Journal issues 55 expressions of concern at once

The journal Cureus has issued expressions of concern for a whopping 55 papers whose authorship has come into question. 

The articles, including a couple like this one on COVID-19, were apparently submitted as part of an effort by Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, in Saudi Arabia, to pad the publishing resumes of its medical students – and perhaps the school’s own metrics – who targeted Cureus for reasons that aren’t now clear.  

Here’s the notice for “Sylvian Fissure Lipoma: An Unusual Etiology of Seizures in Adults,” which the journal published in January 2022:

The concern relates to the provenance of this article as brought to our attention by Faisal Alhawaj, who denies authorship of this article and others published in Cureus. These articles were submitted and subsequently published purportedly as an effort coordinated by Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University to ensure all medical interns publish at least one peer-reviewed article in order to qualify for enrollment in a postgraduate residency program as stipulated by The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS).

The journal has not been presented with enough evidence to warrant the formal retraction of these articles as both Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University and The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties have failed to respond to numerous communications requesting additional information regarding these allegations. While we acknowledge that the provenance of these articles is very much in question, we cannot act until these claims have been investigated by the appropriate institutions with the results of said investigation communicated to Cureus.

The concern and this note will remain appended to the above-mentioned article until Cureus is provided with official confirmation from Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University or The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.

In fact, Alhawaj, an emergency medicine specialist, doesn’t appear on all the suspect papers. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

John Adler Jr., the editor-in-chief of Cureus, told us:

The first inklings of a problem came to us about 2 months ago. The investigation has been frustratingly slow due to the relative unresponsiveness of Saudi gov officials.

How long will Cureus wait before moving to retract, if necessary? Adler said: 

The editorial team leader of this investigation just began 1-2 months of paternity leave a few days ago. A final decision to retract must await upon his return to work and hopefully by then further responses from Saudi healthcare officials……post Ramadan). I can only dream that Governments and childbirth worked around the schedule of busy journals!

The journal has found itself in the spotlight recently after it announced its creation of a “Wall of Shame.”

Hat tip: Neuroskeptic

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2 thoughts on “Journal issues 55 expressions of concern at once”

  1. “we cannot act until these claims have been investigated by the appropriate institutions with the results of said investigation communicated to Cureus.”

    I think this statement warrants some clarifying follow up questions. Many journals are happy to simply retract papers if they don’t get a response in some reasonable time frame.

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