Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Elsevier to retract six more papers by computer scientist, citing duplication and fake reviews

with 8 comments

Yesterday we reported that Elsevier journals had pulled three papers by a computer scientist with an impressive publication record. The publisher has since informed us that it plans to pull six more, again citing duplication and manipulation of the peer-review process.

Shahaboddin Shamshirband at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s record will be down by a total of nine papers once the publisher issues the additional notices. We also found evidence that an additional paper was removed by a journal, but haven’t confirmed if that’s a retraction.

One of Shamshirband’s co-authors has objected to one of the retractions Elsevier has already issued for faked reviews, arguing the reviewers were PhD students without institutional email addresses. A spokesperson for Elsevier told us:

In accordance with our policy of offering authors due process, the authors’ explanations were fully considered but were not deemed satisfactory, hence the retractions.

That co-author, Dalibor Petković at the University of Niš in Serbia, is also listed on five of the six upcoming retractions.

We’ve asked Petković to comment on the upcoming retractions.

An aside: We reported yesterday that Shamshirband had published more than 200 papers, despite only getting his PhD in 2014, based on his online CV. That information has since been removed.

The Elsevier spokesperson told us:

We can confirm that the following papers in which Dr Shamshirband is an author will also be retracted shortly because of duplication and/or peer-review manipulation.

Here are those papers:

On five out of the six papers, Shamshirband is listed as one of the corresponding authors.

Another corresponding author on the first paper listed above — Abdul Aziz Abdul Raman, also at the University of Malaya — told us he had been in contact with the journal, which told him it suspected the peer-review process had been manipulated (he added the emphasis):

The co-authors and myself are aware of the process. The process started with a letter on behalf of retraction committee from Mihail L. Grecea (Expert in Publishing Ethics, Elsevier) on 8th November 2016. Myself as the representative of the co-authors except for Dr. Shamshirband has been in communication and collaborating with Mihail L. Grecea. Dr. Shamshirband was copied in all the communication for his information…Dr. Shamshirband did the initial submission upon my approval as the head of the collaborative work between my team and Dr. Shamshirband. Upon the conditional acceptance of the paper, I was added in as the corresponding author. The Journal provided me the reasons where the proposed reviewers by Dr. Shamshirband could not be traced from the emails and affiliations provided (all are Gmail addressees and none carries the institutional emails.). So there is suspicion that the review process was manipulated. Dr. Shamshirband would not take sole responsibility for the issue.

He added that he agreed with the retraction, even though he believes the findings are valid:

Myself and two other co-authors (Shima and Wan Ashri) are agreeable for the retraction, as we could not trace the reviewer identity provided by Dr. Shamshirband. The paper is written with high impact research data and we are saddened by the fact that this high quality work will be retracted. However based on publication integrity we are agreeable for the paper to be retracted. My team went through the journal review system religiously and was under the impression that the peer-review system has been quality controlled and monitored by the Journal. I hope the Journal will do the due-diligence on proposed reviewers to protect unsuspecting collaborators like us.

We’ve contacted any additional corresponding authors listed on each paper, and will update if we get a response.

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Comments
  • Mark Pawelek February 9, 2017 at 11:08 am

    All done with the magic of soft computing or neuro-fuzzy methods. I guess neuro-fuzzy methods are a variant of soft computing too! Wikipedia says: “Soft computing (SC) solutions are unpredictable, uncertain and between 0 and 1.” So hard to replicate and hard to contact the peers. Almost perfect for retraction.

    PS: I don’t think we can call this “computer science”. They are applications of computing. Computer science would be more like writing new soft computing algorithms and showing the strengths and weaknesses of such against established methods.

    • Anon February 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Indeed this is not computer science. In management there is a similar method–fsQCA.

  • herr doktor bimler February 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    My team… was under the impression that the peer-review system has been quality controlled and monitored by the Journal.

    “You effed up! You trusted us!”

  • Piotr February 9, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    That’s funny how scientists pay for the mistakes done by editors. Why the editor accepted the proposed reviewers? If there was doubt he should find other people. The reviewers were accepted by the editor… Why on earth someone accepts private e-mails and unknown people as reviewers?

    • Marco February 10, 2017 at 1:29 am

      See herr doktor bimler’s quote.

      Someone gave the editors those fake reviewer e-mail addresses. Someone made sure those addresses not only existed, but also that they provided what appeared to be qualified reviews. That someone was not someone at the journal, but most likely one of the authors. These scientists thus paid for their own ‘mistakes’. In the case of the authors thus included trusting one of their own.

    • PJTV February 10, 2017 at 2:11 am

      It is unfair to put the blame on the editors only. The real culprit is the one who proposes fake reviewers. And the editors can accept in good faith these proposals. Of course, there is some responsibility, but not as severe as suggested in the comment.

      PS “Why .. accept private e-mails?” eg some institutional e-mail services are less reliable than gmail; or somebody retired and has no link with one of his previous institutions

      • TL February 10, 2017 at 8:11 am

        Personally, I don’t think retired academics should be reviewing manuscripts reporting novel discoveries unless there are special circumstances.

        • PJTV February 10, 2017 at 9:22 am

          Age is not a determining factor. Some scientists get to their position by ambition or networking not know-how and insight. There are PhD’s who turn out to be better than their supervisors. One should judge on competence rather than title. For reviewing, one might however require some level of continuous publishing. That is fair.

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