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Publisher retracts 64 articles for fake peer reviews

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posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 10:33 PM
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On a positive note, the publisher is doing some checking which is how they found this problem of fake peer reviews, but on the negative side, their checks should have been more thorough to prevent these papers from getting published in the first place, especially since they had a similar problem not too long ago with BioMed Central; you'd think they would have learned from that.

Publisher retracts 64 articles for fake peer reviews


(Phys.org)—German based publishing company Springer has announced on its website that 64 articles published on ten of its journals are being retracted due to editorial staff finding evidence of fake email addresses for peer reviewers...

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time Springer has faced such a problem, just last March one of its imprints BioMed Central had to retract 43 papers for the very same problem. Other publishers have not been immune to the problem either, Retraction Watch recently noted that approximately 230 papers have been retracted from various journals over just the past three years due to problems with faked peer reviews—a very small number when compared to the hundreds of thousands of research papers published every year, but perhaps a sign nonetheless, that publishers need to be more alert to the problem, lest they face the embarrassing headlines associated with slip-ups.


Here is what Springer had to say about their retractions:


Springer confirms that 64 articles are being retracted from 10 Springer subscription journals, after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports. After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer review process on these 64 articles was compromised. We reported this to the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) immediately. Attempts to manipulate peer review have affected journals across a number of publishers as detailed by COPE in their December 2014 statement. Springer has made COPE aware of the findings of its own internal investigations and has followed COPE’s recommendations, as outlined in their statement, for dealing with this issue. Springer will continue to participate and do whatever we can to support COPE’s efforts in this matter.

The peer-review process is one of the cornerstones of quality, integrity and reproducibility in research, and we take our responsibilities as its guardians seriously. We are now reviewing our editorial processes across Springer to guard against this kind of manipulation of the peer review process in future.
They apparently didn't publish details of their investigations publicly, though they shared them with the Committee on Publishing Ethics. It looks like what happened is they asked the authors for recommendations on peer reviewers, which by itself isn't a bad idea because an expert in the field is likely to know who are the other experts in the field most qualified to perform peer review.

However the authors of the retracted papers may have given e-mail addresses of supposed peer reviewers that led back to themselves, so in effect, they were performing their own "peer review" which obviously is unethical, and defeats the whole purpose.

Maybe now they will have to do something like obtain the peer reviewers' e-mail address from independent sources (such as direct from the university that employs them).

Someone else made a thread about computers doing peer reviews...I don't know about that, but maybe computers could be used to check e-mail addresses against university e-mail address lists and other reliable sources?

My question that doesn't seem to be answered in either of these sources is, what exactly is going to happen to these authors who faked their own peer reviews?

edit on 2015819 by Arbitrageur because: clarification




posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 10:39 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

Any idea what the subject or subjects were of the retracted articles? I didn't see it in the story.



posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 10:44 PM
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a reply to: infolurker

My question as well.

Likely medical?




posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 10:55 PM
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a reply to: infolurker
a reply to: NewzNose
You folks are right, they didn't say what subjects, but they did say that 10 journals were affected, so that would suggest it involved at least some variety of subjects to span that many journals.

The previous similar problem they had was with BioMed Central, but I wouldn't think it would happen again there so soon.


edit on 2015819 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 02:44 AM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

This is it.... This is exactly what I'm talking about when we rely on evidence from official sources.

When the debunkers force the adoption of official sources of evidence - YOU CANNOT TRUST ANY EVIDENCE.

It's so hard to get this through to people. NASA, WHO, journals... They're all cited on this site as credible sources to back up arguments - but those who are willing to take them as gospel are as disillusioned as the people who believe aliens are in their mind.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 03:09 AM
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a reply to: and14263
I think most people know better than to take any single paper as gospel. A good example of that is the faster than light neutrino paper published by CERN.

That paper was wrong because of equipment problems instead of fraud, but in either case facts are rarely established on the basis of a single paper, rather it's a starting point for other labs to see if they can replicate the data, which in the case of the superluminal neutrinos, they couldn't.

In terms of logic I'd say a peer reviewed paper is necessary for credibility, but not sufficient. On physicsforums they won't even allow people to discuss topics if there's not any peer reviewed paper about it. But the existence of such a paper doesn't prove the claims are right or wrong, those can be debated, and the paper may turn out to be wrong whether the peer review is legitimate or fraudulent.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 03:18 AM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

After looking at the sources people provide to back up their claims on here I'd have to disagree.

The problem we have here is that often these peer reviewed papers are taken as gospel and not debated. Sorry, they are presented as gospel.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 03:20 AM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur




My question that doesn't seem to be answered in either of these sources is, what exactly is going to happen to these authors who faked their own peer reviews?


My question is...what were faked reviews about...thematically wise ? I'd like to know what "science" exactly was being pushed.

I have never trusted "peer review" and never will. It's flawed from the get go...because humans are doing it.

Let us have no more calls for "peer review" evidence of crazy obscure mad scientists claiming free energy and stuff like that.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 03:37 AM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur



My question that doesn't seem to be answered in either of these sources is, what exactly is going to happen to these authors who faked their own peer reviews?


Hiya Arby, there was a PhD, Schon, who faked his peer reviews and was caught. There was a lot of drama and appealing before he was finally stripped of his PhD for bringing science into disrepute. He won an appeal to keep his Doctorate, but in a triumph of ethical sense, the University had final say and refused. Instead he keeps his Masters and is suspended from partaking in peer reviews for a few years.

Peer review isn't the perfectly-cut diamond that people make it out to be. It's flawed and has cultural and social issues too. However it's as good a system as there is and surely can't afford to accommodate any dodgy practice in peer review? Science doesn't work when it's wrong does it? By that I mean nothing can be built on foundations of sand. There has to be a deterrent as well as a consequence to make research trustworthy and reliable.

Hopefully anyone engaged in fake reviews should be disbarred from reviewing in the future. Even where life-long bans are illegal, there's no law against not inviting them to review literature in the future. When people like Schon concoct their own peer reviews, his sanctions seem appropriate.

Schön loses last appeal against PhD revocation



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 07:24 AM
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originally posted by: and14263
a reply to: Arbitrageur

This is it.... This is exactly what I'm talking about when we rely on evidence from official sources.

When the debunkers force the adoption of official sources of evidence - YOU CANNOT TRUST ANY EVIDENCE.

It's so hard to get this through to people. NASA, WHO, journals... They're all cited on this site as credible sources to back up arguments - but those who are willing to take them as gospel are as disillusioned as the people who believe aliens are in their mind.

But...but...peer review is the same as if god himself said it.
Faith, fantasy, and the protean peer review process
edit on 8/20/2015 by Klassified because: changed my mind



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 08:39 AM
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a reply to: Klassified

No one in a academia/research actually says this so this is a strawman arguement. Peer review for PUBLICATION is but the first step of a long road. The real peer review comes from the wider scientific community post-publication.
edit on 20-8-2015 by GetHyped because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 08:57 AM
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originally posted by: GetHyped
a reply to: Klassified

No one in a academia/research actually says this so this is a strawman arguement. Peer review for PUBLICATION is but the first step of a long road. The real peer review comes from the wider scientific community post-publication.

No straw man at all. I wasn't quoting any academic/researcher. I was quoting average Joe/Jill, who doesn't understand that, and treats peer review like religions treat their manuscripts. Infallible.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 09:36 AM
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a reply to: Klassified

At the same time, peer review when properly used, closes the door to quacks peddling their wares to the unsuspecting masses.

Even Einstein was incorrect - only found out later when others exceeded his mental ability. Knowledge builds upon knowledge and without the base, that of knowledge, it cannot grow.

People use peer review as a way to deter the quacks - the intelligent know that this knowledge will be built upon and improved in time. I'd rather see people use peer review as source for their own building blocks of knowledge than see them simply take what the auto-mechanic thinks about physics as gospel - for example.
edit on 20-8-2015 by OpinionatedB because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 09:51 AM
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a reply to: OpinionatedB
No argument. Peer review is great, and when it is used and referenced within the framework you just described, I have no issues with it. But when someone defends it like they are defending the holy grail, I know they have put it on a pedestal, and have become religious about it. Questioning peer review should be a given, not a taboo.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 10:01 AM
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a reply to: Klassified

But herein lies the question - who really has the ability to question it? Do I have the ability to question the neurologist without getting more than one opinion from among his peers - those who know neurology? No - not in any true sense since that is not my field.

We can only question by getting others' opinions who are actually knowledgeable in that field. I say question away, look for holes all you can, but in the end the only way for us to know is to ask others who specialize in that area - or specialize ourselves.

This is why it often takes a generation or two to find out real errors and mistakes in any advances in any given field. It is through others who specialize themselves, and then have that real ability to look it over and find any mistakes.

The story of the tortoise and the hare stemmed from bad math - yet it was perpetuated for some time before newer generations found the error and built upon the truth.. This is the way it has always been since man first walked this earth. This is how we gain knowledge - and it takes time.


edit on 20-8-2015 by OpinionatedB because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 10:39 AM
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a reply to: OpinionatedB


But herein lies the question - who really has the ability to question it? Do I have the ability to question the neurologist without getting more than one opinion from among his peers - those who know neurology? No - not in any true sense since that is not my field.
We can only question by getting others' opinions who are actually knowledgeable in that field. I say question away, look for holes all you can, but in the end the only way for us to know is to ask others who specialize in that area - or specialize ourselves.

You answered your own question. That's exactly how we question peer review. By looking at the work of others in the same discipline who were not involved in the peer review of that particular paper. It's not a perfect answer, but it can be quite revealing at times. I am considered an expert by many at what I do, but if you think my clients don't ever question me, or that I'm never wrong, you'd be way off. They do, and occasionally, I have to make a correction.

I don't think we have any real disagreement here. You might understand my argument better if you read the link I posted earlier in the thread. I am NOT against peer review. I am all for it, as long as it's value as a tool isn't overstated. Or understated for that matter.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 11:36 AM
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a reply to: Klassified

To be honest, I find you overly critical of the peer review process and you come across as entirely untrusting of it, where as others who have been through peer review have more faith in it. (Just my opinion from the tone your words appear to take, no offense intended)

First, in your other thread you suggest that someone's name and background have nothing to do with the review. I beg to differ with you on this point, and quite loudly. Someone's background has everything to do with whether or not they are even qualified to write a paper on that topic - again, background weeds out the mechanics.

In the scientific community name may or may not help with a potential reviewer to know more detailed background information than quickly given about the writer of the article being reviewed. As large as the scientific community seems, it is often a bit smaller than we sometimes think between conferences etc. A name can be left out of a review, but it can also be an additional help.

In any field you are in, you examine the work of 'the best of the best', you know their names and their work - because you either A.) start out wanting to learn from them and so B) You see their successes and also the mistakes you believe they made, and improve upon them in your own work thereby rising above them in the field. This is no matter what field, because success stems from being the best of the best in your chosen field. So knowing names sometimes means intimately knowing also their work.

Sure, every review is based on professional opinion - but you seem to zone in on 'opinion' rather than 'professional' more whereas both need taken into consideration in equal measure and as a whole.

I do agree with you that reviewers should be paid - and no one should take on more work than they are able, but the fact is the best of the best always get asked for their review more often, because their opinion matters most. The best of the best will always be inundated with requests, and seen as snobby or unfeeling if they don't attempt to make time they may not have - and no one wants to be seen as snooty or full of them self, not even you.

There are errors in the peer review process, but at the moment, it is also the best we have. People are free to get their own reviews done in order to question papers - but you will get less of a response than say JAMA. What we then must do is our best to uphold scientific publications to the highest standards, and usually that 'upholding to excellence' comes from within the scientific community itself first and foremost.

I think we as human beings, who are both outside and inside the scientific community need to keep open minds concerning new ideas, but human nature as a whole always fights against that change and newness. We do our best as humans, that is ALL we can do.

But you are correct, in general terms we do for the most part agree on the issue as a whole.


edit on 20-8-2015 by OpinionatedB because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 12:13 PM
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a reply to: OpinionatedB


First, in your other thread you suggest that someone's name and background have nothing to do with the review.

Can you quote me on this? I just re-read my OP, and can't find any where I said this. Was it in the orange print? Orange and yellow are quotes. White is my own words.

I am critical of the process, with good reason from everything I've read, and those(academia) I've corresponded with, but I am also critical of its critics, as well as those who turn it into a religion. I did my best to be balanced in my OP, because that is what I seek in the peer review process, and those who rely on it. Balance, as much as is humanly possible.

Good feedback. I appreciate the candor.



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 12:18 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

I believe in balance as well - on this we do agree!
(Although I do fall short in this area from time to time!)

As to your quote, it was not in your OP, it was in a later post where you cited your proposed solutions to some of the problems as you saw them. (As you will agree, if we see a problem we must also present the solution or pointing out the problem is meaningless)

www.abovetopsecret.com...


The best that can be hoped for, in my opinion only, is a refinement of the best parts of the process. Not that there aren't problems with that too.

First off, the reviewer(s) should be compensated for their time.

Second, trimming down the subjective factor. I realize it's always going to be there to some degree, but I think there are ways to lessen its effect...
Each paper on it's own merits. The reviewer doesn't need to know the authors name, or their background. Nor do they need to know the publication it is being reviewed for. Which rules out friends and aquaintances of the editor, and prejudiced reviews based on the bias of the publication itself.




edit on 20-8-2015 by OpinionatedB because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 20 2015 @ 12:56 PM
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a reply to: OpinionatedB
Ahhh. I see what you're talking about...


The reviewer doesn't need to know the authors name, or their background. Nor do they need to know the publication it is being reviewed for. Which rules out friends and aquaintances of the editor, and prejudiced reviews based on the bias of the publication itself.

I would concede at this point, knowing the authors name could indeed help the review process. Something I hadn't considered at the time.




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