Some publishers say they are battling industrialized cheating. A Nature analysis examines the ‘paper mill’ problem — and how editors are trying to cope.
When Laura Fisher noticed striking similarities between research papers submitted to RSC Advances, she grew suspicious. None of the papers had authors or institutions in common, but their charts and titles looked alarmingly similar, says Fisher, the executive editor at the journal. “I was determined to try to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
Paper mills are such a serious issue for science, it is great to see journals taking steps to combat them, but also share that they are doing so. We feel there is a strong argument for us all working together to combat this scourge. It also serves to demonstrate what’s wrong with ‘rewards’ for publishing in high-impact journals. We have included links to four related items.
What was surprising about this was not the paper-mill activity itself: research-integrity sleuths have repeatedly warned that some scientists buy papers from third-party firms to help their careers. Rather, it was extraordinary that a publisher had publicly announced something that journals generally keep quiet about. “We believe that it is a paper mill, so we want to be open and transparent,” Fisher says.