December 12, 2012

Elsevier academics caught peer reviewing their own work


Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, academics and editors both, maintain a website called Retraction Watch. They monitor and report work that has been retracted due to fraud and other reasons, in the rather opaque world of academic publishing, and do us the favor of monitoring academic journals and holding them to account.

Particularly, as they observe,

“retractions are not often well-publicized. Sure, there are the high-profile cases such as Reuben’s and Wakefield’s. But most retractions live in obscurity in Medline and other databases. That means those who funded the retracted research — often taxpayers — aren’t particularly likely to find out about them. Nor are investors always likely to hear about retractions on basic science papers whose findings may have formed the basis for companies into which they pour dollars.”

Elsevier, the academic publisher that has been the cause of a fair amount of controversy this year, (see this earlier MoybLives report) is now the site of a fraudulent peer review scandal.

Retraction Watch reports that the Elsevier Editorial System (EES) was hacked in November. Apparently, the hack meant that papers were given falsified reviews, and now 11 papers by authors in China, India, Iran, and Turkey have been retracted.

“It’s unclear what the EES hacker’s goals were. It seems odd to hack the system to write a “well-written and positive referee’s report.” So far, Elsevier said, it has not seen a direct connection between the fake reviewers and the authors…The reviews by these fake reviewers, not surprisingly, were done incorrectly, and were not up to the journal’s standards of quality. But the authors, Cusano said, were “innocent victims of this hacking problem,” so the journal retracted the papers, and decided to allow them to resubmit the manuscripts for new peer review. “

Apparently, faking emails to post positive reviews is happening rather regularly.

A South Korean researcher, Hyung-In Moon, has had 35 papers retracted after he faked addresses and posted his own reviews. The Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry were naturally suspicious when all his reviews came back within 24 hours.



Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.