The New England Journal of medicine on its December,2015 issue had published an article on its Perspective section. The article was noteworthy and illustrated the hacking of the scientific publication process that had been seen in recent history in South Asia and China. A broad perspective on Journal fraud in form of Peer-review fraud was mentioned in the article.
It was first reported in 2012 in South Korea, where researcher Hyung-in Moon admitted the hacking. He created bogus emails inorder to provide ‘peer reviews’ for his own manuscripts and article, taking advantage of the Peer review suggestion provided by some journals to the author. He provided suggestion of Peer reviewers, along with email id and names but infact all the email ids belonged to himself. As such editors got a favorable review from the reviewers ( himself) , as such breaking the code of publishing. After his confession, 28 articles in various journals were withdrawn.
Biomedcentral and Hindwai were not spared of this mischief and have to withdraw dozens of article after similar cases were reported and confirmed.
Where was the loop-holes?
· The system where journal provided Reviewer suggestion from Authors was the weak link in the chain.
· Possible publisher involvement
What is the cause?
Incentive for publishing- pressure for publishing and publishing papers fast led to this fraudulence. Therefore this was seen mainly in China and South east Asian regions. As long as there is reward for publisher for publishing more and authors for publishing more publications, like in the hacking in IT world, some loop holes will always be utilized.
Impact on readers
Such fraudulent peer reviews might lead to publishing of weak articles in good journals. This might lead to implementation into practice and lead to serious issues. This might cause readers to loose confidence even to good articles and lead people to be more skeptic about scientific publications.
Perspective: Peer-Review Fraud — Hacking the Scientific Publication Process Charlotte J. Haug, M.D., Ph.D., N England J Med 2015; 373:2393-2395