Research Misconduct in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Review

The authors of this article explored research misconduct in low and middle income countries (LMICs). They expressed grievances towards the scarcity of literature published on the topic despite the fact that LMICs “invest heavily in research”.  The commonly known research misconducts are fabrication and falsification of data and plagiarism. The US government has thoroughly and lengthily defined research misconduct but Europe opted for shorter and precise definitions.

To investigate the extent of research misconduct in LMICs, the authors conducted Medline search in June 2012, which yielded few results some of which were case reports. The authors were a part of a network that “conducts research on non communicable disease” in LMICs and they sent out a survey to the directors of these centers to ask about research misconduct in their respective institutions. The centers were located in China, Bangladesh, India, Tunisia, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, Central America, Peru, and Argentina. The survey inquired about the policies adopted to address research misconduct, accounts on cases of research misconduct and the extent of public discourse in response to such cases. There were a lack of systems to address research misconduct both at a country and institutional levels.

Besides the survey, the authors reviewed the academic articles via a Medline search; that examined   research misconduct and addressed the mechanisms developed to tackle the issue in these countries. The authors stated that it was not a methodological analysis but rather an “illustration of cases”.

In addition to the well-established forms of misconduct namely; “fabrication, falsification and plagiarism”, the authors explored other types of misconduct and postulated that more harm ensues from “questionable research practices” such as; intentional obscuring of non compliant data, conflict of interest or ghost authorship of research than common forms.

Among the articles retrieved was Marus˘ic et al. [1] study of authors self reported authorship problems.  The study revealed the existence of more authorship issues in LMIC than in USA and UK. Another study examined all the research retractions from pubmed between 2000 and 2010[2]. The ratio of retraction from predominately  LMIC Asian -countries was higher than in USA. The authors also reviewed articles from Latin America and China. China has 31% [3] plagiarized articles but took serious steps towards the resolving the problem. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology established the Office of Scientific Research Integrity Construction, which investigates alleged cases of misconduct.

In their review, the authors referred to high profile cases of research misconduct that occured in various LMICs; for example one fraudulent clinical trial in South Africa, the controversial Bezwoda of India [4], and the STD research conducted in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948.


(1) Marus˘ic A, Bos˘njak L, Jeronc˘ic A (2011) A systematic review of research on the meaning, ethics and practices of authorship across scholarly disciplines. PLoS ONE 6(9): e23477. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023477

(2) Steen RG (2011) Retractions in the scientific literature: do authors deliberately commit research fraud? J Med Ethics 37: 113–117.

(3) Vasconcelos S, Let J, Costa L, Pinto A, Sorenson MM (2009) Discussing plagiarism in Latin American science. EMBO Reports 10:677–682.

(4)White C (2005) Suspected research fraud: difficulties of getting at the truth. BMJ 331: 281–288.

(5) Ana, J., Koehlmoos, T., Smith, R., & Yan, L. L. (2013). Research misconduct in low-and middle-income countries. PLoS medicine10(3), e1001315.

One Response to Research Misconduct in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Review

  1. Ghaiath Hussein June 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I think more focus is needed on Ghost authorship needs more focus. The criterion of ‘significant contribution’ has changed into ‘significant power’ in order to have your name on a paper. Many are there only becuase they are directors or bosses.

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