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BioMed Central Withdraws 43 Papers Amid Peer-Review Journal Manipulation Scandal

Scientific Journals Manipulated

BioMed Central, who publishes 277 peer-reviewed open access journals, has pulled 43 papers published across journals it operates after fabricated peer reviews were discovered in what might be the tip of the iceberg in a peer review and citation scandal that could lead to an overhaul of how peer-reviewed journals are conducted.

Peer reviews of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field are a fundamental aspect of the self-correction process through which flaws in papers are exposed. These evaluations, when properly conducted, help ensure the accuracy of published studies, however, when the system is manipulated through peer review and citation rings, the scientific integrity of the papers and the peer-reviewed journals diminishes.

While BioMed’s recent withdrawal of dozens of papers from journals has recently made headlines across news outlets, the Washington Post reported that sixty papers were withdrawn last year after a similar discovery was made, however, the sixty papers were limited to a single journal whereas the recent discovery has proven to be more widespread as papers were pulled from multiple journals.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) issued a statement in which the committee stated that they are now “aware of systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review processes of several journals across different publishers.” The statement went on to indicate that the “manipulations appear to have been orchestrated by a number of third party agencies offering services to authors.”

The COPE news release indicated that investigations at several journals suggested the existence of agencies selling services “ranging from authorship of pre-written manuscripts to providing fabricated contact details for peer reviewers during the submission process and then supplying reviews from these fabricated addresses.”

A report on IFLScience indicated that all of the papers withdrawn by BioMed have exhibited Chinese authorship, often at leading institutions such as China Medical University, but the publisher has indicated that the problem is international and that it reflects the pressure placed on researchers to quickly publish their research.

What are your thoughts on these agencies targeting peer-reviewed scientific journals for manipulation?

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