43 'Fake' Science Articles May Point to Wider Problem

BioMed Central debacle apparently caused by third-party services
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2015 3:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – A science publisher in Britain has retracted 43 scientific papers after learning that the peer-review process behind them was fake—possibly pointing to a wider problem in science publishing, the Washington Post reports via Smithsonian. BioMed Central, which has 277 peer-reviewed journals, says it initially received convincing peer review reports on the articles. But then BioMed Central noticed that the reviewers' email addresses didn't seem to fit any institution, and the authors had written articles across various specialized fields. So the publisher investigated, and learned that the authors hadn't written the articles at all; someone else had just used their names.

"There is an element of exploitation," says Jigisha Patel, associate editorial director for research integrity at BioMed Central. "If authors are naive and want to get their manuscripts published, they can be exploited" by services that charge fees for polishing articles and perhaps guaranteeing publication. Patel's boss at BioMed Central source agrees, but says it's unclear whether the authors knew about the fake reviewers and possibly concocted their names, Retraction Watch reports. Most of the fake articles apparently came from China, but Patel says it isn't "a China problem. We get a lot of robust research of China." Meanwhile, an anonymous tool called PubPeer is allowing scientists to give feedback after articles are published to help weed out mistakes, Vox reports.

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