According to this piece in The Independent, the British government and the Wellcome Trust want stringent new penalties for universities with researchers who publish fraudulent or misleading research.

Fraud may be putting at risk the UK’s place in global biomedical research. According to the piece, “retractions of medical claims alone in 2013 – logged by the Retraction Watch blog – are certain to be more than 400, and could easily top 500. Some result from genuine mistakes, several plagiarise other scientists’ work, breakthroughs that haven’t been checked. But as many as one in 10 of them contain lies.”

The most notorious fraud is that of Andrew Wakefield which led to hundreds of thousands of children being left vulnerable to measles, mumps and rubella. As the article notes, it took ten years for Wakefield to be struck off the medical register (lose his licence). Although The Lancet did retract his work eventually, it took years. In other cases, journals print the retractions in a few barely-visible para’s.

The piece does not say it but most journalists now lack the training or time to check claims made by academics. In Europe, specialist medical correspondents are an endangered species and those wgo hold on are under more time and cost pressure than ever.