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Fraudulent biomedical publications in Mexico

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.



Fraudulent biomedical publications in Mexico

Horacio Riveraa

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):

  1. In 1996, the Gac Med Mex regretted having published a plagiarized article, but in their timid clarification3 the publishers preferred to say "the reference was not included" instead of talking about plagiarism.
  2. In 1996, Arch Med Res published a letter to the editor about the misappropriation of outside data. Curiously, the letter was published with the omission of the dates of receipt and acceptance, and only after the lead author and member of the editorial board of the journal published an erratum [sic] that included multiple errors identified in the letter but now presented as recognized by the authors questioned. The incredulous reader may wonder, what editor would publish a letter to repeat mistakes already included in an erratum?4
  3. In 1999 there was the report of a partly duplicated publication.5 The corresponding response6 did not refute this indication and wielded ad hominem arguments. 
  4. In 2002, a notice was published of duplicate or redundant publication7 of two similar articles written by the same authors, one in said magazine and one in the Int J Tuberc Lung Dis.
  5. In 2003, an editorial8 in Bol Med Hosp Infant Mex exposed the duplication of an article that first appeared in that journal and then in Acta Pediatr Mex.
  6. In 2008, a group implicated in systematic textual plagiarism in Blood Cells Mol Dis had to publish a meaculpa.9
  7. In 2010 there was implication of mass irresponsible authorship and tendentious citation in a patient report by 14 Mexican authors and three Americans; significantly, the first author and correspondent were not among the 14 Mexicans.10 In their reply,11 the authors attributed the huge number of authors to multidisciplinary work and an exhaustive [sic] literature review.
  8. In 2012, two researchers at UNAM were reported and sanctioned for image manipulation; however, sanctions imposed by UNAM were then dropped.12

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.

  1. Becerril-Ángeles M, García-Gómez F. Publicación fraudulenta en revistas médicas. Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc. 2014;52:182-7.
  2. Ramiro H M. Carta del editor. Med Intern Mex. 2008;24:87.
  3. Anónimo. Nota aclaratoria. Gac Med Mex. 1996;132:658.
  4. Rivera H. La fosfoglucomutasa 4 y otras aportaciones (sic) del occidente de México al genoma humano. CULCyT. 2009;6(35):41-3.
  5. Rivera H. Heteroallelic twins and twin publications. Am J Med Genet. 1999;86:88.
  6. Cantú JM. Reply to the letter to the editor by Rivera--”Heteroallelic twins and twin publications”. Am J Med Genet. 1999;86:89.
  7. Tobin MJ. Notice of duplicated publication. Am J Resp Care Crit Med. 2002;166:625.
  8. Velásquez-Jones L. Publicación duplicada en el Boletín Médico del Hospital Infantil de México. Bol Med Hosp Infant Mex. 2003;60:357-8.
  9. Gallegos-Arreola MP, Figuera-Villanueva LE, Puebla-Pérez AM, González-García JR, Zúñiga-González GM. An apology. Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2008;41:133.
  10. Rivera H. 3p deletion and (skewed) literature review. Am J Med Genet Part A. 2010;152A:1059.
  11. Fernandez TV, State MW, Davalos-Rodriguez NO. Reply to 3p deletion and (skewed) literature review. Am J Med Genet Part A. 2010;152A:1060.
  12. Wade L. Mexican university lifts sanctions in misconduct case. Science Insider 2013. Available from
  13. Becerril-Ángeles M. La ética en las publicaciones de revistas médicas. Rev Alerg Mex. 2010;57:105-6.
  14. Pérez-Padilla R, Volkow-Fernández P. Carta al editor. Gac Med Mex. 1994;130:176-7.
  15. Alarcón-Segovia D. Carta al editor. Gac Med Mex. 1994;130:176.
  16. Muñoz J. Carta al editor. Gac Med Mex. 1996;132:106-7.
  17. Ruiz-Argüelles GJ. Scientific contributions of Mexican scientists. Arch Med Res. 1997;28:307.
  18. Díaz de León-Ponce MA. Comentarios acerca de Gammaglobulina humana y necrólisis epidérmica tóxica. Rev Med Inst Mex Seguro Soc. 2012;50:468.
  19. Cabral AR, Kraus A. Thinner abuses. Arch Med Res. 1997;28:307-8.
  20. Rivera H. Scientific writing and editing: style “do” not matter, content barely does. Med Univ. 2012;14(54):42-6.
  21. Hugo V. Los miserables. Barcelona: Bruguera; p.51 1973.
  22. Cyranoski D. Cell-induced stress. Nature. 2014;511:140-3.
  23. Lins L, Carvalho FM. Scientific integrity in Brazil. J Bioeth Inq. 2014;11:283-7.

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