Retraction count grows to 35 for scientist who faked emails to do his own peer review

Hyung-In Moon

Hyung-In Moon, the South Korean plant compound researcher who made up email addresses so he could do his own peer review, is now up to 35 retractions.

The four new retractions are of the papers in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry that initially led to suspicions when all the reviews came back within 24 hours. Here’s the notice, which includes the same language as Moon’s 24 other retractions of studies published in Informa Healthcare journals:

The corresponding author and publisher hereby retract the following articles from publication in Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry:

Effect of betaine on the hepatic damage from orotic acid-induced fatty liver development in rats

Jae-Young Cha, Hyeong-Soo Kim, Hyung-In Moon, and Young-Su Cho

Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry [epub ahead of print], 2012, doi: 10.3109/14756366.2011.641014

Antiobesity activity of fermented Angelicae gigantis by high fat diet-induced obese rats

Jae-Young Cha, Jae-Jun Jeong, Chang-Su Park, Hee-Young Ahn, Hyung-In Moon, and Young-Su Cho

Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry [epub ahead of print], 2012, doi: 10.3109/14756366.2011.615746

Antioxidant properties of benzylchroman derivatives from Caesalpinia sappan L. against oxidative stress evaluated in vitro

Min-Ja Lee, Hye-Sook Lee, Hyuck Kim, Hyo-Seung Yi, Sun-Dong Park, Hyung-In Moon, and Won-Hwan Park

Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry 2010 25:5, 608-614

Larvicidal effects of the major essential oil of Pittosporum tobira against Aedes aegypti (L.)

Ill-Min Chung, Su-Hyun Seo, Eun-Young Kang, Won-Hwan Park, and Hyung-In Moon

Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry 2010 25:3, 391-393

The peer-review process for all of the above articles was found to have been compromised and inappropriately influenced by the corresponding author, Professor HI Moon. As a result the findings and conclusions of these articles cannot be relied upon.

The corresponding author and the publisher wish to retract these papers to preserve the integrity of material published in the journal. The publisher acknowledges that the integrity of the peer review process should have been subject to more rigorous verification to ensure the reviews provided were genuine and impartial. The publisher apologizes for any inconvenience rendered to the readers of the journal and wishes to assure the reader that measures have been taken to ensure that the peer review process is comprehensively checked to avoid a similar error occurring.

In addition to the now 28 notices during this most recent episode, Moon retracted seven papers several years ago for unspecified errors, some of which the notices called “major.”

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9 thoughts on “Retraction count grows to 35 for scientist who faked emails to do his own peer review”

  1. Unfortunately this is one of the problems as science expands into less traditional areas like India, Iran and Korea – the manipulations suffer from a distinct lack of imagination and panache. Faking email addresses for referee reports, yes well, that is really all they are capable of in South Korea.

    Now if it was Cambridge University or Imperial College they would be faking entire letters and decade old ethics investigations.
    Now that is what I call classy, that has style. This is what the South Koreans and the Iranians ought to be aspiring to emulate.

  2. I am sure most of the retracted stuff was of publishable quality anyway. If I were Moon, I would re-submit the manuscripts to the original journals to salvage as much as possible.

      1. Inventing reviewers to publish bogus papers seems like an overkill to me. Moon probably just wanted to improve his odds in the battle against those bastards who had trashed his previous manuscripts. Besides, I do not think Moon controlled the entire review process anyway, so some people who evaluated his manuscripts must still have been real.

  3. This is funny in a sad sort of way, but what does it actually mean?

    I’ve researched in fields related to enzymology for years and for some of my research in the last decade or so has involved reading of quite a bit of medicinal chemistry literature. Once again my first inkling of the existence of a journal (“Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry” – aka “JEIMC”), comes from a retraction on Retraction Watch.

    JEIMC has an impact factor of 1.6. In other words scientists don’t find the articles published in JEIMC particularly useful – they’re rarely cited.

    The publishers/editors aren’t particularly interested either apparently. I had a quick look at the current issue on line (dated October 2012). The abstract of the first article I downloaded contains these sentences:

    “… According to these results, Ampicillin sulfate inhibited only hcbCAII and IC50 values of this antibiotic was found to be 56.8 μM. All these substances were found non-competitive inhibitors. It is important to study the inhibition effects of these drugs on hcbCA I and II izoenzymes. Because, pregnant woman is take all of these substance. For this reason, these drugs should be carefully used and the dosage should be very well ordered to minimize side effects….”

    Although Ingenta Healthcare is apparently a UK publisher (All of the articles have “Informa UK Ltd.” on the masthead) the publisher and editors seem rather unconcerned about sentence construction and grammar, despite the fact that this is an essential tool in communication and dissemination of scientific findings. This does a disservice to the authors (who are not English speakers in this case and thus already at a disadvatage in disseminating their work to the wider community), and to the readers for whom the presentation of the paper provides a dismal impression. One might have thought that the publisher, an editor or reviewer or a sub-editor or somebody might have taken 5 minutes to rewrite the abstract into gramattical English.

    Nobody wins from this sort of “couldn’t give a damn” rubbish. If Dr. Moon had submitted to a reputable journal he might have been given a warning after his 1st or 2nd attempt to cheat the review system and might have undergone an early realignment of his publishing practices and not now be in a shambles of 30-something retractions.

    This sort of nonsense is splendid for Retraction as a “car-crash” style spectator sport. But if we’re truly interested in obtaining “a window into the scientific process” as Retraction Watch claims their retraction tracking to be, then we should recognize that there are far too many journals (a huge expansion of titles in the electronic era) that have unacceptably poor standards of quality and that these are the journals that individuals with dubious morality or who are intent on expanding their CV’s, will target. It has little to do with “the scientific process” and very much to do with making money with little effort, puffing of CV’s, and career advancement (presumably abruptly truncated in the case of the unfortunate Dr. Moon).

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