Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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Weekend reads: Fired for fake peer review; world’s most prolific fraudster; peer reviewers behaving badly?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a post on just how much an authorship costs if you want to buy one, anger over charges to use a common research tool, and the revocation of a PhD from a once-rising star scientist. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 16th, 2017 at 9:38 am

Posted in weekend reads

Fake peer review, forged authors, fake funding: Everything’s wrong with brain cancer paper

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The paper had everything: Fake peer review, forged authors, even a fake funder.

In other words, it had nothing.

A 2015 paper is the latest retraction stemming from an investigation into fake peer review by Springer, which has now netted more than a hundred papers.

According to a spokesperson at Springer: Read the rest of this entry »

Fake peer review strikes again for pair of authors

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Two authors who had a paper retracted for fake peer review in 2015 have lost another for the same reason.

Elsevier recently retracted the second paper by the duo, a 2015 paper in a cancer journal, after finding evidence of fake peer review. The paper was submitted in October 2014 and accepted just a week before our piece on fake peer review appeared in Nature.

According to the notice, after investigating the paper, which appeared in Cancer Letters, the publisher concluded that it was accepted “based upon the positive advice of at least two faked reviewer reports.” The notice also explained that the identities of several authors “could not be confirmed.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 29th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Weekend reads: Prison for sharing an article?; which country has most fake peer review retractions; counterfeit reagents

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a look at a school where everyone has published in possibly predatory journals, and doubts about a study of doing math unconsciously. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 13th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekend reads: New calls for retraction; more on fake peer review; how long does peer review take?

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The week at Retraction Watch featured a look at how long journals take to respond to retraction requests, and news of a $10 million settlement for research misconduct allegations. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 29th, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A new record: Major publisher retracting more than 100 studies from cancer journal over fake peer reviews

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Springer is retracting 107 papers from one journal after discovering they had been accepted with fake peer reviews. Yes, 107.

To submit a fake review, someone (often the author of a paper) either makes up an outside expert to review the paper, or suggests a real researcher — and in both cases, provides a fake email address that comes back to someone who will invariably give the paper a glowing review. In this case, Springer, the publisher of Tumor Biology through 2016, told us that an investigation produced “clear evidence” the reviews were submitted under the names of real researchers with faked emails. Some of the authors may have used a third-party editing service, which may have supplied the reviews. The journal is now published by SAGE.

The retractions follow another sweep by the publisher last year, when Tumor Biology retracted 25 papers for compromised review and other issues, mostly authored by researchers based in Iran. With the latest bunch of retractions, the journal has now retracted the most papers of any other journal indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters. In 2015, its impact factor — 2.9 — ranked it 104th out of 213 oncology journals.

Here’s more from Springer’s official statement, out today:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

April 20th, 2017 at 9:00 am

How fake peer review happens: An impersonated reviewer speaks

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springerEarlier this month, BioMed Central and Springer announced that they were retracting nearly 60 papers for a host of related issues, including manipulating the peer-review process. Recently, we were contacted by one of the reviewers who was impersonated by some of the authors of the retracted papers.

The scientist wants to remain anonymous, but provided us with emails that supported his version of events.

In case you need a refresher on the “events” that took place: The two publishers recently pulled 58 papers from authors mostly based in Iran, citing evidence of plagiarism, and manipulating the peer-review process and allocating authorship positions inappropriately.

It all started with a seemingly simple question, the scientist told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

November 15th, 2016 at 9:30 am

What publishers and countries do most retractions for fake peer review come from?

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1092-coverA new analysis — which included scanning Retraction Watch posts — has identified some trends in papers pulled for fake peer review, a subject we’ve covered at length.

For those who aren’t familiar, fake reviews arise when researchers associated with the paper in question (most often authors) create email addresses for reviewers, enabling them to write their own positive reviews.

The article — released September 23 by the Postgraduate Medical Journal — found the vast majority of papers were retracted from journals with impact factors below 5, and most included co-authors based in China.

As described in the paper, “Characteristics of retractions related to faked peer reviews: an overview,” the authors searched Retraction Watch as well as various databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar, along with other media reports, and found 250 retractions for fake peer review.  (Since the authors concluded their analysis, the number of retractions due to faked reviews has continued to pile up; our latest tally is now 324.)

Here are the authors’ main findings: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 27th, 2016 at 9:32 am

We’ve seen computer-generated fake papers get published. Now we have computer-generated fake peer reviews.

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Eric Medvet

Eric Medvet

Retraction Watch readers may recall that in 2014, publisher Springer and IEEE were forced to retract more than 120 conference proceedings because the papers were all fakes, written by the devilishly clever SCIgen program and somehow published after peer review. So perhaps it was inevitable that fake computer-generated peer reviews were next.

In a chapter called “Your Paper has been Accepted, Rejected, or Whatever: Automatic Generation of Scientific Paper Reviews,” a group of researchers at the University of Trieste “investigate the feasibility of a tool capable of generating fake reviews for a given scientific paper automatically.” And 30% of the time, people couldn’t tell the difference. “While a tool of this kind cannot possibly deceive any rigorous editorial procedure,” the authors conclude, “it could nevertheless find a role in several questionable scenarios and magnify the scale of scholarly frauds.”

We spoke to one of the chapter’s authors, Eric Medvet, by email.

Retraction Watch: In the paper, you test the feasibility of computer-generated fake peer reviews. Why? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 2nd, 2016 at 9:30 am

Editors say they missed “fairly obvious clues” of third party tampering, publish fake peer reviews

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BJCP Cover

The editors of a journal that recently retracted a paper after the peer-review process was “compromised” have published the fake reviews, along with additional details about the case.

In the editorial titled “Organised crime against the academic peer review system,” Adam Cohen and other editors at the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology say they missed “several fairly obvious clues that should have set alarm bells ringing.” For instance, the glowing reviews from supposed high-profile researchers at Ivy League institutions were returned within a few days, were riddled with grammar problems, and the authors had no previous publications. 

The case is one of many we’ve recently seen in which papers are pulled due to actions of a third party

The paper was submitted on August 5, 2015. From the beginning, the timing was suspect, Cohen — the director for the Centre for Human Drug Research in The Netherlands — and his colleagues note: Read the rest of this entry »