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Hacked Review System Leads To Fake Reviews and Retraction of Scientific Papers 67

dstates writes "Retraction Watch reports that fake reviewer information was placed in Elsevier's peer review database allowing unethical authors to review their own or colleagues manuscripts. As a result, 11 scientific publications have been retracted. The hack is particularly embarrassing for Elsevier because the commercial publisher has been arguing that the quality of its review process justifies its restrictive access policies and high costs of the journals it publishes."
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Hacked Review System Leads To Fake Reviews and Retraction of Scientific Papers

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  • Re:Publish or Perish (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jkflying ( 2190798 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:00AM (#42260555)

    I guess it depends on what field you're in. If your field has 3 months of hard work implementing a system in order to be able to get any results at all, you probably won't have that kind of problem - it tends to weed out the people who aren't willing to put in the effort. I'm currently doing my MSc in robotic mapping (AKA SLAM) and the quality of papers I find has been consistently high. In fact, sometimes I wish they had tried some little tweak, because it would take me two weeks of coding/testing to figure out if there is even any merit to the idea and chances are my system is so different from theirs to begin with that the results wouldn't even be comparable.

  • by DCFusor ( 1763438 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:14AM (#42260729) Homepage
    Heck, they even published my book! This, after having bought it from another publisher (...). None of the three publishers who have owned my book report positive sales numbers, yet I continue (years out) to get emails from people who have read the code that was provided with it, and which the book is about.

    Yes, if you believe them, it's possible to sell negative numbers of books when it comes to figuring out how not to pay me the royalties. These guys make the **AA's look like pikers with their "hollywood accounting". Sure, I know I never sold a million copies, but...I know I sold tens of thousands because I've had that many unique emails; the original publisher, Miller Freeman, sanitized the book text of my email address - but didn't bother actually reading the code!

    And now they are selling an e-book version, without asking me. One wonders what you'll do with a ton of fancy MFC code on a kindle....if they even provide it anymore.

    These guys can go to hell - all of them. They are holding back science progress. Go check on the individual subscription rate for say, Rev Sci Ins with all the discounts. The cable TV guys need to learn how to bundle and overprice from them - for me, last I checked, it was $60k/year with all discounts to get hold of back issues of that one journal (in a bundle you can't pick and choose). I mean, wow, 60k/year per customer? Wonder how many servers they maintain for that - one? It's not like they wrote or even paid for those papers...I did, you did - tax paid research on which they got an additional publisher copyright to play this game with. Sure, if you can find the original author, they'll often send you a copy of the paper free, but if you're going through old physics looking for low hanging fruit - those guys are dead.

  • Re:Publish or Perish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:27AM (#42260849) Journal

    At least 99% of the articles and papers coming out in my field fell into this category

    Certainly. The REF (research excellence framework) concocted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has actuall come up with and implemented a really good idea.

    This is actually quite shocking and really rather unexpected, but you know, stranger things have happened (like the release of Duke Nukem Forever and unexpected popularity of My Little Pony).

    Basically, it happens every 5 years or so and each researcher in the institution gets to submit up to 4 publications (that is less than 1 per year). The publications are then graded by impact, and the general quality is assessed.

    Naturally, the system is imperfect and it would be silly to think otherwise, but it is a huge improvement over the previous system.

    It almost does away with the wretched salami slicing, minimum publishable units and paper churning. Churning out 100 mid quality papers in 5 years is much worse according to the criteria than churning out 1 great one and 3 mid quality ones.

    In other words, it encourages people to dial back on the churn and concentrate on publishing high impact science.

    You could actually be seriously be penalized for coming up with original arguments if you didn't have the established cred

    Generally, the way to make a name in academia is to overturn the status quo. It's what everyone dreams of. The few papers that do successfully challenge things generally do much better in all measurable terms of impact than yet another me-too article (generally, but not always, sadly).

    Saw another fellow grad student basically drumheaded out of the field for challenging the ideas of a prominent professor in the department.

    I've never seen that but I don't doubt your story. Some professors are idiots and some departments are worse than useless.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:19PM (#42261425) Journal

    Elsevier's ethical standards are such that, in all likelihood, they got hacked because somebody forgot to refill the firewall's kitten tears hopper or empty its puppy grinder promptly.

    Aside from important work in pharmaceutical awareness, Reed Elsevier has the somewhat tense situation of owning The Lancet and a bunch of other medical journals that attract bleeding-heart do-no-harm types, and also running among the world's largest trade shows [] for the security forces of the world looking for new and exciting ways to generate interesting cases for the trauma surgeons to write up. They've had some togetherness issues over that.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein