How to cite this article: Rivera H.Publicaciones biomédicas fraudulentas en México. Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc. 2015 Jan-Feb;53(1):53-4.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
aDivisión de Genética, Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Occidente (CIBO), Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social. Departamento de Biología Molecular y Genómica, Centro Universitario de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, México
Communication with: Horacio Rivera
A recent reflection in this journal on fraudulent scientific publications1 illustrates misconduct in Mexico with allusion to two plagiarisms by the same author in a national medical journal.2 In contrast, in that same article 10 famous foreign researchers are named for their misdeeds perpetrated in journals of worldwide distribution, including in the Journal of Citation Reports (JCR). To promote scientific integrity in our community- and without making an exhaustive review- here I collect other cases of plagiarism, duplicate publication, and irresponsible authorship in which Mexican authors have been involved. These cases are documented in medical journals (mostly included in the JCR and PubMed):
Besides those mentioned, there are other ethical transgressions affecting Mexican journals with more limited circulation,2,13 not to mention so-called "questionable practices in research and communication", so common in our environment. To illustrate the latter, I refer the reader to references that expose the science of journalism,14 biased or omitted citations,10,15-18 certain fiascos or spectacular unconfirmed findings,4 and the "salami" modality.19,20
Although there is no study exploring how the desire to belong to Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (SNI) and reach the higher ranks has led to irresponsible authorship and other dishonest practices among Mexican academics, it seems certain that it is the case. I mention as an example the human genetics group in which I have worked since 1977. When SNI was created in 1984, eight of us entered at level I and one at level II; in September 2014, the figures for the highest ranks reached by the members of that group and graduates of the graduate program co-taught with the University of Guadalajara were as follows: one emeritus and (at least) another five level III, and 15 level II. A comparative look at PubMed could reveal the real or unique contributions of each beneficiary and tell whether such remarkable achievements in the SNI truly reflect "excellence" or rather corporate, coercive, and charity authorship or even concealment of plagiarism in the corresponding academic assessments. The "solar system in motion" analogy described by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables should be emphasized:
Just as there are bigwigs elsewhere, there are big mitres in the Church. These are the bishops who… create a shower about them, upon the assiduous and the favored, and upon all the young men who understand the art of pleasing, of large parishes, prebends, … while awaiting episcopal honors. As they advance themselves, they cause their satellites to progress also; it is a whole solar system on the march.21
The inevitable and uncontrollable spread of improper conduct predicts with cynical realism that the proportion of researchers (neologism coined by KD Gorenc Krauze) is ever-increasing, and scientific integrity will remain a pipe dream or illusion. In this regard, I quote a statement by Paul Taylor, an expert on scientific integrity of the University of Melbourne: "We have to accept that where there is research, there will be research misconduct… no policy, no education or training, no administrative requirement, is going to stop misconduct".22 Note in passing that that view appears in a commentary on the sad saga of STAP cells —a sensational finding now retracted— which led to the suicide of a prestigious and respected researcher. However, I take the example of Brasil23 to fight against all hope, because the appropriate authorities in Mexico (institutional ethics committees, the SNI Board of Honor, and the Comisión de Integridad Científica de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias) effectively promote integrity, fight bad practices, and impose sanctions. Obviously, one must also consider the obligation for the guardians of good practice, i.e. editors, reviewers, and members of evaluating commissions, to hold accountable and not to engage in improper conduct or concealment of plagiarism in the SNI referred to above.