Currently, research is largely self-policed through a patchwork of safeguards designed to make sure studies are ethical and conducted well. Universities, hospitals and other research centres have internal review boards that approve studies before they are begun and monitor their conduct. Scientists then submit their findings to journals, which ask experts in the field to review them.
Some experts said the system of checks and balances might not be as stringent in countries such as South Korea. "We have a history of dealing with these kinds of matters, and we have gotten better at it," said Mark Frankel of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which owns the journal Science , which published the disputed work. "The Koreans are at a very nascent stage of dealing with these kinds of things."
The increasing complexity of science made it more difficult for fraud to be detected, Mr Boese said. "As science becomes more specialised, it becomes harder for scientists to check each other, which makes it easier to get away with fraud," he said.
At the same time, the proliferation of scientific journals and the advent of the internet have put pressure on the journals to publish papers more quickly, some say.
"People use press coverage as a way to judge the value of research," said Monica Bradford, the executive editor of Science. "They want to know did it get in the papers - not whether it really expands our knowledge."