Journal editor resigned in wake of retractions for fake email addresses that enabled self-peer review

The case of Hyung-In Moon — the researcher who faked email addresses for potential peer reviewers so he could do his own peer review — has already led to one resignation.

Emilio Jirillo, the editor of Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, which retracted 20 of Moon’s papers, stepped down earlier this year in the wake of the case, Retraction Watch has learned.

Here’s a note the publisher posted on the journal’s site on June 15:

We are sorry to announce that Prof. Emilio Jirillo is stepping down as Editor in Chief of Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, effective 15 June 2012.

The editorial office is currently looking for a new editor. In the interim, the Associate Editors and the editorial board will strive to handle the editorial process in a timely and efficient manner.

We understand that in a message to the journal’s editorial board, Jirillo said that with misconduct on the rise, editors in chief were under increasing burdens. They could no longer take “noble attitudes” — trust, respect, and loyalty — for granted. Jirillo said he didn’t want to spend his time preventing misconduct rather than encouraging high-quality submissions, and preferred to step down.

Moon’s was not the only misconduct case that Jirillo has recently policed. There was also this one, involving fraud and plagiarism.

16 thoughts on “Journal editor resigned in wake of retractions for fake email addresses that enabled self-peer review”

  1. And as a whistlerblower — i.e. on the other side of this river — I must say that clearly editors have changed their attitude since scientific misconduct was made more “transparent” and “popular” online. They avoid answering any claims of misconduct at any cost. Not even COPE is taking any action. They all want that someone else (a whistle blower with a name and address) takes responsibilty for the claims of misconduct, even if they are obvious and straightforward. This is a green card and OK sign for fraudsters. Is good science going to survive this?

    1. Oh my… Of course good science is going to survive this. What appears in journals is only a small fraction of the scientific enterprise and shared knowledge. The scientific community has a good underground communication network that has been dealing with this for a long time. If some results don’t replicate, people talk about it and about the researchers who published them. When you go to a conference, most of what is talked about behind the curtains is what data is solid and what is not! And which scientists do solid stuff and which don’t. Before M. Hauser went down, for instance, there was talk about his stuff and about him as a scientist. You can be smooth and all, but people who have spent a lot of time thinking about something can sniff problems pretty reliably. It’s mostly the outsiders who don’t get it (because they are outsiders) and become very outraged when they hear about this stuff.

      1. You have a point there. Still, some areas seem strongly affected by scientific misconduct. Up to the point that most people involved do it and cover it up, and others as well. At least these should be greatly delayed, as most researchers do not really care about good data, and they main point of discussion in conferences will be (and in fact this is the case in my field) is how to get more money and more papers… May be some areas are quite dead right now….?

      2. And also I see happening: if the fraudsters do not get punished they will increase in number, ok? And if they are shunned by colleagues in their areas what happens to them? What stops them from haunting other fields, often related, but not yet immunized against their actions? I see this happening! They will resurface once or twice in a related field with a prestigious position, and then retire. Their damage is huge, and if multiplied I really think it could bring serious science down for a long while…

  2. IGNORANCE and DENIAL, this is how authors/editors/publishers/institutions and even COPE (to my deepest regret) deal with cases of obvious and very straightforward misconduct.
    The result is rapidly increasing number of cases of all kinds of misconduct and growing arrogance of the fraudsters.

    Yes, the Science will survive.
    However, the Trust in it and its Credibility are rapidly ERRODING.
    This massive erosion is result of three factors:
    (i) Reluctance of editors/publishers/institutions and even COPE to do the right thing.
    (ii) Growing cases of misconduct due to the RELUCTANCE of the above mentioned do the right thing.
    (iii) Internet, which makes it impossible to hide the misconduct and the RELUCTANCE of the above mentioned do the right thing.

    There are other implications of this RELUCTANCE of the above mentioned do the right thing.

    Armies of good practitioners (we assume) are trying every day to practice Evidence-Based Practice (especially in healthcare) which affects literately the health and the life of millions of people around the world.

    I might be very naive, but please tell me How successful will be the EBP when it is based on growing number of fraudulent papers, which affects adversely the health and the life of millions of people around the world, and leads to misallocation of billions of hard-earned tax-payers’ dollars???

    It’s time for a change, and the proposed Transparency Index (which should be applied to journals/publishers/institutions and even COPE) could be a step into right direction – purification of the Academia and restoring the public trust in Science.

    1. “Trust in it and its Credibility are rapidly ERRODING”

      Only in the eyes of people who have a simplistic view of science. Science is a human activity, and so there will be some cheaters. Some cheaters get caught, some don’t. Game theory predicts a certain amount of cheating. It also predicts that there cannot be too many cheaters. Cheating only pays off when it is rare and there is a generally working system.

      1. RE: “Cheating only pays off when it is rare and there is a generally working system.”

        Then we witness a Phenomenon, because Retraction Watch clearly shows that:
        1) Cheating in academic publishing is NOT so rare; and
        2) The system for rectifying cheating generally does NOT work. (editors/publishers/institutions and even COPE are very reluctant to deal with cases of obvious and very straightforward misconduct.)

        I’ll add that on top of this there is
        3) Attitude of tolerance to cheating (especially if cheaters are faculty members) among most people (even those who were adversely affected by cheaters).

        So, based on the above, I disagree with you that “Cheating only pays off when it is rare and there is a generally working system” as clearly at present cheating in general pays off although that the two conditions which you point out are NOT met.

        That’s why a CHANGE in the system is well overdue.

      2. “Cheating in academic publishing is NOT so rare”

        Retraction Watch has not shown that it is frequent. Even if you divide all cases on this site by the total number of publications in the same time period, you will see that it is a trivial proportion. Of course, you will say that this is only the “tip of the iceberg”. And of course, you are free to believe so.

      3. I do believe this is merely the tip of the iceberg as most cases do not result in retraction and I do believe cheating is paying off quite well in Science as cheaters do not get punished and in fact get much more money than honest workers. I would like to see this optimistic games theory working in, for intance, corrupt governments like in the 3rd world and Syria. The situation can ALWAYS get worse if people just close their eyes and wash their hands — and it is getting critical in many fields of science. Honest papers are starting to become rare and not very valuable.

      4. pI agree, of course, that “Science” is doing just fine – it is the proverbial bull market where just like in financial markets traders who over-extend can normally conceal their misdemeanors as everyone charges ahead getting richer and richer.
        I think your introduction of game theory was a bit simplistic. Here is how I think game theory would apply. Cheating would be cyclical – starting at a low level and gradually building up as everybody begins to suspect everyone else of doing it. This eventually results in a crisis, everybody is forced to clean up their act and cheating drops down again. But game theory doesn’t state that cheating will be a steady state or automatically reduce itself without a crisis. Periodic crises of capitalism may have lead to WW1 (in traditional Marxist analysis) and the resulting destruction of capital, but that still meant WW1 was a traumatic event. Like the early socialists who saw in WW1 the perfect preconditions for revolution, so I like to encourage cheating and suggest techniques to do so without detection in order to hasten the inevitable crisis. The Anabaptists had a similar idea, the 2nd coming would only take place when the world was completely mired in sin, so they indulged in as much gambling, fornication and carousing as possible to hasten that happy event.

        Falsify away, I say, everybody does it. Although I think cheating is actually a subset of unreproducible work generally – a sort of “well it could be true, so let’s not try to hard to disprove it.” Which, because it is more common, might prove to be more destructive.

  3. In reply to Jon Beckmann, September 2, 2012 at 6:21 am

    When you make your calculations, please include:

    1) Yoshitaka Fujii: Publications: 498; Citations: 5,735; collaborated with 511 co-authors cited by 18,518 authors
    According to

    2) Joachim Boldt: Publications: 393; Citations: 3,634; collaborated with 379 co-authors cited by 8,300 authors
    According to

    3) Naoki Mori: Publications: 124; Citations: 936; collaborated with 293 co-authors cited by 2,189 authors
    According to

    4) Anil Potti: Publications: 111; Citations: 1,878; collaborated with 314 co-authors cited by 6,597 authors
    According to

    5) Diederik Stapel: Publications: 110; Citations: 1,140; collaborated with 62 co-authors cited by 1,270 authors
    According to

    6) Silvia Bulfone-Paus: Publications: 83; Citations: 1,169; collaborated with 235 co-authors cited by 3,671 authors
    According to

    Of course, you may believe that this is not any tip of any iceberg.
    In fact, you are free to believe in whatever you want.

    1. Right, — and I can say as an insider that Brazil is crawling with similar cases and unsavory authors however very few are caught, even fewer make it to the newspapers, even fewer get retractions. And know what, these blogs and readers like you (=plural) do not care about science in Brazil “and such”. It doesn’t mean we do not exist, and our % in science is actually quite large… Already Brazil alone is an iceberg of global proportions with a tiny tip showing; let us see how long it takes to current science decision-makers to realize that.

  4. Rafa,

    Thank you for pointing out that very, very, VERY few of the reported cases of misconduct actually result in retractions. This happens because, as I have noted repeatedly, the editors/publishers/institutions are very, VERY RELUCTANT to Do-the-Right-Thing. I would estimate that only less than 3 % from the reported to editors/publishers/institutions cases which are backed up with evidence and the irregularities are, as Hibby noted, obvious and straightforward, will get to retraction.

    For example, in the case of obvious and straightforward plagiarism featured on RW here
    although that the author “has acknowledged these problems” and ”In line then with the usual Springer policy, we have offered him the opportunity to write an erratum to the paper” , absolutely NOTHING has been done to rectify the wrong-doing. What a shame!

    Transparency Index which reflects whether the editors/publishers/institutions Do-the-Right-Thing after being made aware of irregularities (i.e. TI is based on the number of reported irregularities divided by the number of retractions) has the potential to present the journals/publishers/institutions in their REAL light.
    TI has the potential to purify academic publishing and is beneficial for everyone, except the fraudsters.

    For those who live in La-La-Land and do not believe in tip-of-something (let alone in icebergs as such) Transparency Index would be irrelevant, so BRING IT ON.
    The sooner – the better!

    1. Very well put, and I would even exemplify with anothr case in which, in spite of announcing in RW that a retraction and a Expression of Concern statement should follow the publication of a clearly fraudulent Brazilian paper in the Journal of Insect Behavior, NOTHING what-so-ever was issued or done against it or the authors in the end. See below:

      Now tell me who cares an inch about that?

  5. The only way to stop the rot is to actively train (properly) the wider body of doctors to understand research. Most doctors depend on “academic doctors/physicians” to do and interpret research for them. They think that these “academic physicians” have undergone a training programme to do clinical research- and hence are “competent”.
    It is perhaps in the last 20 years (at least where I live ) that producing a research report is part of the general postgraduate/specialty training programme. It is this requirement that led to the realisation among doctors that our so called “professors” themselves are untrained- and hence unreliable investigators.

    BTW, the Mathematics background most doctors have (at least in my part of the world) is totally insufficient to deal with the statistics part of research.

    I am not sure what it is like in North America………….
    “‘I’ve reviewed data analytic tables, I don’t recall how raw it was. The huge printouts that list items by item number.. you know, item numbers, invariable numbers and don’t even have words on ’em. I tend not to look at those. I do better with words than I do with symbols.”

    Does this sound familiar?

    The following are interesting websites
    Secrets of the drug trials

    Someone seems to have uploaded the entire programme on you tube titled “Paxil Study 329”

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