Scientific misconduct is the main reason for increased retractions in PubMed & ISI and it is increasing-Dr. Reza Malekzadeh


Second Int. Conference on Publication Ethics at Shiraz, Iran

Scientific misconduct is the main reason for
increased retractions in PubMed & ISI and it
is increasing - Dr. Reza Malekzadeh

Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials was established in 2008 & we
intend to do more advance auditing besides monitoring the
quality of these clinical trials

Our priority is the quality of journals and Education of faculty and editors
will help improve publication ethics-Prof. Mohammad Hadi Imanieh

From our correspondent

SHIRAZ (IRAN): The number of retraction of manuscripts on PubMed as well as in ISI Thompson/Reuter Web of Sciences is increasing every year and the main reason for retraction is scientific misconduct. In many instances even scientists have plagiarized for their Ph D Thesis. Plagiarism has become a very serious issue, we need to think about it and take action. This was stated by Dr. Reza Malekzadeh, Undersecretary for Research and Technology, Ministry of Health and Medical Education, Government of Iran. He was speaking in the inaugural session of the two day Second International Congress on Publication Ethics organized by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in partnership with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) UK. The meeting was organized in collaboration with Iranian Medical Journals Commission, Iranian Society of Medical Editors and National Committee for Ethics in Medical Research and it was held here from December 4-5th 2014.

Group photograph taken during the Publication Ethics Congress held at Shiraz from
(L o R) are Charlotte Haug from COPE, Dr. Zoe Mullan, Dr. Behrooz Astaneh,
Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid, Dr. M. Irfan and Dr. Fatema Jawad.

Publication Ethics, Dr. Malekzadeh opined was an important topic and participants will benefit from the discussion. We give due importance to publication ethics in the Ministry of Health and this issue is also highlighted by the media regularly. During the last ten years, the number of graduates as well as postgraduates in Iran, he said, has increased manifold which has also saw an increased number of publications. The number of publications is increasing from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey as well as Egypt over the Years. Iran has made a major contribution to ISI Web of Sciences from the Muslim countries and during 2013, Iran ranked 17th in the world as regards its number of documents for all science in Scopus database. Again during 2013, Iran’s ranking was 24th as regards the number of Citations while 19.76% of the publications were with international collaboration. If we compare the Ranking of Iran with other countries in Middle East and Africa in Scopus database during 2013, Iran ranked No.1.

Continuing Dr. Malekzadeh said that the number of biomedical journals published from Iran also increased from 90 in 2004 to 345 in 2014. All these journals follow double blind peer review system, 95% of them have active functional websites, 186 journals have English full text and about twenty thousand papers are published every year from Iran. Giving further details Dr. Malekzadeh said that almost 32% of these documents are based on MS Thesis by the postgraduates and 28% of highly cited papers from Iran are also from medical sciences. About 40% of authors have no citation or just one citation which means that these manuscripts, studies had no impact. The number of Journals covered by PubMed from Iran is 72; those covered by EMBASE are 78 and indexed by Scopus are 91. Almost 24% of all journals published from Iran are in medical sciences. Some of the major challenges which these journals face are of infrastructure, lack of professionals, delay in peer review, and low citations besides publication ethics.

Mr.Shaukat Ali Jawaid Managing Editor of Pakistan Journal of Medial Sciences
with Dr. Payam Kabiri from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences
chairing the 
first scientific session during the Publication Ethics 
Congress held at Shiraz, Iran from December 4-5th 2014.

Referring to the help and assistance provided by the Iranian Ministry of Health Commission on Medical Journals, Dr. Malekzadeh mentioned checking title before publication, accreditation and Re-accreditation, provision of technical and financial support, monitoring and ranking, quality improvement, indexing, training of staff, preparing of websites besides having a central journal database.

Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials, he said, was established on December 4th 2008. It is the responsibility of the research community to adhere to code of ethics and do honest reporting of the results of these trials. Usually there is a tendency to distort evidence, facts and go for positive findings. Financial interests also create a reporting bias. It was in September 2004 that the ICMJE took an initiative to publish only publicly registered trials. WHO also endorsed this initiative? WHO policy says that all interventional trials must be registered and everything must be publicly disclosed to ensure transparency. The number of clinical trials registered in Iranian Registry has increased over the years and till October 2014 it accounted for 1525 registrations and the number of trials registered during 2014 were 435. Dr. Malekzadeh was of the view that registration of trials is an ethical necessity. He also disclosed that in the MOH they intend to do more advance auditing of these trials besides monitoring the quality of these clinical trials.


Dr. Behrooz Astaneh Chairperson Congress on Publication Ethics photographed
along with Ms. Sarah Masoumi and other members of the organizing committee
of the Congress on Publication Ethics at Shiraz on December 4th 2014.

Speaking about research misconduct Dr. Malekzadeh said that there is much focus on publication fraud. In most cases research misconduct starts before the paper is written and it is detected only when it is published which emphasizes the importance of publication misconduct. Such misconduct, he further stated, usually involves some level of intent but it is very difficult to prove. There can be some “Honest Errors” or mistakes but there was no justification at all for such a “sloppy science” which can be damaging. Referring to the reasons for misconduct and unethical behaviour, he mentioned lack of knowledge about research and publication ethics, increasing pressure on researchers to publish besides financial inducements offered to the authors which encourage them to compromise their integrity besides promotion policy for clinicians, researchers in the university. Almost 29% of retractions in Medline, he stated, were due to honest error, in 11% of cases it was not possible to replicate the findings, misconduct i.e. plagiarism accounted for 28% while redundant publications were 17% and 5% due to other reasons which could not be specified. Korea, Pakistan and China offer cash awards to researchers which was yet another reason why the authors indulge in scientific misconduct to increase their publications. His prescription for preventing such misconduct was educating the journals and universities. Institutions, he opined, should have clear guidelines for responsible conduct in research not only for students but all scientists working in their institution. Having one or two courses in the medical schools on ethics, were not enough.

Dr. Malekzadeh suggested that the senior investigators and mentors should talk to their trainees about the importance of good scientific practice besides proving as good role models. We must ensure zero tolerance environment and strict actions should be taken against those who violate these guidelines. Suspected cases of misconduct should be reported and the institutions must have a mechanism in place for fair investigations. Findings of these investigations should be made public and notified to all the stake holders.

Prof. Mohammad Hadi Imanieh, Chancellor of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in his speech on the occasion said that Shiraz university of medical sciences has over ten thousand students and it was one of the leading universities in Iran. Realizing the importance of ethics, we have journals committee office with established ethics. We monitor the university journals with respect to publication ethics and standards. We provide training to the Editors and other staff. Such training programmes are essential for all editors in this region. These training programmes should be goal oriented and COPE role was extremely important in this regard. Since the number of journals in Iran is increasing our priority is their quality. Education of faculty as well as editors will help improve publication ethics, he added.

Dr. Syed Bashir Hashemi Vice Chancellor of Research Affairs at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences commended the efforts of the organizers who were able to organize this conference. Shiraz, he sad, was the cultural capital of Iran and the participants will learn from each other during the discussions. He also thanked the foreign delegates and participants in showing interest by attending the conference.

Dr. Payam Kabiri, Head of Electronic Resources Provision at SUMS talked about Publication Ethics Research: Trends and Tools. He defined research misconduct as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research or in reporting research. Talking about research misconduct he mentioned plagiarism, failure to obtain ethical approval, failure to admit missing data, plagiarism, willful distortion of data, fabrication of data or cases, eliminating data on side effects, Gifts and Ghost authorship, redundant publication besides failure to do adequate research. He was of the view that we need to study different aspects of research misconduct through scientific research. Not only that academic research should investigate the different reasons for and the trend of research misconduct in the present academic world.

Continuing Dr. Payam Kabiri said that effective research in publication ethics will lead to recognition of more issues and it will also help us in preventing, resolving and managing such cases. He then gave details of a study they had conducted to find out research misconduct for which a search strategy was designed and developed to find out related papers in Scopus. This is the largest citation database which covers over twenty thousand journals. The search strategy included title and abstract with key words at plagiarism, research misconduct, scientific misconduct, fraudulent data, ethics in publishing or publication ethics besides data falsification and ghost writing. The search done in December 2014 retrieved 8,724 papers. It showed that the number of published papers in the field of research misconduct has increased from 169 in 1998 to 698 in 2013. Medicine had the highest number of ghost publications which accounted for 3,754 followed by social sciences which accounted for 1588. Surprisingly most of these Ghost papers were published in Nature followed by Science the journals with highest Impact Factor. Many countries including USA, UK Germany, Australia, Canada and China have published papers on research misconduct. Iran published forty five related papers and six of them were published in Archives of Iranian Medicine followed by five published in Acta Medica Iranica. Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Dr. Payam Kabiri said, contributed sixteen papers on research misconduct. Pakistan Journal of Medial Sciences also published two papers on research misconduct during the Year 2013.

Giving details of five top cited papers Dr. Payam Kabiri said that one of the highly cited paper published in 2009 in International Journal of Cardiology entitled Ethical authorship and publishing, had a total 1616 citations of which self citations accounted for 1555 which means that total citations excluding self citations were only 61. The second highly cited paper entitled Ethics in authorship and publishing of scientific articles was also published in International journal of Cardiology in 2010. It had total citations of 669 of which self citations accounted for 632 which means that citations excluding self citation were just 37. Similarly the third and fourth highly cited papers also had majority of self citations while the fifth highly cited paper was published in Journal of Physiology in 2006. It had total citations of 395 which included just 13 self citations while the real citations excluding self citations were 382. Dr. Payam Kabiri concluded his presentation by giving details of Elsevier Publishing Ethics Resource Kit (PERK) and Springer Publishing Ethics for Journals which provide lot of useful information on the subject.

Dr. Ehsan Shamsi Secretary of National Committee for Ethics in Biomedical Research from Ministry of Health and Medical Education made a presentation on “Moral Psychology Theories: A conceptual Framework for Controlling Medical Research Misconduct”. He referred to ethical and moral knowledge, moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, moral action and moral character. The first step in Ethical and moral knowledge, Dr. Ehsan opined, was introducing clear publication ethics norms followed by communicating publication ethics standards and checking the target groups understanding of the subject. He highlighted the importance of creating a sensitizing environment and the need for specification publications on Ethics standards to cover such cases. Academic moral character and moral action avoiding any type of scientific/publication misconduct, he stated, was extremely important.

Giving details of the national plan for implementing WHO’s Standards for Research Ethics Committee he mentioned about the establishment of Research Ethics Committees in all institutions, giving more independence to these RECs. These RECs will be empowered to supervise all research process including publications. Their transparent functioning will be ensured and all these RECs will be well connected nationally. It is also planned to have more qualified members for these RECs who are more responsible and ethically sensitive. We in the MOH also plan random checking of 10% of papers published by each medical university annually. We will give credit to those universities who detect and report scientific misconduct in published papers. In addition implementation of a disciplinary system and national database for those who commit scientific misconduct in biomedical research will also be established. The primary investigators and their supervisors will be held responsible for ensuring observing ethical standards in the conduct of research. Postgraduate students will be required to regularly report progress of PhD and Master projects. The university ethics committee which detects scientific misconduct will be required to report it and approval from Research Ethics Committees will be mandatory for all research projects including the projects undertaken by the students. Approval of research proposals by National Committee and having a National Portal for Research Ethics Observatory programme are also on the cards, he remarked.

Earlier Dr. Behrooz Astaneh the man behind the whole show and Chairperson of the organizing committee in his welcome address said that the number of scientific journals including medical journals has increased during the last five years and publication ethics has emerged as an important issue for the Medical Editors. We need to understand how scientific misconduct can be tackled. Iranian Ministry of Health is laying emphasis on quality of publications and research. Such conferences help educate the editors how to manage when they are faced with issues of scientific misconduct and publication ethics. We need to hold such conferences biennially for the benefit of the Medical Editors in this region. SUMS is already looking after the issues related to ethics in its medical journals and we need to have a permanent office for such a conference at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. He hoped that the guests and participants apart from benefiting from the scientific presentations will also find time to visit the shrines of Hafez, Saadi besides historic Persepolis. Ms Sarah Masoumi said that Shiraz is a center for Medical Journalism and related issues. We have worked hard to organize this congress. Sitting together, she said, is progress while working together is a Success.

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