There is a bit a scandal on in Germany – a leading business academic has been accused of misconduct and a leading journal ‘Research Policy’ has retracted some articles.
Ulrich Lichtenthaler, who is affiliated with the University of Mannheim, has come under suspicion of inflating his publication record using unethical methods.
Additionally, a number of his published papers apparently contain severe mathematical errors and methodological inconsistencies.
Okay – so the first allegation is self-plagiarism. That is naughty and can be hard for referees to detect. I have less sympathy for the other allegations.
… there seems to be an omitted variable bias problem that would invalidate the conclusions of the Research Policy 2010 paper. In both cases, this raises severe doubts as to the validity and robustness of the conclusions drawn in the two Research Policy papers (and indeed in the other parallel papers). If the referees and editors involved in handling the two Research Policy papers had been aware of this (i.e., if their attention had been drawn to the other closely related papers and they had spotted this inconsistency), they would undoubtedly have rejected each of the Research Policy papers on methodological grounds.
Omitted variable bias is always a problem and referees should think about it. To be fair they didn’t know about the other papers, yet referees are supposed to be experts in the field and perhaps should have known about them.
Then there is this:
… in some cases where the coefficients and standard errors are about the same size, variables are reported as highly significant, This problem is more evident for independent variables than control variables.
No excuses – referees should have spotted that. Unless the author actually fabricated the standard errors in the paper, the referees should have picked up on this.
Now I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of the allegations against the academic, but it does highlight the fallible nature of published research and the peer review process.