Hundreds of peer-reviewed papers in the field of anesthesiology are about to be retracted because their data was fabricated.
After more than a decade of suspicion about the work of anesthesiologist Yoshitaka Fujii, formerly of Toho University in Tokyo, investigations by journals and universities have concluded that he fabricated data on an epic scale. At least half of the roughly 200 papers he authored on responses to drugs after surgery are in line for retraction in the coming months.
Like many cases of fraud, this one has raised questions about how the misconduct went undetected for so long. But the scope and duration of Fujii’s deception have shaken multiple journals and the entire field of anesthesiology, which has seen other high-profile frauds in the past few years.
Fujii’s work was published in many different journals, where it appears none of his referees ever checked his data. Worse, this is not the first such case in this field.
In 2009, 21 publications by Scott Reuben, who was based at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, were retracted because they contained fabricated data4. The following year, around 90 papers by Joachim Boldt, formerly of the Ludwigshafen Hospital in Germany, were retracted from 11 journals, because of fabrication and because Boldt did not have proper ethics approval for the trials.
That’s more than 200 papers retracted in less than three years. Considering that these papers were all peer-reviewed and were published in many different anesthesiology journals, the amount of fraud suggests that no one is doing any real research in this field. Instead, they are making it all up, and they get away with it because they referee each other’s work.