Fake peer review

The journal Tumor Biology, currently published by SAGE, has a bit of a fake science problem:

The journal Tumor Biology is retracting 107 research papers after discovering that the authors faked the peer review process. This isn’t the journal’s first rodeo. Late last year, 58 papers were retracted from seven different journals— 25 came from Tumor Biology for the same reason.

It’s possible to fake peer review because authors are often asked to suggest potential reviewers for their own papers. This is done because research subjects are often blindingly niche; a researcher working in a sub-sub-field may be more aware than the journal editor of who is best-placed to assess the work.

But some journals go further and request, or allow, authors to submit the contact details of these potential reviewers. If the editor isn’t aware of the potential for a scam, they then merrily send the requests for review out to fake e-mail addresses, often using the names of actual researchers. And at the other end of the fake e-mail address is someone who’s in on the game and happy to send in a friendly review.

I found this noteworthy, and along the lines of what I said here about the increasingly dubious nature of much of modern “science.”

Then I read the official retraction note by Springer, publisher of the journal until January.

After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer review process was compromised.

This retraction note is applicable to the following articles:

Take a gander at those authors’ names.

I keep wanting to believe that things are getting better in China, that mass fakery and fraud are on the decline, but it seems reality has different ideas.

See also here and here. What are these “ghost-writing services” that are apparently a major part of the problem? Who is running and staffing them?

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