Engineering journal pulls two papers for “compromised” peer review

The Open Mechanical Engineering Journal

An engineering journal has retracted two papers for faked or rigged peer review, but authors of one of the papers are objecting to the retraction. 

The first author of that paper told us he and his co-authors “absolutely disagree” with the retraction, and are prepared to use “legal means” to safeguard their “rights and interests.” He added: 

…my paper was published by normal ways, I don’t know why the peer review process was compromised and what the journal found in its investigation.

Here’s the retraction notice, which is similar for both papers:

The Publisher and Editor have retracted this article [1] in accordance with good ethical practices. After thorough investigations we believe that the peer review process was compromised. The article was published online on 27-02-2015.

Both papers, “Research on Engine Exhaust Energy Recovery by a Heat Pipe Exchanger with a Semiconductor Thermoelectric Generator” and “Application Research of Decision Tree Algorithm in Sports Grade Analysis” were originally published in 2015. 

The journal in question — The Open Mechanical Engineering Journal — is not indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Science; its publisher, Bentham Open, is listed on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly publishers. In one blog post, Beall suggested there were “article brokers at work” at Bentham Open, and listed the publisher’s journals that he finds “suspicious,” which includes The Open Mechanical Engineering Journal.

Jun Fu, co-author of the first paper from Shaoyang University in China, told us he received an email regarding the retraction from Bentham Open. According to the message Fu forwarded us, it reads, in part:

We have had your article reviewed again as some doubts were created about the integrity of the initial peer review process of your article. Based on this peer review, we regret to inform you that it has been decided to retract your article entitled, “Research on Engine Exhaust Energy Recovery by a Heat Pipe Exchanger with a Semiconductor Thermoelectric Generator”. The review reports are mentioned below for your information.  

As a special favor, however, we will be happy to consider publishing one good quality article, free of cost, if you wish to publish it in any relevant Bentham Open journal in the future.

And here are the reviewers’ comments that accompanied the email from Bentham Open, according to Fu:

  1. No innovative research advancement.
  2. Not to be published in the research journal.
  3. It represents the  learning of existing concepts.
  4. Basic calculations are presented.

Fu disagreed with the reviewers’ comments such as the “no innovative advancement” claim, with the following objections:

  1. the paper studied the structure effect on the performance of several independent designed heat exchanger, and analyzed the temperature, flow resistance and pressure distribution, which can guide the design of heat exchanger.
  2. the research object is based on the single cylinder diesel engine, whose exhaust gas characteristics is different from the four cylinder diesel engine, and the fluctuation of exhaust and exhaust heat has an important influence on the heat exchanger, which has reference value on the design.
  3. Based on the numerical simulation results, the paper designed the independent thermoelectric module layout, tested its actual performance, and analyzed the exhaust heat recovery potential and characteristics of the single cylinder diesel engine, which has important practical significance on small unit and dispersed distribution heat energy recovery of engine.

Fu said that it is “sad” and “painful” to see his paper “mercilessly” retracted, and noted that the situation is a “fatal blow” to the authors’ careers. Besides denying he knew anything about the peer-review problems, Fu added:

The authors of this article take personal guarantee that there aren’t any plagiarism on others’ academic achievements or irresponsible test data, other false or wrong research methods and other academic misconducts…

But, he said:

…Bentham OPEN hastily made the retraction decision according to the so-called peer reviewer’s comments which were simple, rough, perfunctory, ambiguous, no guiding significance and even irresponsible…

Fu went on:

All authors of this article have already sent an email to the Bentham OPEN for the fair treatment and prepare to use the legal means to safeguard our rights and interests, and we have been working hard for it.

We’ve reached out to Mahmood Alam, director of publications at Bentham Open, who said he is currently travelling, but will respond to our queries when he is back. We’ve also contacted Zhu Lini, sole author of the second paper, who is based at the Xi’an Physical Education University in Shaanxi, China.

We previously reported on four papers that were felled by “compromised” peer review in another Bentham Open journal, The Open Automation and Control Systems Journal. At the time, the author of one of the retracted papers told us he actually requested his paper to be retracted including another scientist’s work in the paper without including him as a co-author. 

In total, this case to adds to well north of 300 papers that have been retracted for faked, rigged or compromised peer review. Here’s our 2014 Nature feature on the topic if you need a bit more background.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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2 thoughts on “Engineering journal pulls two papers for “compromised” peer review”

  1. Please don’t link publications to ResearchGate – this give false “reads”. I have commented on this earlier. Try to get a link to either pubmed or publishers site….This is a genuine request. I think young retraction watch members are not familiar with Pubmed or other indexing services…

  2. One can sympathize somewhat with the authors. They appear to have been dealt a bad hand. They trusted the process of peer review, which appears to have been badly conducted by the journal in the first round that led to acceptance. To be fair to these authors, all other papers should be re-peer reviewed.

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