A single ‘paper mill’ appears to have churned out 400 papers, sleuths find | Science
Online sleuths have found what they believe is a paper mill that has produced greater than 400 scientific papers with probably fabricated photographs. Some journals are actually investigating the papers.
Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist–turned–analysis integrity professional based mostly in San Francisco, together with different “forensic detectives,” recognized the possibly problematic papers, which they suppose got here from a single supply. They say the papers include western blot photographs—utilized in molecular biology to visualize the presence of proteins—that include remarkably related background patterns and unusually neat bands missing smears, stains, or dots, which regularly seem in such photographs.
“We think that these western blots are not real,” says Bik, who wrote in regards to the case on her weblog on 21 February. “Most of them have a very similar layout so we realized these are all coming from the same stable.”
The papers in query have no widespread authors, Bik says. The papers additionally differ in disciplines, together with pediatrics, cardiology, endocrinology, nephrology, and vascular surgical procedure.
One widespread issue, nevertheless, is that authors of those papers all appear to be based mostly at hospitals in China, Bik notes. The Jining First People’s Hospital tops the listing with 101 papers itemizing it as an affiliation. It is adopted by the Jilin University China‐Japan Union Hospital and the Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University with 59 and 23 papers, respectively.
Bik’s hunch is that the research had been revealed as a tick-box train by physicians who have to publish papers in worldwide journals so as to be eligible for promotions.
“The main reason behind such cases is that too much emphasis has been placed on international publications in performance evaluation and promotion [in China], not taking into consideration that there should be differences between a scientist and a physician,” says Cong Cao, a professor of social research of science, expertise, and innovation on the University of Nottingham, Ningbo.
Last week, China’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology collectively launched new pointers on analysis analysis that seem to suggest transferring away from an emphasis in evaluations on papers revealed in worldwide journals, and people listed within the database Science Citation Index, which is usually used to decide educational efficiency. But Cao thinks the transfer is unwise and goes to the opposite excessive. “Chinese universities may have to scramble to come up with new implementation measures to adapt [to the] government’s policy changes, which are vague and not operational.”
Gregg Fields, a biochemist at Florida Atlantic University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cellular Physiology, which revealed 21 of the papers beneath scrutiny, says the journal’s writer, Wiley-Blackwell, is wanting into the problem. Meanwhile, Fields says he and his crew are doing their greatest to “keep these papermill manuscripts out of the journal going forwards.” This, he says, “may require the adaptation of software to categorize common gel images utilized in the papermill manuscripts.”
Florian Lang, a physiologist at Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen who edits Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, which revealed 26 of the papers in query, says he discovered out about the issue about three weeks in the past and is now within the means of approaching the authors. He notes that if the photographs are discovered to be fabricated, he’ll request that the journal’s writer, Karger Publishers, retract the papers.