Yesterday, we reported on the discovery by BioMed Central that there were about 50 papers in their editorial system whose authors had recommended fake peer reviewers. Those “reviewers” had submitted reviews of a number of manuscripts, and five of the papers had been published. (BMC posted a blog examining the case this morning.)
For some Retraction Watch readers, the elements of the story may have seemed familiar. Fake reviews — often involving self-peer review — have been the basis for a growing number of retractions.
As it happens, we’ve been working for a few months on a feature for the news section of Nature on the larger phenomenon. In the piece, out today and titled “The Peer Review Scam,” we write:
In the past 2 years, journals have been forced to retract more than 110 papers in at least 6 instances of peer-review rigging. What all these cases had in common was that researchers exploited vulnerabilities in the publishers’ computerized systems to dupe editors into accepting manuscripts, often by doing their own reviews. The cases involved publishing behemoths Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, SAGE and Wiley, as well as Informa, and they exploited security flaws that — in at least one of the systems — could make researchers vulnerable to even more serious identity theft.
While this is a story about a technological vulnerability, the fact that many journals ask authors to recommend reviewers plays a big role. You can read the whole thing here.