Major Publisher Retracts 43 Scientific Papers amid Wider Fake Peer-Review Scandal

Fred Barbash, Washington Post, March 27, 2015

A major publisher of scholarly medical and science articles has retracted 43 papers because of “fabricated” peer reviews amid signs of a broader fake peer review racket affecting many more publications.

The publisher is BioMed Central, based in the United Kingdom, which puts out 277 peer-reviewed journals. A partial list of the retracted articles suggests most of them were written by scholars at universities in China, including China Medical University, Sichuan University, Shandong University and Jiaotong University Medical School. But Jigisha Patel, associate editorial director for research integrity at BioMed Central, said it’s not “a China problem. We get a lot of robust research of China. We see this as a broader problem of how scientists are judged.”

Meanwhile, the Committee on Publication Ethics, a multidisciplinary group that includes more than 9,000 journal editors, issued a statement suggesting a much broader potential problem. The committee, it said, “has become aware of systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review processes of several journals across different publishers.” Those journals are now reviewing manuscripts to determine how many may need to be retracted, it said.


Last year, in one of the most publicized scandals, the Journal of Vibration and Control, in the field of acoustics, retracted 60 articles at one time due to what it called a “peer review and citation ring” in which the reviews, mostly from scholars in Taiwan, were submitted by people using fake names.


In a blog post yesterday, Elizabeth Moylan, BioMed Central’s senior editor for research integrity, said an investigation begun last year revealed a scheme to “deceive” journal editors by suggesting “fabricated” reviewers for submitted articles. She wrote that some of the “manipulations” appeared to have been conducted by agencies that offer language-editing and submission assistance to non-English speaking authors.

“It is unclear,” she wrote, “whether the authors of the manuscripts involved were aware that the agencies were proposing fabricated reviewers on their behalf or whether authors proposed fabricated names directly themselves.”


Ultimately, when they tracked down some of the scientists in whose names reviews were written, they found that they hadn’t written them at all. Someone else had, using the scientists’ names.


Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Charles Martel

    Well so much for global warming and equality.

  • Race Heretic

    Yeah, unfortunately, in Chinese culture, appearance matters more than substance sometimes.

    • Raymond Kidwell

      That’s American culture as well

    • APaige

      Nothing new. A researcher in France used software SCIgen that creates real looking
      science papers. Most of the fake papers had Chinese authors. Before this the
      Economist had an article on SCI which used to stand for Science Citation Index
      that tracks research papers. The prestige of having cited work has given rise
      to crime rings in China that actually fake research papers and citations. It is
      so common that SCI now means stupid Chinese idea.

    • Light from the East

      I can revise a Soviet joke into a Chinese version “We (students) pretend to study and they (teachers) pretend to teach us” or “We (publishers) pretend to do the research and they (committee) pretend to give us credit”

  • Chip Carver

    Would anyone actually be surprised by this? Being able to learn and understand is not the same as being able to innovate, to be able to indulge in thinking outside the box, to actually create, to have insight.

  • I readily admit that science is a Western speciality. I think that it would be particularly a loss to the world of science and technology if the White man went extinct. I support White nationalism, there can be no doubt about this. Westerners brought Western technology and science to the world, and I think that they, for this reason alone, cannot be missed. Furthermore, my experience with Whites is that they generally tend to be very kind and civilised. I cannot say this about many other peoples and races. I am definitely not anti-Chinese, but I will not deny that advanced science and technology are particularly Western things, although my race is, unlike all other non-Western peoples, particularly good at adopting what Westerners have developed.

    I think that, more than any other races, East Asians and Europeans should be able to get along just fine. They have the potential for it more than others. I do not appreciate academic fraud, and I am particularly outraged at cheaters because I am always trying to work hard to get reasonable marks and they are putting people like myself at a double disadvantage. These free-riders need to be stopped. Communist China encourages the sort of behaviour I cannot stand. The cheating mentality needs to be stamped out. Cheaters are selfish people who are hindering honest, selfless people from getting anywhere. In the old tribal days you could bannish such free-riders, but nowadays you often have to put up with them and pretend everything is “OK.”

    • listenupbub

      Best wishes to you. I think all of us around here are behind you.

      Even if you are having trouble, or fail to reach your dream, keep an open mind that there are many other interesting things you can do with your life. You can try to be a writer and social critic, for example.

      You are right about the difficulties that cheating causes. American universities (well, the competitive ones) have grade quotas, which means that Asian cheating SCREWS us. That is what has ticked me off so much, even though my GPA was okay, and I am going to a great grad school next fall (I’m taking a gap year to “enjoy” the other half of multiculturalism: hispanics). However, from what I understand, Asian universities now report percentiles, which means that the cheating of your classmates is REALLY dangerous to you.

      I also think that Asians and whites have a particular affinity for each other, especially Indians and whites. An Asian/Indian/white world would be a good world.

      • Spikeygrrl

        Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

        Not only are our races compatible, but together we exist in such numbers as to seriously affect global geopolitics.

    • I have a bunch of papers published in integrated ferroelectrics (yes, I am that Michael Christopher Scott), and I never want to do that sort of work again. I’ll stick with making fishing tackle and writing naval history articles. Eventually a fellow just becomes worn out. I probably did enough work for six or seven PhD’s, but it was literally killing me. I had a blood pressure of 175/105 by my 30th birthday. I turn 49 in two weeks, and at 85/45, it is now too low for me to donate blood. I don’t use any medication, but I also don’t work for @$$holes anymore. I can’t do that for any amount of money.

      Maybe I could stand going back for two days a week, but that would probably be the limit. No matter how much I was paid, I would still feel as if I was being robbed. Being arrested and going to prison was actually a relief.

      It’s over-rated.

      • Your Mother

        Oh… THAT one….

      • PvtCharlieSlate

        Where can I find your naval history articles?

      • Robert block

        You have always driven me slightly crazy. I appreciate your posts; you’re obviously intelligent. Your autobiography as revealed in your posts is wildly improbable, conceding that probability is an unwieldy tool applied to a single life. What a life it has been. Military service in Bosnia. A substantial prison term in the US. Academic scientific distinctions. Killed a man in Reno just to watch him die. Naval History articles.

        I couldn’t find any issued patents under your name, but my Boolean search skills are not honed to perfection.

        I almost don’t care if you are making it up. Someone like you should exist, even if you don’t. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • 3G4Me

      We can get along, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that Chinese and Whites have the same interests. We also need to respect national boundaries. You have your own country and need to stay there. There is no such thing as a “Chinese American;” there is only a Chinese who may have legal papers to reside in America (which should cease) or been adopted by ignorant self-hating Whites. Culture is a product of race.

  • George Costanza

    Whoa I can already see what this country will be like in next 100yrs, when you got nothing but blackie, brownies and yellies running the show…fo real

  • humura

    I can’t recall the details, but about 2 decades ago someone submitted an article combining post-modernism and science to an American academic journal; it was published. Then the author announced it was all bs,, but it was in print.
    The pressure to be promoted only after publication, pushes academics to try to publish even when the results are inconsequential. Or worse, fraudulent and politically correct.

  • listenupbub

    That is actually not that bad of a kind of fraud. It is still fraud, but it does not show that Asian researchers are bad at actually doing science.

  • Hilis Hatki

    Publish or perish.

  • Hammerheart

    Chinese and Indian ‘doctors’ are notorious for this. Not saying they’re all cheaters, but you have to be careful. Had an Indian doctor from the VA call me recently, definitely didn’t get a good feeling from that.

    • Spikeygrrl

      PLEASE don’t tar all non-White physicians with the same clumpy brush!

      My Primary Care doctor (Internal Medicine, not GP) is of East Indian descent, 2nd generation in America (and a military commissioned officer, of course). Out of the droves of MDs who studied me during those two nightmare hospital inpatient weeks while my GBS (a rare autoimmune disorder) was diagnosed, I picked HIM as my PCM because he was authentically fascinated with my case. He dropped in “just to check on me” at all kinds of weird hours when he wasn’t even on shift. He cherry-picked my neurologist, my cardiologist, and my at-home physical therapist — and still keeps them all coordinated 6-7 months later. He is one of the best 2 doctors I have ever had in over 50 years of life.

      There goes that Talented Tenth thing again.

      • Simonitz Levi Rothstein

        East Indian and Jewish doctors are supposed to be the best! This goes for some of the top orthopedic surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons and specialists, endocrinologists, neurologists, oncologists and nuclear medicine experts. Indians seem to have a knack at medicine & engineering!

        • Alden

          According to the Photius lust the average IQ in India
          Is 82. Those Indian Drs represent less than 1 percent of more than a billion people
          They need to go home, work for the public health and build some sewers

          It is ridiculous for patients to make ethnic generalizations about Drs based on a few good or bad experience with a dr

          White Male American Drs are the best of the best
          The reason is affirmative action. Think about it. 50 years ago White male Drs were good, bad and mediocre But because of affirmative action only the very best of the best the absolute top of White male applicants are accepted to medical school

          Nation wide only about 29 percent of medical students are White men
          In some of the most prestigious med schools the percentage is down to 10 percent and the EEOC would like to get it down to zero percent
          A White man has to be about one thousand percent better than a non White woman to get into med school so they are the best if the best. And getting to be as rare as snow in Florida.

          • listenupbub

            This is a very important issue you are bringing up. But I disagree.

            The fact that almost all the white females who are even “kinda smart” try to go into medicine is driving white males away. In white culture, medicine is now a feminine pursuit. The same is becoming true of law. Going into these fields makes a man look like a girl- not as much social respect.

            The white males who do go into med school nowadays strike me as not being as smart as other high-achieving whites, but as being perfectionists or strivers from the lower classes.

            The smartest white males almost always seem to go into science, technology, mathematics, and high finance.

            The white doctor is now like the stereoptypical female honors student. This means that they work like females: in a more concrete, less theoretical, less curious, less creative, less intellectually dynamic, more perfectionistic, more process-oriented.

            The Indian doctors very well could be better these days, because they are actually serious about the discipline of medicine, as opposed to whites, who are obsessed either with proving they are “perfect princesses” or with escaping the lower class.

            I do not know anything about Jews.

          • bopberrigan

            White males are also the best of the best in conducting basic research. However, our Congress, in their infinite stupidity, have decreed that anyone can do research provided they’re given the chance; thus affirmative action. Unfortunately, this august group has overlooked the fact that research requires that you have an inquisitive nature and the persistence to overcome failures. Those attributes are lacking in females, blacks and browns.

        • Spikeygrrl

          Yes they do. I am SOOOOO glad I have the MD of East Indian descent that I have.

          Both of us are on a very steep learning curve about this rare syndrome, which as yet has no cure. As is my physical therpist, as is my neurologist, and as is my husband/ medical logistics manager, a military trauma/combat medic who deploys with Marines.

          Well, at the very least, I’m still “teaching.” 😀

          And I’ll know exactly who to thank if I make it past the 3-5 year horizon.

        • I wouldn’t have much confidence in a doctor who probably cheated to get admitted to medical school.

  • Your Mother

    Absolutely pathetic.

  • superlloyd

    The study published on 30 March in Nature Neuroscience, a team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California.

  • Diversity Heretic

    The Education Realist blog has noted (quoting from memory) that the Asian propensity to cheat on exams is absolutely mind-boggling to the western mentality. It seems to me that this is likely another example of the “do what you have to to get ahead” mentality. People from all races and cultures cheat but Asians appear to be anomalous: a reasonable high- achievement culture that still condones rampant and widespread cheating.

  • Max

    Intellectual melamine; what else is to be expected?

  • tetrapod

    I’ve worked with many northeast Asians and I don’t recall a single one that was stupid, lazy, or a prick. That goes for most Indians, too.

    The only danger — at least for those who come to the US — is that they’ll seek their advantage as “protected minorities” victimized by white “racism” and micro-aggression.

    • bopberrigan

      There’s no doubt that northeast Asians are hard workers. They also excel as copycats. Whether or not the USA needs people with these traits is questionable.