(Yicai Global) July 28 -- International publisher Springer Nature said in April that it had decide to retract 107 Chinese-authored research papers it had published in the journal Tumor Biology over peer review concerns.
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) held a press briefing on its investigation of the incident yesterday. A total of 521 Chinese authors were involved. Among them, 11 were not at fault whatsoever, 486 were at fault to varying degrees and 24 still must be checked and will be put on a scientific integrity watch list. The relevant units are dealing with matters in accordance with laws and regulations.
Government departments set up a joint work group to investigate each of the retracted papers and pin down responsibility, China Central Television quoted He Defang, head of MOST's Policy, Regulation and Supervision Department, as saying at the press briefing.
Among the 107 papers, two were published repeatedly in Tumor Biology, one was mistakenly retracted by the journal itself -- the author was not at fault and the journal has clarified publicly. Some 101 involved fake peer review experts or fabricated peer review reports, in 95 cases they were provided by third parties and in six they were provided by the authors themselves. Among these 101 papers, 12 were bought from third parties and 89 were completed by the authors themselves. Of those completed by the authors, 9 contained fabricated content and 80 did not, per academic evaluation.
Peer review, a process in which an article is validated, is an important part of how a paper becomes accepted for publication internationally. Springer Nature's acceptance rules say that after a paper is submitted, an editor will arrange for reviewers, experts in the relevant fields, to evaluate the paper in terms of scientific rigor. The editor will decide whether to publish the article after the experts provide their peer reviews to the journal.
The retraction of these published papers is due to reviewer-related fraud. When the authors submitted their papers, they either recommended a real expert and provided fake contact information or recommended a reviewer that does not exist and provided their own contact information or that of a co-author.
Authors involved in the incident will be asked to return research funds allocated to their science programs and will be stripped off scientific and academic awards that have been given to them. The MOST has stopped the establishment of 20 national science and technology projects with participation from 21 authors involved. The Chinese Academy of Engineering has suspended the qualification of one author as a member candidate.