- Understanding Poverty
- Urban Development
The growth of cities is driven largely by the economic prosperity that they help create. But today cities are growing at unprecedented and challenging speeds.
A series of prototypes have been piloted under the Urbanization Reviews, which seek to build a body of knowledge on urbanization challenges and public policy implications in a variety of country settings. Pilots in Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam have already generated considerable traction with counterparts in national planning agencies and line ministries.
Regional studies have also been developed to help cities manage urbanization and support sustainable, inclusive growth.
Last Updated: Jun 22,2018
Regional Urbanization Reports
- Africa ’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World and Greening Africa ’s Cities
- Cities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia : A Story of Urban Growth and Decline
- East Asia and Pacific Cities: Expanding Opportunities for the Urban Poor
- East Asia 's Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth
- Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia : Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability
- Raising the Bar for Productive Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean
Country-specific Urbanization Reviews
Leveraging Urbanization to Promote a New Growth Model While Reducing Territorial Disparities in Morocco : Urban and Regional Development Policy Note (2019)
Today 60 percent of Moroccans reside in urban areas, as opposed to 35 percent in 1970. By 2050, nearly three-quarters of the country’s population will be living in cities. Along with the concentration of people, urbanization will lead to the increasing concentration of economic activities in cities, which today are estimated to account for about 75 percent of the country’s GDP and 70 percent of investments at the national level.
Time to ACT: Realizing Indonesia's Urban Potential (2019)
Over half of Indonesia’s population lives in urban areas, and 1 in 5 urban residents live in slums. Indonesia’s future depends on the quality of its urbanization. To succeed, Indonesia must ACT now – Augment infrastructure and basic services; Connect people to opportunities and services; and Target people and places left behind.
Productive and Inclusive Cities for an Emerging Democratic Republic of Congo (2018)
The Democratic Republic of Congo Urbanization Review proposes policy options based on a set of three instruments knows as the three “I”s – Institutions, Infrastructure, and Interventions – to help each region respond to its specific needs while reaping the benefits of economic agglomeration.
Central America Urbanization Review : Making Cities Work for Central America (2017)
Central America is undergoing an important transition. Urban populations are increasing at accelerated speeds, bringing pressing challenges for development, as well as opportunities to boost sustained, inclusive and resilient growth. Today, 59 percent of the region’s population lives in urban areas, but it is expected that 7 out of 10 people will live in cities within the next generation. At current rates of urbanization, Central America’s urban population will double in size by 2050, welcoming over 25 million new urban dwellers calling for better infrastructure, higher coverage and quality of urban services and greater employment opportunities.
Haitian Cities: Actions for Today with an Eye on Tomorrow (2017)
To better understand the factors that constrain the sustainable and inclusive development of Haitian cities, this report examines Haiti's urbanization challenges across three dimensions of urban development: planning, connecting, and financing.
Rethinking Urbanization in Rwanda: From Demographic Transition to Economic Transformation (2017)
The 11 th edition of the World Bank’s Rwanda Economic Update analyzes the trends and forms of Rwanda’s rapid pace of urbanization to examine its contribution to economic development.
Philippines Urbanization Review: Fostering Competitive, Sustainable and Inclusive Cities (2017)
In this report, the World Bank and the government of the Philippines analyze three challenges that need to be addressed if the country is to reap the benefits of urbanization.
From Oil to Cities: Nigeria’s Next Transformation (Nigeria Urbanization Review) (2016)
This report serves the critical and timely purpose of focusing attention on the challenges and opportunities of urbanization in Nigeria. The executive summary at the front summarizes the key trends of Nigeria’s urbanization and sets out a framework to structure core urban challenges in view of underlying causes.
Kenya Urbanization Review (2016)
Kenya Urbanization Review takes a deep look at Kenya’s urbanization process. It provides initial policy options in several key areas including housing and basic services, land use and transport, planning, subnational finance, and local economic development.
Malawi Urbanization Review (2016)
Malawi Urbanization Review aims to provide fresh perspectives on urbanization in Malawi, by analyzing the current and potential contribution of urbanization to long-term national development and the current institutional and financial capacity of local governments to manage the process.
Côte d’Ivoire Urbanization Review (2015)
Well-managed urbanization can accelerate Côte d’Ivoire’s ascendance to middle incomes. Drawing on the findings of the World Development Report 2009 applied to the Ivorian context, the authors identify three types of cities in the country: global connector cities, regional connector cities, and domestic connector cities.
Ethiopia Urbanization Review: Urban Institutions for a Middle-Income Ethiopia (2015)
The urban population in Ethiopia is increasing rapidly. The central challenge for the Ethiopian government is to make sure that cities are attractive places in which to work and live, while fostering smart urbanization. The government has already taken steps to make evidence-based, informed decisions for well-managed urban growth, and this report aims to contribute to those efforts.
Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia (2015)
Urbanization provides South Asian countries with the potential to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability, but a new World Bank report finds the region, while making strides, has struggled to make the most of the opportunity.
Rise of the Anatolian Tigers: Turkey Urbanization Review (2015)
Distinguishing Turkey from many other developing countries has been the pace, scale, and geographical diversity of its spatial and economic transformation. Fast-growing secondary cities bring added challenges that define Turkey’s second-generation urban agenda. New and differentiated service standards will need to be established across both dense urban built-up areas and small villages and rural settlements within the newly-expanded metropolitan municipality administrative area.
Rising Through Cities in Ghana (2015)
Rapid urbanization in Ghana over the past three decades has coincided with rapid GDP growth. This has helped to create jobs, increase human capital, decrease poverty, and expand opportunities and improve living conditions for millions of Ghanaians. Ghana’s urban transformation has been momentous, but it is not unique: a similar process has characterized other countries at similar levels of development. Ghana’s key challenge now is to ensure that urbanization continues to complement growth through improvements in productivity and inclusion, rather than detracting from these goals.
China: Toward Efficient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Urbanization (2014)
Prepared jointly by the World Bank and the Development Research Center of China’s State Council, this report proposes a new model of urbanization that will help China prepare for rapid expansion, with 70 percent of the population – some one billion – expected to be living in cities by 2030. Six priority areas for reform are identified, including land management and institutions; the hukou household-registration system, urban finances, urban planning and design, managing environmental pressures, and local governance.
Harnessing Urbanization to End Poverty and Boost Prosperity in Africa (2013)
The World Bank Group's (WBGs) support will focus on three key areas: metropolitan areas and large cities; secondary and tertiary cities; and informal settlements. This will include both multi-sectoral investment programs that integrate a basket of services (for example, upgrading of electricity, water, sanitation, roads, drains in unplanned settlements); and sector specific projects (for example, in urban water, solid waste, and transport) to improve the effectiveness of service delivery.
India: urbanization Beyond Municipal Boundaries (2013)
This review looks at the pace and patterns of India's urbanization, providing a 100-year perspective on demographic shifts and a 20-year perspective on the spatial distribution of jobs across India's portfolio. It follows an earlier India Urbanization Review that focused on identifying options for accomodating India's rapid urban expansion, with the goal of nurturing metropolitan economies and connecting per-urban areas and included case studies .
Planning, Connecting, and Financing Cities – Now: What City Leaders Need to Know (2013)
Developing countries are urbanizing fast. To meet the challenges that creates, city leaders must move quickly to plan, connect, and finance resilient and sustainable growth. This report provides a framework for urban growth planning and finance, backed by case studies, to help leaders identify the impediments to urbanization and find the right combinations of policy options that would work politically, technically, and fiscally for their cities and countries.
Colombia: Amplifying the Gains from the Urban Transition (2012)
This review examines how Colombia can amplify the gains from urbanization by enhancing coordination, deepening economic connections, and fostering efficiency and innovation in financing.
Indonesia: The Rise of Metropolitan Regions (2012)
This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the country’s spatial patterns of urbanization and economic development and identifies key issues, constraints and opportunities for promoting faster and more inclusive growth.
Planning for Uganda's Urbanization (2012)
Uganda has started its journey into urbanization and economic development. This report outlines the policy priorities to harness economic and social aims from urbanization.
Korea Urbanization Review (2011)
To extract lessons learned, the Korea Urbanization Review examines how, through coordinated planning and connecting policies, Korea successfully managed its journey from incipient to advanced urbanization. (Also see slides on housing policy).
Sri Lanka: Connecting People to Prosperity (2011)
This report provides new insights into geographic transformations in Sri Lanka and identifies public policy priorities for connecting people in economically lagging areas to places that are prospering.
Vietnam Urbanization Review (2011)
This report is dedicated to understanding the key dimensions and aspects of Vietnam’s urbanization process to identifying trends, opportunities, challenges and core policy priorities. (Also see a short presentation and local online news coverage).
City-specific Urbanization Reviews
Guinea Urban Sector Review – Planning, Connecting and Financing English , French (2019)
This study looks into the challenges and opportunities posed by urbanization in Guinea, reviewing briefly the trends at the national level but focusing on the urban area of Conakry. The main reasons for focusing on the urban area of Conakry are the following. While secondary cities in Guinea are growing economically and in population, Conakry already represents close to 50 percent of the urban population and its demographic growth outpaces that of other urban areas.
Bamako Urban Sector Review – Engine of Growth & Service Delivery English , French (2018)
This study focuses on Bamako, the capital of Mali, that dominates the country's urban landscape. A central premise of policy-making in cities is that the flexibility, practicality, and focus of local governments make them ideal players to understand and respond to the needs of their citizens. Indeed, cities mostly aim their problem-solving at local conditions. In Mali, the economic importance of the capital city cannot be understated – it is the nerve center of the national economy.
Freetown Urban Sector Review – Options for Growth and Resilience (2018)
Cities are where economic development really happens and where the risks from natural hazards are growing. Urbanization in Sierra Leone is occurring at USD 410/per capita, at a far lower level than other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa at similar urbanization levels. This study focuses on Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, that dominates the country's urban landscape.
- Disaster Risk Management
- Republic of Korea
- East Asia Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America and Caribbean
- World Bank Urban Development
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Institute of Urban and Regional Development
Sustainable Urban Development: A Literature Review and Analysis
- Wheeler, Stephen
This report reviews current literature on sustainable development and proposes a framework for applying this concept to city and regional planning. It begins by exploring interpretations of the concept of sustainability itself, next looks at some urban planning traditions toward an urban planning framework that can incorporate this concept. The following definition of sustainable urban development is proposed:
Sustainable urban development seeks to create cities and towns that improve the long-term health of the planet’s human and ecological systems.
Means to achieve this objective include protecting and restoring natural ecosystems in urban areas, creating community environments that nurture human potential, using land and resources wisely, and facilitating human lifestyles that contribute to global sustainability.
The author argues that sustainable urban development is indeed possible if 1) some degree of consensus is reached on values that can underlie it, 2) methods are developed to evaluate progress towards or away from sustainability, 3) specific policies, designs and programs are developed to implement sustainable urban development based on these values and yardsticks, and 4) the necessary political organizing, leadership development, and public education can be carried out.
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- Research Article
- Published: 19 October 2023
Impact of energy and industrial structure on environmental quality and urbanization: evidence from a panel of BRICS countries
- Jikun Jiang 1 ,
- Shenglai Zhu 1 ,
- Shuning Gao 1 ,
- Bilal Aslam 2 &
- Weihao Wang 1
Environmental Science and Pollution Research volume 30 , pages 114183–114200 ( 2023 ) Cite this article
Global sustainable development demands boosting renewable energy and optimizing industrial structures. This study employs a panel vector autoregressive (PVAR) model to examine the dynamic relationship between energy structure, industrial structure, environmental quality, and urbanization in the BRICS countries from 1990 to 2021. Energy structure, industrial structure, environmental quality, and urbanization cointegrate empirically. Energy mix optimization and industrial structure upgrades can improve environmental quality. Energy enhancements also supported urbanization. Accelerating industrial change could adversely impact urbanization. The impulse response results demonstrate that expanding renewable energy and tertiary industries such as financial and service boost environmental quality and urbanization. The variance decomposition investigation reveals significant “path dependence” in reducing carbon emissions and increasing urbanization. Finally, based on the findings, policy insights for enhancing environmental quality and fostering urbanization are laid out and disputed, with long-term implications for environmental managers and urban planners.
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School of Management Engineering, Qingdao University of Technology, Qingdao, 266520, China
Jikun Jiang, Shenglai Zhu, Shuning Gao & Weihao Wang
School of Business, Qingdao University, Qingdao, 266071, China
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Jikun Jiang contributed to the conception of the study; Shenglai Zhu performed the data analyses and wrote the manuscript; Shuning Gao (corresponding author) contributed significantly to analysis and manuscript preparation; Bilal Aslan and Weihao Wang helped perform the analysis with constructive discussions.
Correspondence to Shuning Gao .
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Jiang, ., Zhu, S., Gao, S. et al. Impact of energy and industrial structure on environmental quality and urbanization: evidence from a panel of BRICS countries. Environ Sci Pollut Res 30 , 114183–114200 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-30186-4
Received : 02 May 2023
Accepted : 26 September 2023
Published : 19 October 2023
Issue Date : November 2023
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-30186-4
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Burden of proof: combating inaccurate citation in biomedical literature
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- Peer review
- Nicholas Peoples , MD student 1 ,
- Truls Østbye , vice chair (research) and professor 2 ,
- Lijing L Yan , professor and head of non-communicable disease research 3
- 1 Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
- 2 Family Medicine and Community Health, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
- 3 Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, China
- Correspondence to: [email protected]
Inappropriate, misleading, missing, and inaccurate citations pervade the biomedical literature. Nicholas Peoples and colleagues argue that new strategies can better enable scientific references to function as an accurate web of knowledge
Up to 25% of all citations in the general scientific literature are inaccurate and mislead physicians, academics, and policy makers
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) powered large language models such as ChatGPT has the potential to both enable and mitigate inaccurate citation on a scale not previously possible
Researchers need new strategies to ensure that scientific references function as an accurate web of knowledge
We make the case that peer reviewed journals consider adopting a required statement on the integrity of cited literature, using the adoption of required conflict of interest statements as a proof of concept
Even without a name, it is a devil we all know: an article cites a source that does not support the statement in question, or, more commonly, the initial reference sends the reader down a rabbit hole of references, the bottom of which is difficult to find and interpret. This causes two problems. Firstly, it may propagate data that are false, misinterpreted, or both, spurring “academic urban legends” that become circulated as truth. 1 This delays true results from reaching the literature and allows incorrect ideas to masquerade as facts. Second, it undermines respect for the process of literature review, effacing the foundation of good scientific inquiry into a mere box ticking exercise. This cheapens the value of background and discussion sections in scholarly articles and encourages trainees and young investigators to practise sloppy research.
These errors might be especially problematic for doctors and the general public, “who are not focused on the scientific study of a narrow research topic and thus are less prone to identify rhetorically misleading statements or outright factual errors.” 2 Leung and colleagues, for example, document clear patterns of inaccurate citation that misrepresent the conclusions of a single paragraph statement in the New England Journal of Medicine on the safety of opiate use. 3 4 They argue that these misrepresentations might have contributed to the North American opioid crisis “by helping to shape a narrative that allayed prescribers’ concerns about the risk of addiction associated with long term opioid therapy.” 3
Recent estimates indicate citation error rates of 11-15% in the biomedical literature 2 5 and up to 25% in the general science literature. 6 In a review of 4912 citations, 38.4% of these errors were citing non-existent findings, 15.4% were incorrect interpretations of findings, and 20% were chains of inaccurate citations copied forward from paper to paper. 5 This indicates that mis-citation is widespread. A surgical study 7 was found to be misquoted by 40% of the articles that cited it, 8 creating an unsupported but widely accepted guideline for how an orthopaedic procedure should be performed. This shows that mis-citation might also deeply mischaracterise individual scientific works. Finally, to understand how an entire scientific belief system might evolve, a 2009 study systematically mapped out the full citation chain for a particular scientific claim related to amyloid β. Among its findings was the “marked expansion of the belief system by papers presenting no data addressing it; and forms of invention such as the conversion of hypothesis into fact through citation alone.” 9 So, improper citation can even credibly distort the scientific consensus.
Rekdal offers granular insight into this process in his excellent analysis of the “iron content in spinach” myth ( fig 1 ). 1 In a 1981 article entitled “Fake!”, 10 Terry Hamblin believed he was debunking an erroneous claim about the iron content of spinach but was unknowingly using incorrect information himself. Others then cited and transformed his ideas into even greater inaccuracies. 1 11 Rekdal convincingly makes the case that even later authors, such as Larsson in 1995, 12 borrowed the conclusions of articles that cited Hamblin without actually consulting the 1981 paper directly, further distorting the truth. In the end, Hamblin’s accidental rumour was only debunked in 2010 (some 30 years later), 13 and he tried in vain to extinguish it to up until his death in 2012. 1 14
Creation, propagation, and debunking of an academic urban legend
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This all makes for a poor report card, especially given that erroneous citation has been rampant since at least 1931 (and, judging by Shull’s exasperated remarks, with little progress in the time since). 15 But modern figures risk becoming underestimates: emerging artificial intelligence (AI) powered large language models now enable inaccurate citation with an efficiency and scale not previously possible. On a broad scale, academia is clearly grappling with how to reconcile technological progress and traditional research ethics with concerns that AI may “hallucinate” sources or fabricate data. 16 17 So why do we turn a blind eye if such fabrications are human, so long as they are neatly packaged into scholarly citations that look and sound the part? 18
Types of inadequate citation
Just as there is no universally accepted term—misquotation 8 versus quotation errors, 2 erroneous citation 15 versus inadequate citation, 12 and so on—there is no universally accepted classification scheme. Steven Greenberg developed a “vocabulary” for the “citation distortions” he encountered in his study of amyloid β, which offers one useful framework, but it primarily describes mechanisms and consequences of select forms of poor citation without exploring underlying causes, which also matter. 9 Others discuss “common citation errors” but do not report the methodology for how they arrived at these categories. 19 We propose that rigorous, systematic categorisation, a taxonomy and nomenclature of inadequate citation, or both, are important next steps. Box 1 provides a concise overview of some common documented types of mis-citation.
Selected examples of inadequate citation practices
Biased —preferentially citing certain sources, perhaps those of colleagues, because the author is simply more familiar with them, regardless of whether they are the best supporting works for the claim at hand 19
Coercion: pre-submission —senior or principal investigator incorrectly adds a reference to a work created by a trainee (such as a PhD student), who does not feel empowered to decline or challenge this move 20
Coercion: within submission —during peer review, a reviewer or editor instructs the author to cite publications co-authored by the reviewer or editor 20
Editing —a work is initially cited correctly, but as the draft is edited and sentences are eliminated or consolidated, perhaps by multiple authors, a correctly cited study inadvertently becomes misquoted 19
Hallucinatory —citing a source or conclusion that was convincingly fabricated by artificial intelligence without confirming existence of the source or veracity of the claims 16 17
“Lazy author” —adding citations without reading the work in full (or at all) 21 22 23
Misinterpretation —wrongly interpreting the source 2 19
Missing —making a statement without citing the source 19
Non-contextual —citing a part of the conclusion, misrepresenting the results 9 19
Plagiarism —representing others’ work as one’s own by omitting citations
Secondary —citing a secondary source (such as a review article) when a primary source exists 19 24
Self-citation —inappropriately citing one’s own work without sufficient justification
Temporal —Citing a work that was read, but some time ago, such that the author inaccurately recollects the findings 25
Strategies to mitigate mis-citation
There are few checks and balances on erroneous citation. The first line of defence (pre-submission quality control) is a standard expectation of academic integrity. In the age of “publish or perish,” however, competing interests, such as enormous pressure on investigators to exhibit constant productivity, can make it tempting to cut corners in pursuit of expediency. 6 21 24 Market forces are in tune to this. Consensus, for example, is a new, AI powered search engine designed specifically for academics ( https://consensus.app/search/ ). Given a search query, it will produce a list of 5-10 peer reviewed papers with a short synopsis of each. The more widely used ChatGPT has been found to fabricate both facts and legitimate sounding “scholarly sources” to provide a convincing—rather than factual—answer to a prompt. 16 17 Although these tools are multi-purpose, powerful, and certainly promising adjuvants for literature review, they also exponentially enable the ease and scale of producing inaccurate citations.
The second line of defence is peer review, which currently serves as the major safety net to catch mis-citations after submission. History has shown, however, that this can also be inefficient, inconsistent, and insufficient. 6 26 27 28 (And, as others point out, peer review may even encourage mis-citation.) 20 Moreover, the ultimate responsibility for auditing cited literature should not rest with peer reviewers, but with those who selected the literature to support their claims.
The third line of defence is post-publication review, which is often either inordinately difficult 29 30 or even directly opposed. 31 Although non-replicable primary results have been caught and overturned after publication, there is little drive to do the same for inaccurate citations. This effectively allows them to live on into eternity. Although we are not the first to highlight these problems, 15 32 we argue that prevailing strategies are insufficient.
New tools in our toolkit
Just as AI might exacerbate erroneous citation, we suggest it could also be part of the solution. It might, for example, eventually be possible for AI programmes to be integrated into manuscript submission portals to confirm that all cited works actually exist. Even more useful, however, will be AI modalities developed to assess citations for accuracy and to flag potential discrepancies for review. This would not replace human review, but something with reasonable sensitivity and high specificity could provide an initial screen that alerts reviewers to instances of potential mis-citation without creating additional work.
Another idea is for journals to ask authors to attest that an article contains no inaccurate citations ( box 2 ), much in the same way that they are expected to make a statement about conflicts of interest.
Example works cited statement
The author(s) certify that all works cited were read in full by at least one author at the time of writing this manuscript; are necessary to support the intellectual foundation of the work; were added without undue coercion; and do not reflect inappropriate self-citation. We affirm that this document cites primary sources whenever possible, transparently discloses the source of all secondary information presented, and accurately represents both the objective findings and earnest spirit of all works cited.
These ideals are implicit in any submission to a peer reviewed journal, so making them explicit presents no addition burden. The key question, then, is whether such declarations are useful. To answer this, we can compare older to more recent literature as journals have progressively adopted more rigorous standards. Specifically, conflict of interest (COI) statements are a useful analogy to our proposed works cited statement, because when there are no competing interests to declare, they function as an attestation. These statements became increasingly common as concerns grew about the influence of money and corporate interests in research. Estimates for the proportion of journals requiring a COI statement vary by discipline but consistently show a positive trend. Some commonly cited examples include 16% (220 of 1367 highly ranked scientific and biomedical journals) in 1997, 33 33% (28 of 84 journals from 12 scientific disciplines) in 2007, 34 89.7% (358 of 399 “high impact biomedical journals”) in 2011, 35 and 96% (224 of 227 public and occupational health journals) in 2016. 36 It comes as no surprise, then, that none of 47 trials on febrile neutropenia published from 1981 to 2000 contained a COI statement. 37 (Additionally, only 29 reported that informed consent was obtained and only 22 reported approval of a research ethics committee.) To see how this compares with more recent literature, we reviewed a random sample of 100 research papers published in 2022 in the New England Journal of Medicine , the Journal of the American Medical Association , and The BMJ , finding that 100% of articles included COI statements (and likewise, statements on institutional review board approval and informed consent, when applicable) (see supplementary file on bmj.com).
A COI statement encourages transparency because inadequate disclosure carries consequences. Similarly, a “works cited statement” ( box 2 ) might encourage diligence as it implies that references will be scrutinised, and mis-citation will be penalised. Assuming that most authors operate on good intent (striving for their work to be accurate) or self-interest (striving to avoid delays in publication), or both, the act of formal attestation might inspire greater diligence in crafting a reference list or double checking it for accuracy before submission. Even with inadequate disclosure, however, statements still offer important functionality. A 2014 phase 3 trial, for example, was publicly redacted when it was discovered that the authors lied in their COI statement. 38 Here, the COI statement created a clear mismatch between the authors’ words and deeds. This alerted a vigilant reader, provided the journal with irrefutable justification for corrective action, and, ultimately, halted the dissemination of untrustworthy information. Similarly, a works cited statement found to have inadequate or inaccurate disclosure might raise a red flag and lead reviewers or readers to scrutinise a work more closely, potentially to catch other important flaws. If the author’s formal assurances for something as basic as a reference list cannot be taken at face value, what else might they have been mistaken or misleading about?
COI statements enable new inquiries into research bias. Landmark studies have shown, for example, a strong association between pharmaceutical industry funding and likelihood of reporting significant results. 39 40 Another study analysed 767 clinical trials and found a strong association between failure to disclose informed consent and poor methodological quality. 41 A works cited statement, then, would enable researchers to ask similar questions about inaccurate citations, such as whether studies with an inaccurate works cited statement are associated with poor methodological quality or inflated results. Fact checking citation accuracy can be labour intensive, but there is a critical mass of people who do this sort of work already, reflected in the growing literature on mis-citation. 1 2 3 5 6 8 9 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 32
So, declarations do seem to have beneficial value. They are not a perfect, systemic failsafe, but they do provide authors, editors, peer reviewers, and journal readers with additional opportunities to promote essential quality control. Similar cases can be made for the required declaration of institutional review board approval, author contributions, informed consent, and emerging declarations of the role of AI. As thousands of erroneous citations now raise legitimate questions about inaccuracies in published research, there is a clear case for adopting similar safeguards in this arena as well. To make such a declaration meaningful, however, it must be enforced. 42
As a final strategy, we propose that journals add two internal questions for reviewers: were any improper citations noted during the review of this paper? And did you recommend the authors to cite any studies in which you are a coauthor or otherwise have a vested interest? If the answer to either question is yes, reviewers must provide specific details, which are sent to the editor. We propose that a submitted study with erroneous citations should be withdrawn from consideration if the errors are pervasive, mischaracterise the background or methods, inappropriately shape interpretation of the results, or otherwise betray a serious lack of expected due diligence. For manuscripts with less egregious mis-citation, we recommend that reviewers and editors still adopt a low threshold to mandate revisions, as “there is no good reason to allow . . . inexact and non-verifiable referencing to pervade scientific literature.” 6 We further propose that an editor should closely scrutinise situations in which a reviewer has recommended citation of their own works. 20 If already published when the errors are caught, authors should be asked to amend the work (without additional fees 29 ), which is eminently possible in the digital era. Critically, we extend investigators the benefit of the doubt: many inaccurate citations are simply the result of honest mistakes. Thus, this higher standard is primarily meant to deter carelessness and promote good practice. As is the case broadly in medicine, primary prevention is often the best policy.
Mis-citation has heretofore been inadequately tackled. By acknowledging the fault lines in current practice, prioritising the development of a rigorous and standardised classification scheme for inadequate citation, and codifying accurate literature review into a routine pre-submission declaration, we can strive to better enshrine integrity into medical scholarship. We encourage journals to consider adopting a pre-submission declaration. It has the potential to deter inappropriate manuscript submissions and facilitate correction after publication, with little added cost or inconvenience. Over time, the higher standard might also instil greater respect among the next generation of young investigators for this fundamental pillar of scientific inquiry. Most importantly, if it yields improvement in overall citation quality, this will help the scientific literature better function as an accurate web of knowledge.
We thank Vianna Quach, Dianne Wade, and Alexandra Alvarez for expert editorial feedback on early drafts of this work.
Works cited statement: The authors certify that all works cited were read in full by at least one author at the time of writing this manuscript; are necessary to support the intellectual foundation of the work; were added without undue coercion; and do not reflect inappropriate self-citation. We affirm that this document cites primary sources whenever possible, transparently discloses the source of all secondary information presented, and accurately represents both the objective findings and earnest spirit of all works cited.
Funding: This work received no funding or financial support of any kind.
Contributors and sources: This work was conceived by NP, who wrote the first draft and acts as the guarantor for this work. LLY and TO provided critical review that helped shape the key intellectual output of this work. NP holds an MSc from Duke University in the US and is currently a 4th year MD student at Baylor College of Medicine and a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University. LLY is head of non-communicable disease research and tenured faculty at Duke Kunshan University in China. She has published over 150 studies in global health, many involving complex multi-country randomised controlled trials. TO is a physician and epidemiologist. He has published over 690 peer reviewed studies and holds professorships at Duke University, Duke Kunshan University, and Duke-NUS University in Singapore. This work is the product of three experienced, professionally and culturally diverse researchers who disdain corner cutting in research and want to advocate for integrity and quality in the biomedical sciences.
Patient involvement: No patients were involved in the creation of this manuscript.
Competing interests: We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and have no interests to declare.
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