Meta-meta-analysis meets with retraction for group that had faked peer review elsewhere

Pancreatic cancer (artist rendering)

Researchers in China have lost a 2015 meta-analysis on pancreatic cancer, one of several retractions for members of the group stemming from a variety of abuses including bogus authorship and fake peer review. 

The meta-analysis, “Correlation between serum levels of high mobility group box-1 protein and pancreatitis: a meta-analysis,” appeared in BioMed Research International, a Hindawi journal. The authors are affiliated with China Medical University in Shenyang and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Here’s the notice

BioMed Research International has retracted the article titled “Correlation between Serum Levels of High Mobility Group Box-1 Protein and Pancreatitis: A Meta-Analysis” [1]. This article is one of a series of very similar meta-analyses written by different authors that were published in 2014 and 2015, characterized by searching the complementary and alternative medicine database CISCOM although the topic was not about complementary and alternative medicine [2]. The articles have the same structure, with the figures in the same order. The appearance of the figures and parts of the text are also similar.

We also found that the authors note there is publication bias, but they do not account for this in their analysis or discussion. The skew in Figure 6 is quite marked, meaning that negative results were likely not published. This may mean that the association of HMGB1 with pancreatitis is a false positive.

In addition, we checked the original files submitted by the authors and found that the files were edited by MedChina, a company previously alleged to be involved in the sale of articles [3].

The authors did not respond to our queries and we have informed the authors’ institutions of our concerns.

Four of the authors, Lianjie Lin, Yan Lin, Yu Jin, and Changqing Zheng, also were caught out in a bogus peer review scheme involving multiple papers in Gene, an Elsevier title. According to the 2016 retraction notice for one article, “Microarray analysis of microRNA expression in liver cancer tissues and normal control”:

After a thorough investigation, the Publisher has concluded that the acceptance of this article was based upon the positive advice of at least one faked reviewer report. The report was submitted from a fictitious email account which was provided to the journal as a suggested reviewer by the corresponding author during the submission of the paper.

This manipulation of the peer-review process represents a clear violation of the fundamentals of peer review, our publishing policies, and publishing ethics standards. Apologies are offered to the reviewers whose identities were assumed and to the readers of the journal that this deception was not detected during the submission process.

And here’s a similar statement, also from 2016, about a second paper in the journal.

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2 thoughts on “Meta-meta-analysis meets with retraction for group that had faked peer review elsewhere”

  1. In addition, we checked the original files submitted by the authors and found that the files were edited by MedChina, a company previously alleged to be involved in the sale of articles

    Papermill Pro-tip: When writing a paper for a customer, check the Properties meta-data of your documents to check that the name recorded as the owner of the word-processor software matches the customer, not you.

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