March 24, 2019

Fake Peer Review Causes BioMed Central to Retract More Than 40 Articles

From the Always Informative and Interesting “Retraction Watch” Blog:

BioMed Central is retracting 43 papers, following their investigation into 50 papers that raised suspicions of fake peer review, possibly involving third-party companies selling the service.

In November 2014 we wrote about fake peer reviews for Nature; at that point there had been about 110 retractions across several journals. The addition of 16 retractions by Elsevier for the same reason, and today’s 43 from BMC, brings retractions resulting from the phenomenon up to about 170.

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From a Blog Post by Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor, BMC, Research Integrity

In November last year, BioMed Central uncovered evidence of repeated and inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review process of several journals (see our original statement and update).

The apparent intention was to deceive Editors and positively influence the outcome of peer review by suggesting fabricated reviewers. Given the scale of the deception, we alerted COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics) and a number of other publishers. COPE issued a statement providing further advice for publishers. PLOS also recently issued a statement here.

Although we originally found only a handful of affected published articles, a subsequent extensive and systematic search of all of our journals identified 43 articles that were published on the basis of reviews from fabricated reviewers.

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As a result of these inappropriate manipulations we have turned off the facility for authors to directly enter the names of potential peer reviewers in our submission system. Other publishers have also followed suit. However, our Editors are of course free to invite authors to provide suggestions in the cover letter that accompanies submission of their manuscript, with an institutional email address, or information which will help the editor to verify the identities of the reviewers.

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From The Washington Post:

“The problem of fake peer reviewers is affecting the whole of academic journal publishing and we are among the ranks of publishers hit by this type of fraud,” [Jigisha] Patel of BioMed’s ethics group wrote in November. “The spectrum of ‘fakery’ has ranged from authors suggesting their friends who agree in advance to provide a positive review, to elaborate peer review circles where a group of authors agree to peer review each others’ manuscripts, to impersonating real people, and to generating completely fictitious characters. From what we have discovered amongst our journals, it appears to have reached a higher level of sophistication. The pattern we have found, where there is no apparent connection between the authors but similarities between the suggested reviewers, suggests that a third party could be behind this sophisticated fraud.”

Read the Complete Article

Direct to List of Articles Retracted (With Retraction Notice) by BMC

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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