Wise spots awkward phrasing and other red flags to identify fraudulent research papers.
Alongside his research in engineering and fluid dynamics at the University of Cambridge, Nick Wise has what he calls a “weird hobby.” Every day, he spends around an hour as a scientific sleuth, trawling through research papers to sniff out potential fraud and misconduct.
Science, most notably scientific publishing, benefit greatly from the amateur/volunteer sleuths who detect manipulated images and data, the product of paper mills and otherwise shonky work. Their efforts battle against the worst players in the scientific ecosystem. Nick Wise is one of those sleuths. He is to be congratulated for his efforts on behalf of us all. This piece, which was published by the APS looks at his work and his approach.
APS News spoke with Wise about his detective work and hopes for the future.
What was your first step in investigating research integrity?
My interest began in summer 2021 during my doctoral studies. I got started by going to a paraphrase widget online and plugging in the term “heat transfer.” Out came the phrase “warmth move.” I searched for that in quotation marks using the Problematic Paper Screener, a tool developed by Cabanac and colleagues that sifts through published papers and flags any containing tortured phrases. Once you find a paper that’s got a tortured phrase, it probably has other phrases, and then that gives you a new term to search. It was easier to find papers in my own field because I know what the correct phrase should be. Every field has its own jargon.