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Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted 178

blackbeak (1227080) writes The Washington Post reports that the Journal of Vibration and Control's review system was hijacked by a ring of reviewers. 60 articles have been retracted as a result. "After a 14-month investigation, JVC determined the ring involved “aliases” and fake e-mail addresses of reviewers — up to 130 of them — in an apparently successful effort to get friendly reviews of submissions and as many articles published as possible by Chen and his friends.'On at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he created,' according to the SAGE announcement."
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Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:40AM (#47429297)

    You have it backwards. the fault is not that not every scientist has a breakthrough.

    the fault is that in academia its pretty much "publish or die". The incentive to publish over anything else pushes the unscrupulous to do things like this.

    the system itself creates this sort of situation.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:53AM (#47429319)

    Wrong. The issue is that publishing is considered sufficient.

    It should be publish or die. How do you know they're doing anything if they don't publish? they could be watching tv all day for all you know otherwise.

    But as is made clear here, simply publishing and getting it through peer review is clearly not good enough. We need to increase what they have to do to avoid this situation.

    For example... maybe one scientist pays another scientist to reproduce his work.

    Maybe you have big collections of graduate students that as part of their process of getting a degree get assigned some random papers submitted by scientists in their field and they have to reproduce the work.

    Obviously this isn't always possible... but whenever it isn't possible that needs to be put as a giant red asterisk on the paper saying "this work has not been reproduced"...

    Do that and you're not going to get as much fraud or laziness.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @01:43AM (#47429443) Journal

    we could increase the penalties for those caught cheating

    No thanks, keep the lawyers out of it unless a genuine crime has been commited, the last thing we want is politicians regulating peer-review. There is no system that is totally incorruptable, the fact that these frauds were exposed means the system is working in this case. The fact that the scientific and academic communities will ostrasize the fauds for the rest of their lives is natural justice, anything more crosses the line between natural justice and revenge

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @01:57AM (#47429485) Homepage Journal
    No, "publish or perish" really dis-incentivizes novel research because guess what, often times really novel research fails. All "publish or perish" really does is incentivize either cheating or the lowest risk research imaginable. There are other mechanisms for making sure a researcher is actually doing their work, punishing them for taking risks shouldn't be among them.
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @02:06AM (#47429507)

    If you pay scientists to do science and they are contracted to do it... they fraudulently do not do science yet continue to cash your checks... that is a crime.

  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @03:50AM (#47429705)
    It's not a matter of failing peer review, it's a general disinterest in publishing negative results. If you find a cure for cancer it's a big deal, but if you just found one more thing that doesn't work any better than a sugar pill, none of the journals are going to care about publishing it even if it's the most well-run study in the history of the world.

    If someone starts doing some novel research that's going to take five years to possibly produce results and nothing pans out, they aren't going to get anyone to publish the findings.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @04:29AM (#47429777)

    1. It is reasonable for scientists in the pay of the public to be required at intervals to publish the results or at least what they were currently doing over the past few months or year or whatever interval is deemed reasonable.

    The basic problem here is that you seem to have at best a shaky grasp of what "publish" means in academia. No journal is going to just publish "what they were currently doing over the past few months" unless that includes a significant result. I'm honestly not sure of where to recommend that you go to get a better understanding of how academic journals work, but I suppose the Wiki article [wikipedia.org] couldn't be the worst place to start.

    2. Works thus published should be subjected to reasonable audits to detect fraud, laziness, waste, or incompetence.

    Using what money? Peer review currently is done on a voluntary basis; no journal that I'm aware of pays its reviewers. You seem to think that just because it would be nice if all published research was reproduced that it *should* be reproduced, without concern for where the researcher-time and money will come from to accomplish this. The current reality is that any professor or research scientist who devoted significant amounts of time to reproducing already-published science would quickly find himself out on his ass, because publishing *original* research is the first and foremost factor in maintaining/advancing a career in academia. To put it in software development terms, it would be like expecting a programmer to spend a large chunk of his time on the clock refactoring code while his bosses are telling him to leave it alone and work on implementing new features.

    3. The nature of audits should make it difficult or impossible for conflicts of interest to corrupt the auditing process.

    Agreed, the journal from this article should absolutely have done a better job of verifying the identities of its peer reviewers.

    4. The auditing process should be sufficient to determine what is and is not valid science.

    In what sense? If someone publishes a paper based on years of astronomical observations, is the peer reviewer obligated to spend years making his own observations to see if he can find (more or less) the same result? If "Yes", then the simple reality is that no one will volunteer to peer review such work, and you'll end up in a situation worse than the present one. If "No", then you're back to admitting that at some point the reviewer has to trust the article's author(s).

    5. Reproduction of work obviously cannot be done with all papers however, they should be done with all significant work deemed significant.

    I would argue that, certainly in my own field, "significant results" intrinsically draw more attention once published, and thus any mistake or malfeasance is more likely to be caught.

    6. The deeming of significant or insignificant work could be down to collective or crowd sourced choices made by other scientists to cite a given work or say they found it interesting or significant. When X number of scientists say its significant then someone in the community should be tasked with verifying it through reproduction.

    And, again, whence comes the money and time to reproduce it? This is a point that most scientists, I believe, would agree with -- but no one is going to sacrifice their own career to help accomplish it. And the "publish or perish" mentality contributes to this problem, as journals do not publish articles which simply say "yes, this other article seems to be good science".

    Overall, I don't see anything too objectionable in what you want -- but it is basically a list of demands without any suggestion of how they could be accomplished or any understanding of why they are *not* being accomplished (to the extent that they aren't) in the current syst

  • Re:The Good News? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m00sh ( 2538182 ) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:26AM (#47430631)

    Peter holds a very high standard for himself, I'm sure.

    The standard practice is to form a unspoken agreement between several reviewers that they will all favorably review each others papers.

    Peter couldn't find his circle and created a self-circle.

  • Re:Chen-Yuan Chen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:00PM (#47431773)

    What's also weird is none of the "official" artifacts used the name "Peter" anywhere (always Chen, C-Y).
    Where did "Peter" so prominently paraded by the lynch mob come from?
    If anything, any official release should have used the name that's splashed all over offending articles listed.

    Unrelated problem is, you can't get anything published in the trashiest tabloids without a figurative full cavity search.
    JVC is suppose to be a proper academic journal, but they seem to have nobody with bullshit radar on the editorial board?
    Does Ali H. Nayfeh do anything for the said journal beyond collecting a paycheck?

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.