New research suggests genetics papers are being retracted at a rate 8 times higher than any other life sciences, due to an increase in copycats.

Plagiarism and duplication have become significantly more common prompts for retraction than faked (falsified/fabricated) data, the analysis shows.

Spanish researchers retrieved information on 1,582 retracted genetics articles from RetractionWatch, an open access database that has been tracking corrections and retractions in scientific and biomedical journals since 2010.

Of these, 1,443 were from seven countries selected for closer study: China, Germany, India, Japan,South Korea, the UK and the USA.

More than four out of 10 retracted articles (44 per cent) were medical; the rest were non-medical (56 per cent).

One in three (33 per cent) of all retracted articles involved research misconduct, such as falsified/fabricated data and plagiarism. Nearly one in four concerned duplicated content. Nearly four out of 10 (37 per cent) were investigated.

A higher proportion of retracted non-medical genetics research contained fabricated/falsified data (28 per cent) than medical genetics research (18.5 per cent).

But retracted medical genetics research articles were significantly more likely to be investigated: 45 per cent vs 31 per cent.

Most retracted articles from among the seven countries scrutinised were authored by research from the US (526: mainly non-medical genetics research) and China (509: mainly medical genetics research).

The lowest number of retractions were for articles authored by researchers from South Korea (64) and the UK (69). Certain authors were serial offenders.

Analysis of time trends showed that data fabrication/falsification was a significantly less frequent reason for retraction in 2011-18 than it was in 1970-2000.

On the other hand, plagiarism and duplication were significantly more common reasons for retractions in 2006-18 and 2001-18, respectively, than in 1970-2000.

This might be because image editing software now makes it easier for researchers to duplicate content, but it also makes it easier to detect, suggest the study authors.

The study is accessible here.