Meet the medical resident who had his wife peer review five of his papers

via Pixy

The pantheon of husband-wife teams in science includes Marie and Pierre Curie, Gerty and Carl Cori, even Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, the founders of BioNTech, which collaborated with Pfizer on a Covid-19 vaccine. 

To that list we hesitatingly add Ahmed Elkhouly and his spouse. 

Elkhouly, a medical resident at St. Francis Medical Center, in Trenton, N.J., has lost five papers from the journal Cureus over a rather curious (ahem) domestic arrangement. According to the journal, Elkhouly used his unnamed wife as a peer reviewer on the articles, whose topics ranged from a case study on appendicitis to the neurological manifestations of COVID-19 infection

Here’s the retraction notice for the COVID paper — which, by the way, raises our tally of retracted papers on the pandemic to 89

This article has been retracted based on the discovery that the submitting author, Dr. Ahmed Elkhouly, invited his wife to serve as a peer reviewer without properly disclosing this relationship. As this fraudulent peer review was completed and taken into consideration when determining whether to publish this article, Cureus has no choice but to retract this article due to this author misconduct and falsification of peer review.

An additional four articles submitted by Dr. Elkhouly have been retracted for the same reason. Cureus greatly regrets that these fraudulent peer reviews were not identified prior to publication. Dr. Elkhouly’s residency program has been notified as is consistent with COPE guidelines.

Here’s the list of retracted articles: 

Elkhouly did not respond to a request for comment. 

John Adler, MD, the editor in chief of Cureus, told us: 

Our editors identified a peer reviewer invited by the submitting author of a submitted article, Ahmed Elkhouly, that raised questions as the reviewer had the same name and a very similar IP address. Upon reaching out to Dr. Elkhouly for an explanation, he admitted to inviting an older Cureus account of his as a reviewer so that his wife could peer review his articles. We do not know if his wife is a physician or scientist.

Further investigation revealed a pattern of misconduct by Dr. Elkhouly, as the same fraudulent reviewer reviewed five already published articles. It’s not clear exactly whether it was Dr. Elkhouly or his wife who reviewed the articles using this account, but either way we immediately contacted the Internal Medicine residency leadership at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey with this information. After discussing the matter with the residency director and department chair (who confronted Dr. Elkhouly and confirmed the misconduct), the decision was made to retract all five articles.

Obviously, we deeply regret not identifying this fraudulent peer review prior to publication of these five articles.

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8 thoughts on “Meet the medical resident who had his wife peer review five of his papers”

  1. What is the process for disciplining a person who has established a pattern
    of dishonesty?
    What is the process at Cureus for reviewing the bona fides of peer reviewers?

  2. “Two completed reviews are required in order to proceed, one of which must be from a reviewer invited by Cureus. This requirement will be waived after 21 days if two author-invited reviews have been submitted.”

    I saw this a few days ago when posting a Cureus paper on PubPeer. This led me to believe that this was a vanity publisher (publishing anything for a fee)… is Retraction Watch suggesting they may be legitimate? Or no opinion?

    1. Cureus meets at least one of the criteria for predatory journals: they try to attract authors and co-editors via email spam.

  3. “ ….a peer reviewer invited by the submitting author….”
    What kind of journal has authors invite the own reviewers? Suggesting is common, but actually inviting. Oh and I never recommend my spouse as a reviewer. I want someone less critical.

  4. I admit, it’s a curiosity – an author-invited review by a spouse, but this entire journal belongs to kunstkammer. No impact factor, acceptance rate of 55% (I doubt there’s a self-selection at the submission stage to this publishing equivalent of drawings going onto the fridge, comparable to that authors exhibit while submitting to NEJM or Nature Medicine), a broad loophole allowing review process to be carried out entirely by author-invited reviewers whose identity and credentials are not verified by the Editors… Buddy/spousal review masquerading as peer-review is a blatant dishonesty. Since the preprints appearing on biorXiv are served with conditionals about not being peer-reviewed, this “journal” should preface their papers with a disclaimer that the submission was reviewed by 2 entities known only to the authors, potentially a spouse, a chap they ran into in the mess called Bernard, or a domestic cat.

  5. First of all, Cureus journal ask the authors to invite people to review there papers before submission. I don’t k ow what is the expectations but for sure authors will invite people that they know as family and friends. I think the peer review process of Cureus is what to be questioned. Second I don’t like circulating young residents name around especially in the start of there carriers that may affect there future, especially in the above situation with Cureus

  6. The papers, to judge from their titles, are the worst kind of rubbish case reporting – more or less like “An Interesting Bird I saw on my Way to School Today”.

    This poor fellow got caught up in a clearly bottom drawer publishing scam, and is now getting punished for playing along.

  7. I personnaly will never do this kind of shenanigans.Besides that, my wife is too critical……She will certainly reject my manuscript for non conpliance with spouse duties !!!

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