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Major Publisher Retracts Dozens of Scientific Papers after Fake Peer-Review Uncovered

peer reviewed papers

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Shocked by “fabrication” of peer reviews, BioMed Central, Scientific Publisher, has withdrawn 43 papers followed by the further investigation. It is admitted by some editors within the Journal that such withdrawn papers should be the tip of a dangerous iceberg. This scandalous event could to lead to a thorough examination of the way in which peer review is managed.

Being vital to science, peer review is the central part of the  self-correction process which should be totally based on faith. True peer review would not be finished with publication. In some cases, after scientific papers are published, they are found to have major flaws afterwards. Therefore, the primary process allows editors of scientific publications to send work, usually anonymized, to other researchers who will check them so as to filter out the worst mistakes.

But it was not the case for a number of the 277 journals BioMed Central have publishes, because researchers have found ways to review papers themselves, or ask their friends to do so. This problem seems a quite widespread phenomenon, with BioMed Central as a leader in this regard.

In the statement of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), it said that the Committee has known of systematic, inappropriate attempts made in manipulating the peer review processes of several journals across different publishers. COPE has made efforts to engage small group of medical journal editors to in regard to lifting the standards of academic publication. At present, the membership involves 9000 editors from different academic fields. Its growing number is indicative of concerns about the challenges the peer review process has to face.

According to the release from COPE, such manipulations seem to have been carefully managed by some third party agencies who have offered services to authors.

This is not the first example associated a “peer review and citation ring”. Last year 60 papers were withdrawn because of  a similar scandal. But in this case, withdrawing of such papers is just done by a single journal. This time the problem appears to be a pretty widespread practice.

At the moment, all the papers withdrawn by BioMed Central have their authors living in China; some of them come from leading institutions like China Medical University. However, as BioMed Central says, the problem is an international one, which illustrates the pressure researchers are under to publish their papers as quickly as possible.

The concerns about peer review have become more popular over decades. Generally speaking, reviewers have been always working hard with the heavy burden in terms of their own research work and teaching load. However, few are paid their reviewing work, and even fewer get recognized for their important contribution to the further development of science by their employers. Many reviewers admit privately that sometimes they do not give papers reviewed the attention they should deserve.

While bad papers could lead scientific research to the blind alleys, bad work more often are ignored by others in the field. However, authors can be awarded with funding which might be allotted to someone else. In reality, as for media outlets, either the mainstream or science-specific, they typically have no other choice rather on relying on publication in a peer reviewed journal which should be the test as to the work is justified to be published.

When fraud is made public, it could impose disastrous impact on innocent co-workers, and is fodder for science’s enemies.

As the research in above-mentioned cases was medical-related, we should be aware of the danger of treatments being approved for clinical use based on such flawed studies.

Source: The Washington Post

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