Scientists in the Western world have discovered what is believed to be a “large paper mill” in China. This “company” has apparently generated more than 400 journal publications that contain purportedly fabricated images and similar paragraphs of text, “suggesting a common source”. Elisabeth *StayAtHome” Bik (Twitter account ‘@MicrobiomDigest’; a microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant), along with other researchers, exposed this suspicious activity — describing on her internet blog in mid-February the likely wrongdoing.
The journal papers contain questionable Western blot images (molecular biology analytical technique to detect specific proteins in a sample of tissue homogenate; following protein denaturation of the sample, gel electrophoresis is used to separate proteins according to their size and electric charge) and flow-cytometry images (technique used for determining the number, size, molecular properties, and nucleic acid content of individual cells), as well as similar article titles, key words, and layouts of the text, tables, figure legends, and figures.
Bik says all the authors are employed at Chinese hospitals, and she suspects they may have faked the manuscripts — in order to satisfy “requirements to publish in international journals.” This requirement will then help them to be eligible for promotions in their career paths. Some of the journals that have published these articles (all of which are based in Western countries) have confirmed they are now investigating this potential fraud.
Science 28 Feb 2020; 367: editorial note on 961.
COMMENT: I suspect that many clinicians in the U.S. would be happy to pay $500 or $1,000 to be included as a coauthor — even if they couldn’t understand the data included in “their” paper. DWN
COMMENT: Dan: Thanks for keeping us informed about all of this type of fraud-and-corruption information, front and center. As an Associate Editor, I only invite reviewers if their papers acknowledge NIH support.
G: Chair and Professor. Department. Pharmaceutical Sciences
Wayne State University
COMMENT: But — how can we discern? As Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Asthma, I receive a lot of articles submitted from China; funding is often declared — but so what? We do insist, before submission, however, that every paper is edited by an native English-speaking person.
J: Professor of Medicine, University of Cincinnati Medical College; practicing allergist and immunologist