Research fraudbuster says publication of six papers with hallmarks of Russian paper mills indicates why periodicals must commit to more post-submission transparency
An exposé which found that a Wiley journal had likely published articles written by Russian-linked paper mills and vetted by fake reviewers has highlighted the case for making open peer review mandatory, one of the academic sleuths behind the investigation has said.
Stories like this highlight the degree to which the scientific record is in peril. The impact of paper mills and fake peer review, is serious and should be taken as such. Transparency, open science and open peer review are strategies to counter this dire situation. A significant change in practice is required. We need research publications to step up. National and institutional research integrity systems and professional development can play a key role. Submitting a paper purchased from a paper mill or faking peer review is serous research misconduct and should be treated as such.
Of the six papers, most included citations to predatory journals and lacked any new empirical data, while some presented data in a “disorganised way…making it difficult to work out what was done”, explains the investigation published on the PsyArXiv preprint server, which adds that there was “no indication of any competence in experimental design or data analysis” in many of the data-focused papers.
Further concerns about the papers, which were initially flagged owing to “suspicious email domain names” that did not correspond to the authors’ country of residence, were raised when the peer review comments related to each paper available on Publons were analysed.
“There is very strong evidence to suggest that this was fake peer review,” Dr Abalkina told Times Higher Education. “Most of the comments were very formulaic – things like: ‘Please do English language editing’ or asking for them to change the text formatting or to update their citations,” she added.