Fake peer review retractions fuel concerns over Chinese practices


A leading robotics journal was forced to withdraw six papers by Chinese academics after concluding that its reviewers had colluded with the authors to “reverse” its peer review process.

In a move likely to highlight efforts by China-based academics to publish using bogus peer review, the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems announced he had withdrawn a number of articles from 2020, saying he believed the “peer review process for these articles had been compromised.”

Sage’s headline said he had “reason to believe this was due to the fault of the author” and “as a result, the scientific accuracy of these articles is unreliable.”

The articles all concerned the potential use of human-like robots in sports ranging from table tennis and basketball to badminton and soccer – an area where stability and balance issues have tested some. of the world’s best robotics engineers. Most of the retracted articles are written by academics from sports studies institutions in China, many of whom had not previously published a peer-reviewed article.

Asked about the retractions, a spokesperson for the open access newspaper, which charges $ 1,500 (£ 1,095) for publication if articles are accepted, said Times Higher Education that its internal oversight systems had identified patterns on several articles “indicating manipulation of the peer review process by authors – in particular that they were working with reviewers in an effort to reverse the review process by authors. appropriate peers ”.

Repeated attempts to contact the perpetrators by email or phone have proved unsuccessful, the newspaper added. THE was also unable to contact the corresponding authors.

“Guaranteeing the integrity of the academic record is an ongoing dynamic process. Sage is constantly reviewing its policies and procedures to guard against manipulation of peer review in the face of new emerging models, ”added the editor, saying it had introduced additional controls over authors’ potential relationships with examiners following retractions.

“In the majority of cases action is taken before publication, but sometimes – as in this case – corrective action is necessary after the fact,” the newspaper said.

The episode is likely to draw attention to peer hacking which in some cases allowed bogus research produced by so-called stationers to enter highly reputable journals. Since January 2020, more than 1,000 papers have been identified as probably coming from paper mills, of which only around 40% had been retracted, Nature reported earlier this year.

China has long been seen as a hotspot for this type of fraud given the generous financial incentives given to those who publish in major Western journals, with most retractions caused by bogus peer review linked to China, now most prolific scientific editor, on average some 305,000 articles per year.

Anna Albakina, a sociologist at the Free University of Berlin who has investigated fraud in academic publishing, said the latest episode targeting a single journal suggested that “brokerage firms or even paper mills” may have been involved. Under this setup, academics or their institutions not only pay for articles to be ghost-written, but are given a list of “nice” peer reviewers who may also receive a collaboration fee.

Brokerage firms, which she had also observed in Russia, “help with article submission, offer co-authorship for sale, and intervene in the peer review process by researching and contacting potential reviewers. She explained.

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