Papers in Scientific Reports – and their expressions of concern – raise questions

Photo by Bilal Kamoon via flickr

Has Springer Nature’s Scientific Reports been targeted with an authorship for sale scheme? At least one expert in such matters thinks so. 

The journal has issued two recent expressions of concern for papers by researchers from Indonesia, Iran and Russia with highly unusual – and oddly similar – constellations of authors. 

One 2021 article, “Numerical investigation of nanofluid flow using CFD and fuzzy-based particle swarm optimization,” drew a significant amount of attention on PubPeer. In January, a commenter pointed out a variety of apparent problems with the paper and noted that questions have been raised about other work by members of the group – including this now-retracted article in … Scientific Reports.

The senior author is Meisam Babanezhad, whose affiliations are listed as the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Islamic Azad University, and the Department of Artificial Intelligence at a company called Shunderman Industrial Strategy Co., both in Tehran. 

Islamic Azad is easy enough to find. But you can’t say the same for Shunderman Industrial Strategy, which doesn’t seem to have a presence on the web. (Shanderman is the name of a district in Iran.) We found 13 entries – including two book chapters and 11 journal articles – in publishing databases for Shunderman. 

Babanezhad is a co-author on all of them. However, his affiliation on ORCID (and LinkedIn) is Duy Tan University in Vietnam, not an institution in Iran. 

Meanwhile, several co-authors on the paper also raise eyebrows. One is Mariya Kuznetsova, who might be a researcher at Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University (and who shares a name with a famous opera singer from Imperial Russia). 

Another is Andrey Leonidovich Poltarykhin, of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, also in Moscow. Near as we can tell, neither Kuznetsova and Poltarykhin have published anything having to do with nanofluids and particles in the past. 

Nor has Vadim V. Ponkratov, of Financial University Under the Government of the Russian Federation. Ponkratov was a co-author of this 2021 paper in Sustainability which states: 

University social responsibility (USR) is an important assessment criterion of the QS Stars. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social orientation of universities as intellectual leaders in the development of society gains particular importance. The research purpose is to analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the university activity directions in the framework of strategies (USR). An empirical assessment of the level and complementary factors of USR in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) was conducted, using the method of integral and expert assessment. Grounded on scoring according to the principal component analysis, the structure of the factors of the USR development in the BRICS countries was determined. Multifactor regression modeling allowed substantiating the priority of factors stimulating the development of USR in the BRICS countries in modern conditions and arguing the main barriers to introducing the concept of social responsibility into university activities and expanding the stakeholders’ circle in it. The research results showed that the university management creativity, effective communication with the public and stakeholders, the quality of the educational process and the development of scientific activities stimulate USR development in the BRICS countries and should be used as the basis for the strategic planning of activities in the context of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Conceptual trends in the USR development can be useful for universities in the studied countries when adapting strategic development plans regarding the social needs of modern society.

According to the notice

The Editors are issuing an editorial expression of concern to alert readers that this article shows indication of irregularities in authorship. Concerns have been raised about the expertise of some of the authors not matching the subject matter of this article. Authors provided explanations regarding addition of authors during submission process, but they did not sufficiently document contributions of all authors.

Additionally, the code used to generate the results had not been previously made available. It is now deposited in the zenodo repository and can be found at: https://zenodo.org/record/6791248

Rahmad Syah, Marischa Elveny, Mahyuddin K. M. Nasution, Vadim V. Ponkratov and Meisam Babanezhad disagree with this Editorial Expression of Concern. Mariya Yurievna Kuznetsova and Andrey Leonidovich Poltarykhin did not respond to the correspondence from the Editors.

Babanezhad did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rafal Marszalek, chief editor of Scientific Reports, told us via the Nature press office:

Readers contacted us to raise concerns that the expertise of some of the authors does not seem aligned with the content of the article. We then raised these issues with the authors. After receiving their explanations, which did not fully address the concerns, we issued the Editorial Expression of Concern to inform readers of possible irregularities in authorship.

Meanwhile, the expression of concern hasn’t satisfied PubPeers. Alexander Magazinov, a sleuth about whom we’ve written many times, has raised questions about the supplemental data. 

In another statement, Marszalek said: 

We are aware of Magazinov’s comments, which he also brought to us directly after the EEoC was published, and are looking into this further. We cannot share any further information at this stage due to the confidential nature of the investigation.

Magazinov also pointed out that Scientific Reports issued a similarly odd expression of concern earlier this month, for a 2021 paper which again included researchers from Iran, Indonesia and Russia that also made an appearance on PubPeer. 

Between the two papers, he told us: 

Poltarykhin is an expert in something, but I am not sure in what exactly – maybe, agricultural management.

Then we [have] a Russian financial researcher Ponkratov.

We also have two Russian dentists, Kamenskov and Kuznetsova.

And they all suddenly cooperate with researchers from Iran, China and Malaysia to produce papers nominally on mechanical engineering – according to the vocabulary. Just imagine how far the topic is from the expertise of any of them.

Now tell me if it does not look like an authorship for sale scheme.

A spokesperson for Springer Nature declined to comment on that theory. 

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

6 thoughts on “Papers in Scientific Reports – and their expressions of concern – raise questions”

  1. Here, a correction. No question asked. Because it’s Springer Nature, a stereotypic “major publisher.”

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13369-021-06160-y

    In the original publication, the affiliation of author, Dr. Svetlana Dmitrievna Danshina was wrong. The correct affiliation should be “Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Moscow, Russia”. The original publication has been corrected.

    Engineering of Novel Fe-Based Bulk Metallic Glasses Using a Machine Learning-Based Approach

    Authors and Affiliations

    Tzu-Chia Chen – CAIC, DPU, Bangkok, Thailand
    Rajiman Rajiman – Universitas Bandar Lampung, Bandar Lampung, Indonesia
    Marischa Elveny – Data Science and Computational Intelligence Research Group, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan, Indonesia
    John William Grimaldo Guerrero – Department of Energy, Universidad de la Costa, Barranquilla, Colombia
    Adedoyin Isola Lawal – Department of Accounting and Finance, Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Nigeria & Sustainable Development Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals) Research Cluster, Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Nigeria
    Ngakan Ketut Acwin Dwijendra – Faculty of Engineering, Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia
    Aravindhan Surendar – Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences, Chennai, India
    Svetlana Dmitrievna Danshina – Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Moscow, Russia
    Yu Zhu – School of Mechanical Engineering, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, 212013, Jiangsu, China

  2. “And they all suddenly cooperate with researchers from Iran, China and Malaysia to produce papers nominally on mechanical engineering – according to the vocabulary. Just imagine how far the topic is from the expertise of any of them.“

    None of the authors are from Malaysia

    1. You are right, and thanks for the correction!

      There are actors from Malaysia in this ring, just not in the three papers covered here. For instance, this collaboration between Vadim Ponkratov (covered here) and Andino Maseleno (not covered here).

      https://doi.org/10.1080/01430750.2019.1636868

      “Novel load management for renewable generation sources/battery system through cut energy expenditure and generate revenue.”

      Maseleno’s Dimensions page:

      https://app.dimensions.ai/discover/publication?and_facet_researcher=ur.014244713361.59&viz-st:aggr=mean

      1. ok, but what happened with Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry? any particular reason you decided to leave them alone? what happened with your 2 years of investigation? any financial deal you had with the editorial? they were so close to be delisted.

        1. Well, this is what happened:

          – Afrand received negative publicity, including here;
          – Toghraie had a few retractions and expressions of concern here and there; Karimipour too;
          – Ali Chamkha is now considered toxic; his personal self-promotion website is no more with us: https://web.archive.org/web/20230702050616/https://alichamkha.net/;
          – Only Springer Nature does not care.

          If you feel you can push Springer Nature, Scopus, WoS, or whomever, to any meaningful action, I am all for it, and ready to help you with whatever I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.