Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Authors in 2014 peer review ring lose 4 more papers each for “compromised” review

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human factors and ergonomicsA journal is pulling additional papers authored by twin brothers for peer review issues.

After retracting three papers by Cheng-Wu Chen earlier this year for “compromised” peer reviewHuman Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries is now pulling four more by Chen for the same reason — and four others by his twin brother, Chen-Yuan Chen, who was a the center of a peer review ring that SAGE busted in 2014.

Cheng-Wu Chen lost 21 papers during that episode. He’s now up to 28; Chen-Yuan Chen, who also goes by Peter Chen, is now up to 43. Both are present on our leaderboard.

The notes, which appear in the March/April issue of the journal, are all identical, and also cite issues with citations:

The retraction has been agreed due to evidence indicating that the peer review of this paper was compromised. It is believed that the paper was accepted based on recommendations from reviewers with conflicts of interest. In addition, ISI provided the publisher with evidence of inappropriate manipulation of citations.

That’s the same retraction note that appears on the three papers we reported on previously for Cheng-Wu Chen.

Here are the additional papers that now carry that note, from Peter Chen:

And the ones from Cheng-Wu Chen:

Mark Spencer, an editor at Wiley, which publishes the journal, told us:

There were email addresses associated with reviewers [whose] existence we were unable to verify.

He added:

[W]e believe the actual identities of the reviewers had a conflict of interest, but I’m unable to provide more detail than that, unfortunately.

He told us that the issues with the papers came to light when the journal was flagged for citation stacking:

The journal was suspended from the 2014 [Journal Citation Reports] based on inappropriate manipulation of citations. Once we were alerted to this, we investigated the implicated papers, and in investigating the review process of these papers, we discovered reviews that led us to believe the peer review process was compromised.

Spencer told us:

[W]e do not believe the citation stacking was a result of the peer review of these papers.

We asked for more information on how the citations were manipulated; in response, Spencer pointed us to the notice from Journal Citation Reports about the decision to remove the journal from the report, based on evidence of citation stacking:

Metrics for the titles listed below are not published due to anomalous citation patterns found in the 2014 citation data. These patterns result in a significant distortion of the Journal Impact Factor and rank that does not accurately reflect the journal’s citation performance in the literature. The Journal Impact Factor provides an important and objective measure of a journal’s contribution to scholarly communication. In the interest of fairness and accuracy for all journals, the distortion of the Journal Impact Factor by an excessive concentration of citations gives rise to the need for suppression. JCR staff will monitor these journals going forward and the titles will be included in a future edition of JCR when the anomalous patterns are resolved. Coverage of these journals in Web of Science and other Thomson Reuters products is not immediately affected by suppression from the JCR, however, the titles may be subject to review to determine if they continue to meet the quality and publication standards necessary for inclusion in Web of Science.

We have tried to reach both Chens by email. Cheng-Wu has not responded, and an email to the address listed for Chen-Yuan on the papers bounced back.

The brothers are now fixtures on our leaderboard — Chen-Yuan at number 5 (he was previously number 3, when we miscounted), and Cheng-Wu at number 13.

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