuals selling academic papers, often replete with fake data, to researchers or submitting these on behalf of the latter for a fee.
The penalties under the new rules—for offences such as falsifying results, plagiarism, experiments without ethics approval, manipulating the peer-review process and embezzling research funds—range from revoking of bonuses, awards, etc, to temporary/permanent on applying for government funding. The rules also grade treatment of offenders based on a variety of criteria, including frequency of offence, admission of violation, etc.
India needs to take a cue from China—indeed, Pubpeer listing research papers with manipulated/duplicated images in large numbers, authored by researchers at the government-run Central Drug Research Institute and Indian Institute of Toxiology Research, had shown Indian research conduct in poor light. Mukund Thattai, from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, shows, based on data from Retraction Watch, that India’s retraction rate has jumped to twice that of the US’s since 2006. While India released the National Policy on Academic Ethics last year, it just mentions a broad punitive landscape, leaving the actual action up to institutions.