Springer Publishing retracts 64 papers due to fake peer review – Investigation please… #science

The Washington Post reports on the announcement by Springer Publishing that it is retracting 64 papers due to problems with the peer-review of the papers. Namely, that the peer reviewers were fake, or made up, or the authors’ themselves.

In the latest episode of the fake peer review phenomenon, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, Springer, has retracted 64 articles from 10 of its journals after discovering that their reviews were linked to fake e-mail addresses.

The article includes some terrific commentary from Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch blog. Hopefully these mass retractions will make publishers pay more attention to their peer-review systems… which should be a priority for any academic/scientific publishing company. And can we see a list of who faked the emails? Investigate whether the authors’ were involved and punish them? Because in the meantime, scientists and science as a whole are being dragged through the mud in full public view.

Retraction of 3 scientific papers = crazy fraud + sad editor #retractionwatch

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Retraction Watch has a terrific summary of a recent triple retraction at PLOS One. Check out the article for lots more info and the blog itself for information on scientific publication retractions. Sad that this is the state of science right now, especially for editors that are blindsided by blatant fraud, but how encouraging that people report these issues and retractions ultimately happen.

This one comes to us from Twitter, where Willem van Schaik went to express his frustration that a PLOS ONE paper he’d edited had been retracted for fake data.

Some of the tweets from the editor (@WVSchaik):

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Criminal charges and possible jail time for scientific fraud and research misconduct #abouttime

 HIVfraud

Federal prosecutors are filing charges against Dong-Pyou Han after a major case of disgusting research misconduct having to do with a breakthrough AIDS vaccine. Great news article here.

Investigators say former Iowa State University laboratory manager Dong-Pyou Han has confessed to spiking samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental HIV vaccine appear to have great promise. After years of work and millions in National Institutes of Health grants, another laboratory uncovered irregularities that suggested the results — once hailed as groundbreaking — were bogus. Han was indicted last week on four counts of making false statements, each of which carries up to five years in prison.
To me, it is about time that researchers who waste American taxpayer money by committing obvious scientific fraud be held accountable. Not only is this type of fraud a gross waste of research money (that could have gone to someone who was not making up data), it also has the bigger problem of encouraging public mistrust of scientists. Ivan Oransky, of Retraction Watch (definitely check out his blog), gives his opinion on the case:
“It’s an important case because it is extremely rare for scientists found to have committed fraud to be held accountable by the actual criminal justice system,” said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which tracks research misconduct.
I completely agree, and it is nice to see that scientists will be held accountable for wasting money and destroying the credibility of scientists as a community. Retractions of papers due to intentional fraud are increasing, and this will be the topic of my next “Problems in Science” post. What drives scientists to lie and make up data? How can we stop this? How will the scientists be held accountable (looks like some might serve jail time)? Check out my first post in the series (Part 1: The broken economics of academic publishing)