Fabrication, Falsification and Plagiarism: detection and prevention


Prof. Enrico Bucci

Temple University (USA)

DATE: 29th August 2019
TIME: 10:00 – 11:00
LOCATION: Rigoni Stern Institute, Asiago

Until recently, the existence of scientific fraud has been related to the misbehaviour of single researchers or research groups, cutting the corners to achieve recognition, grants and academic power. Circa 2014, however, the scientific community became aware of a florid Chinese market connected to the sale of authorship in international scientific papers, mainly powered by researchers struggling to publish something at whatever cost. After discovering the so-called “Chinese papermills”, it has been widely assumed that the main problem caused by them laid in the misattribution of papers to authors which did not contribute. Nevertheless, some relevant aspects of the phenomenon had so far escaped investigation. In particular, one might wonder whether:

1)     the business of ghost-writing and scientific authorship selling is limited to Chinese papermills or are also based in Western countries;

2)     the leaking of papermills papers into scientific journals is limited to low-quality and predatory journals;

3)    in light of their relatively low cost, the papers produced by papermills are genuine or contain fabricated, falsified or plagiarized data;

4)     papers and data fabrication and selling are limited to biomedical disciplines;

5)     the overall impact of papermills fraudulent scientific papers over the scientific record is significant or not.

After a thorough investigation of the phenomenon, it was clear to me that the main assumption of scientific fraud as an ethical or even criminal misbehavior, restricted to the scientific community, is far from complete. The reality is that, after scientific papers became a career commodity and a status symbol (with bibliometrics raised from the position of an obscure academic discipline to the level of a research evaluation instrument) both in Western and Eastern countries a new market was born for scientific fraud, one which will potentially inundate the scientific record with fraudulent data, will erode the shares of legitimate publishers and journals and ultimately may lead to a drastic loss of reliability of scientific journals. This market is dominated by digital companies outside the Academia, which is reduced to the role of customer, instead of the main actor, in the production of fraudulent papers; moreover, the size of this market starts to rival those of more respectful research-connected ones.

To face this threat, a new model is needed: one in which scientific publishers will invest in quality checks, institutions and governments will abandon purely bibliometric evaluations and scientists will compete for the better idea, not for fragile mountains of papers.

Enrico Bucci, was born in Naples, Italy, in 1972. He graduated summa cum laude in Biology in 1997 (University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy). After 4 years as PhD student, comprising two years in Germany (Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie, Jena, now called the Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute), he earned a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2001 by the Naples University “Federico II” (Italy). The same year he was appointed full researcher at the Institute for Biostructures and Bioimages of Italy’s National Research Council (CNR).

In 2006, he founded his first start-up, BioNucleon Srl, which won the “2006 Best Young and Innovative Italian company” and was dedicated to nucleic-acid based drugs. It was incubated at the Canavese Bioindustry Park. Enrico Bucci then became CSO of the Park, heading a group of about 20 scientists which filed more than 10 patent applications and published several research papers, while still running Bionucleon. By the end of 2008, after honouring all commitments related to its previous role, Enrico Bucci moved to become CSO of Biodigitalvalley Srl, his second start-up, dedicated to bioinformatics. In January 2013, he was appointed CEO.

In July 2014, he voluntarily resigned from the CNR, since at the time he was investigating a high-profile case of scientific misconduct involving that institution.

In June 2016, he was appointed adjunct Professor of Biology and Director of the System Biology program of the Sbarro Health Research Organization at the College of Science and Technology, Temple University (Philadelphia, US).

In July 2016, Bucci left Biodigitalvalley and founded Resis Srl, a company dedicated to research integrity.

Prof. Bucci’s current research interests include:


1-Biological data mining and analytics;

2-Big Data and social network analytics in the pharmaceutical field;

3-Network biology;

4-Image analysis;

5-Scientific fraud detection and analysis


Enrico Bucci has co-authored around 80 papers in peer-reviewed international journals, ranging from quantitative palaeontology to structural biology and image analysis, and led the scientific coordination of several projects, many of which included both academic and industrial partners, in Italy and abroad.

He is co-author of chapters in scientific books and he is author of a book dedicated to scientific fraud, published in September 2015. His work on detecting scientific fraud has been covered by several national and international magazines, including Nature (2013, 2015, 2016), and has been broadcast by the Italian State TV (RAI).

Since May 2017, he has served as advisor to the CNR in a project to develop a software screening pipeline to foster the integrity and correctness of all research published by the CNR’s 7000 or so researchers.


He is an Expert Member of the Bioethics Committee of the European Society of Cardiovascular Surgery and a member of the Virtual Physiology Human Institute.

He is a vice-chair for the evaluation of FET-OPEN H2020 European Research Projects.

He is image editor in charge of integrity checking of figures to be published by some biomedical journals (NPG group and others).

a) Normile, D. (2017). China cracks down on fraud. Science (New York, N.Y.), 357(6350), 435.
b) Martinson, B. C., Anderson, M. S., & De Vries, R. (2005, June 9). Scientists behaving badly. Nature