A physics publisher is removing 494 items after an investigation “indicated that some items may have been created, handled and/or sold by a commercial entity” – aka a stationery store.
The vast majority – 463 articles – come from Journal of Physics: Lecture Serieswhile 21 are from IOP Lecture Series: Materials Science and Engineeringand 10 come from IOP Lecture Series: Earth and Environmental Sciences. Just under a third – 142 – appear today.
In a statement, Kim Eggleton, head of peer review and research integrity at IOP Publishing, told Retraction Watch:
These items are being withdrawn following an allegation that has raised concerns about several manuscripts. IOP Publishing conducted a thorough investigation, which indicated that some newspapers may have been created, manipulated and/or sold by a commercial entity.
A typical withdrawal notice:
This item has been removed by IOP Publishing following an allegation that raises concerns that this item may have been created, manipulated and/or sold by a commercial entity. Additionally, IOP Publishing has seen no evidence that a reliable peer review has been performed on this article, despite the clear standards expected and communicated to conference organizers.
The authors of the article were given the opportunity to present evidence that they were the original and authentic creators of the work, but at the time of publication of this notice, IOP Publishing has received no response. IOP Publishing has analyzed the article and agrees that there are enough indicators to raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the work and agrees that this article should be removed. Authors are encouraged to contact IOP Publishing Limited if they have any comments on this retraction.
Eggleton tells Retraction Watch:
We were alerted by an independent whistleblower, Nick Wise (he consented to be named), who noticed similarities in a number of newspapers. We began to investigate and found further similarities that indicated a content network was created by one source, despite multiple different authors being listed in the articles. We do not publicly share signals that lead us to believe that articles are not the real work of the authors, so as not to reveal too much information to the authors, effectively giving them a “cheat sheet” to avoid being taken in the future.
Wise was also involved in reporting issues that led to IOP Publishing’s retraction of 350 articles earlier this year because an “investigation uncovered evidence of systematic manipulation of the publishing process and extensive manipulation of citations.” , and it was not the first time.
Eggleton said paper mills are
produce bogus research on command, used by unscrupulous “researchers” to increase their publication record. These are incredibly damaging because their prevalence erodes credibility, trust and confidence in science. We take misprints very seriously and are committed to increasing trust in academic research. As in this situation, we do not hesitate to remove articles that meet the Publication Ethics Committee (COPE) withdrawal criteria and consider it our duty to protect and correct the record version.
Reached at Ninth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publishing in Chicagotwo researchers who have been at the forefront of identifying problematic articles that “This massive retraction of problematic articles will certainly help declutter the scientific literature.”
Guillaume Cabanac and Cyril Labbé, who created the Problematic paper sievesay Retraction Watch:
Correcting the folder is of utmost importance to prevent readers and AIs (perform text mining for literature-based discovery) by relying on unreliable documents and propagating errors.
Initial filtering of problematic/fraudulent articles should be the top priority for editors and reviewers to block paper mill productions.
It is increasingly clear that the publishing industry is under pressure and overwhelmed by the production of paper mills.
We believe that publishers should source from PubPeer and other post-release peer review platforms (even more).
Dedicated detectives, under their own name or anonymously, provide valuable pro bono reports; these should be seen as red flags to investigate.
In short, they said: “It rocks!”
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