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November 13, 2015

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Chinese papers hurt by fake reviews

AS more than 100 Chinese research papers were removed from well-known global publications for misconduct, investigators have exposed a grey industry chain of ghost writers and forged peer reviews.

The quality of international theses is a reflection of a nation’s scientific prowess. However, China’s sci-tech field has been hit hard by a series of papers being removed, such as the withdrawal of 41 Chinese academic papers by Britain’s Modern Biology in March; 64 articles, most by Chinese, by the Germany-based Springer Publishing Co in August; and nine papers by Elsevier, the publisher of The Lancet and Cell, last month.

The publishers said the removal of the articles was based on findings that the peer reviews were forged by a third party.

Normally, publishers would invite experts of the same field to give a peer review in order to assess a paper’s quality. However, investigations showed that the third party forged experts’ e-mail address and sent positive opinions to the publisher in order to manipulate the appraisal, said Huang Boyun, vice president of the China Association for Science and Technology.

The third-party institutions, disguised as language-service companies, promoted themselves on the Internet as polishers of English papers for researchers, but were actually providing a ghost writing service, charging thousands of yuan, investigations showed.

Moreover, these institutions often sent e-mails to researchers to promote their service in order to gain “potential customers.”

One of the authors of removed articles is a doctor full of abundant experience treating cancer and accumulated a great deal of clinical data in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province.

However, she failed in submitting papers to internationally renowned publications due to inadequate English proficiency and a lack of peer review. She tried many times because it was required for obtaining higher professional titles.

The doctor then found a “language” company on to help her secure a place in the well-known Diagnostic Pathology journal.

Huang, who is in charge of professional ethics under the CAST, said most of the authors of the articles have some form of academic misconduct and some of them simply had their papers written by others.

The National Natural Science Foundation sent teams to the authors’ organizations and revoked the funding provided to the authors.

“For those seriously violating disciplines, they are banned from applying for funding for three to five years,” said Yang Wei, head of the NNSF.

Experts said the lack of laws, regulations and self-discipline on the part of researchers resulted in rampant irregularities.

CAST President Han Qide said the paper-removing incidents harmed the image of China’s academic circle, stressing the principle of integrity.

Wang Naiyan, a science adviser to China National Nuclear Corp, said the “paper quantity worship” resulted from an unreasonable scientific assessment system.

“Different disciplines, theory or clinical study should follow different criteria,” Wang said.

Yang suggested plagiarism and other methods of cheating should be treated with “zero tolerance” in universities.


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