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The death knell of research
As editor, the appearance of an excellent article is always exciting. The quality that sometimes exudes from every line is a joy to the reader. The thought that your journal has been selected by the authors gives you an inner glow. The citation index will rise, subscriptions increase, friends and colleagues will praise the journal, and other prestigious authors will submit articles. There may be a nagging question as to why you were selected, but for some there will not even be such a doubt.
When the paper deals with new and effective treatments you can expect press interest. Patients will be excited by the possibility that their incurable disease may now be treatable. They have hope. When a paper deals with the origins of disease, the role of environmental and genetic factors can be exposed and preventative programmes developed. The whole purpose of research is confirmed by such work.
What should our response be when the paper is a fraud—when the study never happened, or the results are fabricated or changed? The hopes of patients are dashed, new prevention or treatment plans are pointless and have diverted effort from the true path. We should all decry such fraud and, as coauthors on papers, ensure to the best of our abilities that we prevent such episodes from occurring.
The duplication of huge chunks of text in an article without referencing its source may not have such direct impact on patient care, but its perpetrators are also guilty of fraud; intent on promoting their own careers and showing little concern for the truth.
Sadly, we see such cases at the Postgraduate Medical Journal and their submission is a disservice to the journal and its readers. Fraud and plagiarism are the death knell of research. They bring individuals, institutions, and academic journals into disrepute. Such authors have stepped beyond the pale of acceptable practice and, once there, can never return to clinical or scientific circles.