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:
…a total of five publishers and 48 journals were involved in retractions related to faked peer reviews. Indeed, we must acknowledge that the number of publishers and journals was relatively small. More notably, there was a great discrepancy regarding the contribution of different journals in terms of the quantity of retractions. In particular, a low proportion of journals contributed to a large number of retractions; by comparison, a high proportion of journals contributed to a small number of retractions.
Here are some journals the authors found that have been hit harder than others (including links to our coverage):
The top 5 journals included the Journal of Vibration and Control (24.8%), Molecular Biology Reports (11.6%), Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology (8.0%), Tumour Biology (6.8%) and European Journal of Medical Research (6.4%). The publishers included SAGE (31%), Springer (26%), BioMed Central (18%), Elsevier (13%), Informa (11%) and [Lippincott Williams & Wilkins] LWW (1%).
The authors also found:
A majority (74.8%) of retracted papers were written by Chinese researchers. In terms of the publication year, the retracted papers were published since 2010, and the number of retracted papers peaked in 2014 (40.8%). In terms of the retraction year, the retractions started in 2012, and the number of retractions peaked in 2015 (59.6%).
(Side note: Faking reviews continues to be a problem, despite many efforts to identify and act on warning signs. Earlier this month, we reported on a 2016 paper that somehow managed to get published using a fake review.)
For more information on this phenomenon, check out our 2014 feature in Nature.
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