China is Leading Source of Fake Scientific Papers Worldwide

By | Jun 04, 2017 11:51 PM EDT

Tumor Biology

China has earned a horrific reputation in global scientific circles as the country that's submitting the most number of fake scientific papers for peer review in scientific journals worldwide.

Analysis by western scientific circles confirms that China was the source of more than half the scientific papers retracted for compromised peer review from 2012 to 2016.

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The peer review process is integral to scholarly research. Peer-review is a critical part of the functioning of the scientific community.

It is vital for quality control and the self corrective nature of science. When a statement is made that research is "peer-reviewed," this usually means the research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

 Over the past five years, a total of 498 papers have been retracted over peer-review issues, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that reports on retractions of scientific papers. The blog was launched in August 2010.

Retraction Watch used the nationalities of corresponding authors to reach this total since they're responsible for paper submissions. The breakdown by country totals 502, reflecting papers counted twice because of corresponding authors with affiliations in multiple countries.

Out of the total number of retractions, China accounted for 276; Taiwan for 73; Iran for 65; South Korea for 33, Pakistan for 19; India for 13; Australia for 7; Malaysia for 5; Egypt and Turkey for two apiece. The U.S. and Germany only had one retraction each.

The data shows that China has the worst performance on peer-review integrity over the last five years. This data is based on the Nature Index that follows publications in nearly 70 journals as an indicator of a nation's high-quality research output.

Part of the problem is that Chinese researchers often rely on third-party companies to help translate, format and submit their work to journals. Sometimes, this outsourcing results in efforts to game the system.

Chinese have also been publishing in increasingly greater numbers. The Nature Index showed China published 9,721 research articles in 2016 compared to 6,587 in 2012.

In May, 107 papers from Chinese researchers published from 2012 to 2016 in Tumor Biology, a cancer-research journal, were linked to flawed reviews. 

The publisher of the journal said all the authors involved in the retraction were from Chinese institutions. These institutions were mostly medical institutes such as the Department of Neurosurgery, Tongji Hospital under Tongji University in Shanghai.

The publisher said it found the papers were submitted to reviewers who had fake email addresses. The papers were submitted with the names of real researchers, but with fabricated email addresses. 

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