“Unfortunately, scientific publishing is not immune to fraud and mistakes”: Springer responds to fake papers story
We have an update on the story of 120 bogus papers being removed by IEEE and Springer. The latter posted a statement earlier today, which we include in its entirety below:
As reported in the media, on 11 February 2014 we were alerted to 16 fake submissions that were published in conference proceedings in Springer publications, mostly in computer sciences and engineering. The submissions were generated by the SCIgen computer program, which creates nonsense documents. We were alerted to this fact by Dr Cyril Labbé, a French researcher who has written an article on how to detect SCIgen-generated papers in the Springer journal Scientometrics in January 2013.
We are in the process of taking the papers down as quickly as possible. This means that they will be removed, not retracted, since they are all nonsense. A placeholder notice will be put up once the papers have been removed.
Furthermore, we are looking into our procedures to find the weakness that could allow something like this to happen, and we will adapt our processes to ensure it does not happen again.
For the moment, we are using detection programs and manpower to sift through our publications to determine if there are more SCIgen papers. We have also reached out to Dr. Labbé for advice and ffcollaboration on how to go about this in the most effective manner.
Since we publish over 2,200 journals and 8,400 books annually, this will take some time. We are confident that, for the vast majority of the materials we publish, our processes work. When flaws are detected by us, or brought to our attention by members of the scientific community, we aim to correct them transparently and as quickly as possible.
There will always be individuals who try to undermine existing processes in order to prove a point or to benefit personally. Unfortunately, scientific publishing is not immune to fraud and mistakes, either. The peer review system is the best system we have so far and this incident will lead to additional measures on the part of Springer to strengthen it.
Once we have further information, we will post it on springer.com.
This is an honest and straightforward approach that a lot of publishers could learn from. Some readers might ask what we think of the fact that the papers won’t be officially retracted, but just removed. As far as we’re concerned, it’s far more important to give the reader as much information as possible than to worry about how something is labeled. And these are faked papers, not simply flawed. So presuming the placeholder notices explain what happened, that seems like an entirely reasonable approach.