Chinese researchers behind ‘fake peer review’ scandals

(10 November 2016) Pressure to publish scientific papers at Chinese universities may explain why more researchers are creating fake peer reviewers to assess their work, a new study suggests.

Analysing the growing number of retractions resulting from “faked peer reviews”, researchers found exactly three-quarters of articles pulled from academic journals over the past four years came from China-based researchers.

Manufacturing a fake peer review and reviewer may seem like a highly complex form of academic fraud, but it is relatively easy to do, as researchers are often asked by journals to recommend a preferred reviewer, explains the study, titled “Characteristics of retractions related to fake peer reviews”, which was published in the BMJ-run Postgraduate Medical Journal in September.

With the largest number of retractions for fake peer review-related retractions coming from China, the authors speculate that the “current national conditions” in which “the Chinese government has provided researchers greater levels of funding and awards for conducting scientific research” may have contributed to the “unexpected phenomenon”.

Several funding bodies, including the Chinese ministries of health and education, published a guide in December 2015 that proposed that five publishing offences – ghostwriting, ghost submitting, ghost revising, fake peer review and false authorship – should be completely forbidden.

The detailed article by Jack Grove in TimesHigherEducation is here.