'Peer review ring' – busted

From the Washington Post:

Every now and then a scholarly journal retracts an article because of errors or outright fraud. In academic circles, and sometimes beyond, each retraction is a big deal.

Now comes word of a journal retracting 60 articles at once.

The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.

You’ve heard of prostitution rings, gambling rings and extortion rings. Now there’s a “peer review ring.”

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.

The statement does not explain how something like this happens. Did the ring invent names and say they were scholars? Did they use real names and pretend to be other scholars? Doesn’t anyone check on these things by, say, picking up the phone and calling the reviewer?

More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/10/scholarly-journal-retracts-60-articles-smashes-peer-review-ring/

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More also at retraction watch, the source of the WaPo story:

SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted

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I wonder if any of them were about Global Warming?

I was wondering if you’d pick up this news story. While there is a peer review ring of sorts in climate science or maybe ‘pal’ review is the better term, it does not be of the sort of fraud as this ‘ring’ was doing.
Very interesting correlation in any case. Certainly there is corruption of the peer review process in climate science as many of the papers I see published are mind-boggling non-scientific in any strict sense.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Didn’t the world get a good idea of what was going on in Climategate? I hope the editorial staff have got good top cover. There is every possibility that certain habitual peer reviewers will attempt to make their lives a misery for blowing the whistle on established practice.

tadchem

Evidently in the Information Age the concept of even the most cursory background checks represents too much of an inconvenience to bother with. That is how the Nobel Peace Prize came to be awarded a few years ago to a man with no remarkable accomplishments, but high expectations.

It’s all done by email and web form submissions. I have only ever had one phone call by an editor, which was to apologize for some misunderstanding. So, yes, it would be quite easy to game the system as seems to have been done here.

john

It’s the ‘Journal of Vibration and Control’,
you could be on shaky ground linking it to Global Warming

Jimbo

You’ve heard of prostitution rings, gambling rings and extortion rings. Now there’s a “peer review ring.”

The “peer review ring.” = extortion ring and prostitution ring so there’s not much difference.

Any time you set up a game, clever people will find a way to win it.

elmer said:
July 10, 2014 at 11:37 am
I wonder if any of them were about Global Warming?
————
If there were, we wouldn’t be reading about it.

Michael D

ha ha John “shaky ground” I like it

Chen was associated in creating climate models…

PhilCP

We’re just a small step away from clandestine Peer Review sweatshops: Thousands of papers per day rubberstamped by low-paid workers on an assembly line in a third world country. 😉

RTB

Welcome to the murky world of peer review. I can’t think of a single field where there isn’t some form of de facto peer review ring where the key opinion leaders are the gate keepers for the entire field…..

MarkW

I’ve lost track of the number of warmistas who have declared that if an article has been “peer reviewed” than it can’t be questioned.

Mushroom George

“But it was peer reviewed” will be the new “I was only following orders”.

Looking at the titles of the papers leads you to wonder who has been referencing Chen? He has a customer.

Peter Chen
Computer Scientist
Peter Pin-Shan Chen is an American computer scientist. He is a Distinguished Career Scientist and faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, who is known for the development of the entity-relationship model in 1976. Wik
“Carnegie Mellon University’s Drew Davidson is among the players heading the Higher Education Video Game Alliance announced earlier this month. The Alliance will provide a platform for leading academics to showcase the critical role video game programs are playing in educating and preparing students for the 21st century workforce.”
One possibility is that he is linked to support for Common Core nationalized education standards, which we knew was working on using video games in learning.

rabbit

I do not understand how the editors could allow this to happen.
In a narrow field like this, everyone knows everyone else, at least by reputation. And if you don’t know a reviewer, you would check their publication record to gauge their expertise. The only thing I can imagine here is that an editor was in on the scam.

CaligulaJones

Heh. Just last week I was responding to a story in the Toronto Star concerning a stem cell paper being retracted. I merely said “but I thought the science was settled. Or is that just for climate science?”.
I won’t bore you with the replies, most people here are familiar with the “thousands of scientists’ and “oil interests”, etc. The standard reply was basically, yes, all the science that has ever been invented, or will be invented, will continue to evolve through even a flawed and deteriorating peer review process (that’s how science works), but we know all we’ll ever know about climate change is carved in stone and perfect.
The clamour did die down though when I pointed them to a retraction watch website. I guess they are still reading…

Once again, this isn’t “peer review”; it’s “PAL review”.

The world needs to demand serious punishment for science fraud, especially when it results in costly policy changes. Firing is not enough — I’m talking about prosecution and/or suit under the same laws that cover financial fraud.
It would be a real silver lining if this case led to a strong precedent that can be brought to bear against Dr. Mann and his friends. There is no statute of limitations on financial fraud in the US.

I’m no expert on this, but at least two of those retracted paper do look to be climate modeling related.

DrTorch

I think the editor needs to check his privilege.

Steve Case

elmer said at 11:37 am
I wonder if any of them were about Global Warming?
Mark and two Cats said at 11:47 am
If there were, we wouldn’t be reading about it.
B I N G O !

MattS

The journal in question is the “Journal of Vibration and Control”
Sounds like they cover R&D for sex toys.

This is news? Unbelievable.
One of my first invitations (in the Science Boyz Club) was to join one… rotflmao!

Thank goodness nothing like this could happen in the arena of Climate Science.
/sarc

John Ledger

The financial rewards offered to South African universities by government to encourage their researchers to publish peer-reviewed papers in international journals are substantial. The universities take a cut while the researcher gets a handsome payment that can be accessed for equipment, field work or attending overseas conferences. This is good for everyone, including collaborators from other institutions, who are listed in the published papers as ‘associates’ of a particular South African institution. This is not to say it is a bad thing to get your researchers to publish their work and be rewarded for that, BUT whenever substantial financial incentives are there for the taking, the loopholes in the peer-review process become equally substantial. The auditing and policing of this process is usually beyond the capacity of the responsible authorities.

Latitude

as long a we’re on the subject……climate science is a very small group….just how many people are qualified to review climate science papers?

knr

‘A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.’
Sadly given this is normal pratice in climate ‘science’ this news is unlikely to have have any impact, and to be fair to the team its amazing they have any time at all to do their own ‘research ‘ given how much of of their time is given over to ‘pal reviewing ‘ other team members work .

DirkH

jdgalt says:
July 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm
“The world needs to demand serious punishment for science fr**d, especially when it results in costly policy changes. Firing is not enough — I’m talking about prosecution and/or suit under the same laws that cover financial fr**d.”
That reminds me – Free Jeff Corzine!

DirkH

MattS says:
July 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm
“The journal in question is the “Journal of Vibration and Control”
Sounds like they cover R&D for s3x toys.”
Obviously a more honest journal (and business) than Nature Climate Change et al…

Jeff L

It is good that the general public gets to see this & see that “science” is not uncorruptable & scientists are people with motives, just like everyone else, and then they may be able to see that climate science might not be as settled as the CAGW would have the general public believe.

Brian P

Intellectual incest is rampant in academia.

Someone just “redefined the concept of peer review”

Brute

The issue here is that the peer-review process is widely considered to be red tape and that, unsurprisingly, it makes no difference whatsoever if it is being ignored (does the “science” stand?). Those of us in the academia are well aware of the problem and, while most of us deal with it “legitimately”, we all nonetheless develop a set of strategies to get our papers published. In fact, the development of those strategies is one of the crucial differences between an experienced and an inexperienced researcher. And, no, the quality of a manuscript is hardly ever the reason for acceptance/rejection. I speak here as a journal editor too.

Gunga Din

Were any of those fake names “Richard Windsor”?

Spence_UK

Q. What’s the difference between a peer review ring and a consensus?
A. With a consensus, the editors and publishers are in on it too.

Tom O

knr says:
” July 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm
‘A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.’
Sadly given this is normal pratice in climate ‘science’ this news is unlikely to have have any impact, and to be fair to the team its amazing they have any time at all to do their own ‘research ‘ given how much of of their time is given over to ‘pal reviewing ‘ other team members work . ”
Excuse me? When you are only “rubber stamping” a paper to start with, just exactly how much time do think it takes to review a paper? I doubt you have to quote anything in it to give it a thumbs up. If you are going to knock it down, of course, then you have to do a bit of a review, but to review your “pal’s” work, all you need is to call him and say “Can you give me a two minute synopsis of what this says?” Then he gives you 2 minutes and you hang up and now you can even write a word or two about it if you like. followed by a hardy “I recommend this for publication.”
A bit like a politician that’s also a lawyer. Goes in Saturday morning and sits down with his legal assistant and a pile of folders. Picks up the top folder, opens it, looks to the assistant who then tells him a 2 minute run down of what has happened on the case, nods his head and initials the document. In under 3 minutes he just billed for an hour of his time. They do this throughout the next hour, working on his “case load” of 20 cases, gets up and goes home, having just billed for 20 hours of his work. Only difference, of course, is the reviewer doesn’t make $200 or more an hour for his work and can’t plan on billing an hour for the small service that he needs to do. I suppose, though, he could have a “class member” who is doing extra work assignments to pad his or her grade do the reading and synopsizing instead of calling the author.

R. de Haan

This article also comes from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/07/10/poor-mans-polar-vortex-to-make-shocking-summer-return-in-eastern-u-s-next-week/
Do you think someone over at the WP is going to connect the dots?

Spence_UK says:
July 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm
Q. What’s the difference between a peer review ring and a consensus?
A. With a consensus, the editors and publishers are in on it too.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
LOL

The guy was publishing 1 to 5 articles a month in the Journal, with maybe one month missing. One wonders what sort of peer review could be expected at that pace. How many papers were in the pipeline at one time?

Power Grab

Hmmm…the NCAA can issue a “death penalty” and completely eliminate certain athletic programs at certain schools if they wish. Maybe we need a similar review body with similar powers for the scientific community. The rules could start with (A) if you make a prediction and (B) government bases its policy and spends taxpayer money based on the prediction and (C) the prediction is proven false, then you’re out.
In certain circles, if a prophet’s prophecies don’t come to pass, then the prophet gets terminated.

george e. smith

One could make a case that the NAS (National Academies of Science) is like a big Peer Review Ring..
Membership is by invitation of existing members (PALs). While this process does allow dissenters to slip through the cracks, and even present arguments contrary to the party line, the end result, so I’m told, is that only a Majority Report is ever written and published or given to the President, or Congress, as a recommendation. While contrary arguments to the majority view are part of deliberations, they evidently are not reported, as part of the process.
Now, I don’t have a problem with there being a report that makes the majority view case.
But I believe there should always be a formal Minority Report, written by a member from the dissenters, that argues the dissenters position.
This allows decision makers to at least be cognizant of the counter evidence.
A report with no negatives, sounds like a scam at the outset.

Duster

rabbit says:
July 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm
I do not understand how the editors could allow this to happen.
In a narrow field like this, everyone knows everyone else, at least by reputation. And if you don’t know a reviewer, you would check their publication record to gauge their expertise. The only thing I can imagine here is that an editor was in on the scam.

The field could even narrower, but it is highly possible the editor is not a member. In that case, he depends upon the review “process” such as it is. In fact it was an editor that caught the “ring.” The real problem is the “blind” or anonymous review process. The advantage of this, except to sociopaths, is hidden from me. I have reviewed articles, but never anonymously, and have had some lively exchanges with authors who were quite upset with my comments. Most of the time things were worked out. There are still a few folks who simply think I have it in form them rather than their logic.
The anonymous review process is the problem. It is a system that encourages abuse, including collusion, exclusion and outright theft and plagiarism. There are schools where essentially stealing you grad students’ ideas is simply considered one of the perks. Minimally a professor may “aid” a newcomer to get published by placing his or her name as lead author. It may take a while before the student realizes the professor is padding his or her citation index by adding their name to your work, and that the professor is also being credited for the work.

This group can borrow from climate science and accuse the accusers of engaging in conspiracy theory mongering. 😉

rabbit

Duster:
I too have peer reviewed papers anonymously, but anonymous only to the authors. The editors knew full well who I was as they’re the ones who asked me to do the review. I don’t see any problem with it.

Sweet Old Bob

Another way to “grab the ring…” (my precious ,my precious….)

Andy

Mushroom George on July 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm
“But it was peer reviewed” will be the new “I was only following orders”.
Copied because this is one of the most profound posts I’ve seen on here. And there is stiff competition! Well done Anthony on the site and keep fighting the good fight.