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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Iranian mathematicians latest to have papers retracted for fake email addresses to get better reviews

with 6 comments

It’s tempting to start calling this a trend.

Three Elsevier math journals are among the latest scientific publications to be retracting papers because fake email addresses were used to obtain favorable peer reviews.

The three papers appear in two journals: “On two subclasses of (α,β)-metrics being projectively related,” in the Journal of Geometry and Physics; and “Complex Bogoslovsky Finsler metrics” and “Sasaki–Randers metric in Finsler geometry,” in the Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications. All three share authors Akbar Tayebi, of the University of Qom, Iran, and Esmaeil Peyghan, of Arak University, also in Iran.

The notices in the Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications read as follows (the EES refers to the Elsevier Editorial System):

A referee’s report on which the editorial decision was made was found to be falsified. The referee’s report was submitted under the name of an established scientist who was not aware of the paper or the report, via a fictitious EES account. Because of the submission of a fake, but well-written and positive referee’s report, the Editor was misled into accepting the paper based upon the positive advice of what he assumed was a well-known expert in the field. This represents a clear violation of the fundamentals of the peer-review process, our publishing policies, and publishing ethics standards.

The Journal of Geometry and Physics notice:

Using a false email account, somebody submitted a fake positive report, thereby deliberately misleading the Editor in charge of the paper. The Editor accepted the paper based upon this report, which he assumed had been written by a well-known expert in Finsler geometry. This involves a violation of our publishing policies at the highest possible level. The Editor in Chief, the Associate Editors and the Publisher have therefore decided to retract the paper and apologize to the readers of the Journal of Geometry and Physics that this infringement was not picked up earlier.

Reading the notices carefully, it’s not clear who submitted the bogus email addresses. And Goong Chen, one of the editors of Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications, tells Retraction Watch it’s not completely clear who wrote the bogus reviews, either:

There is not yet absolute evidence that those authors themselves wrote and submitted the peer reviews themselves.

You might be reading about more such retractions from these authors, suggests Chen’s message to us (see correction at end of post):

This is not an isolated incident. Elsevier’s publisher and several journal editors discovered those authors’ tricks tracks through submissions/publications to several Elsevier journals.

We’ve tried reaching Tayebi and Peyghan for comment, and will update with anything we hear back. They join an illustrious group of fake email fraudsters including Hyung-In Moon, who has retracted 24 papers for this kind of behavior, and Guang-Zhi He, whose work was also retracted after Elsevier found evidence of tampering with their editorial system.

Correction, 10 a.m. 9/28/12: Quote from Dr. Chen corrected from “tricks” to “tracks.” We apologize for this error, which occurred when we assumed Dr. Chen had made a typo.

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Written by ivanoransky

September 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

6 Responses

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  1. I wonder how one says ‘the tip of the iceberg’ in Farsi.

    chirality

    September 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

  2. Its not “tampering with their editorial system”! Its so easy to register yourself at ees.elsevier.com/”journalname” and then add a particular email (bogus email with suggestive name of a scientist, say watsonblahblah@gmail.com) you used at ees to be your preferred reviewer when you submit a paper using your normal ees account!! Due to the editorial constraints and lack of time to search for a ‘proper’ reviewer, the editor/managing editor of a particular submitted article will have to select the preferred reviewers (name/email/affiliation provided by the authors). Poor editor/managing editor is hard pressed for time, so he/she is not going to check the authenticity of the email addresses every time. The journals JMAA for example relies often on a single referee report so it becomes easy to designate a very ‘nice’ reviewer for your submitted paper! ;-)

    disillusioned_academic

    September 25, 2012 at 2:29 am

    • That’s a different thing disillusioned_academic. The Elsevier Editiorial System (EES) indeed asks the authors to suggest reviewers for their manuscript. This includes providing their email address. It is indeed possible to put a fake email address there (i.e. not the email address of the person whose name you’ve given, but an email address that you control).

      From the description above (especially the usage of ‘fictitious EES account’), I presume that what the authors did was something different. You can register yourself on EES (if e.g. you want to submit a manuscript, then you must do this first). In the same way, you can make an EES account under somebody else’s name (in this case, that of a well-known expert in Finsler geometry) and linked to an email address that you control. In that way, any editor of any Elsevier journal who thinks that he is communicating with this well-known expert in Finsler geometry is actually emailing the fraudster.

      The way the EES system works, all reviewers must have an EES account. If an editor picks someone who doesn’t have an EES account, then the editor has to create such an account. So it is possible that based on a fake ‘suggested reviewer’ email address, an Elsevier editor in fact made the fake EES account…….

      In any case, it is deception.

      mathbobby

      September 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

      • Absolutely! I am not denying it that it is a deception..its making a mockery of ‘peer review’ process. I was merely pointing out how easy it is to do such ‘preferred reviewers’ list in some journals which follow this style. Many of the math journals in Elsevier I know of has such requirements: authors are supposed to provide preferred reviewers list (sometimes upto 8!), though the journal webpages say it is not guaranteed that they will be invited to review, almost in all the cases it indeed goes to the names given in the list. In this instance these guys exploited it by providing fake addresses.

        disillusioned_academic

        September 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm

  3. The Chronicle of Higher Education covered this, those by Moon and He, and other incidences of fake reviewer emails/self-reviews today: http://chronicle.com/article/Fake-Peer-Reviews-the-Latest/134784/

    writedit

    October 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

  4. Further to my previous comment, this incident has also been publicized in Farsi website, for example this one called “professors against plagiarism”:

    http://pap.blog.ir/1391/09/15/و-حالا،-داوری-تقلبی!

    Iranian

    January 24, 2013 at 7:48 am


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