Hindawi and Wiley to Retract over 500 Papers Linked to Peer Review Rings

Retraction Watch posted this article a few days ago.

Selected portions of the article follow:

We asked what prompted the investigation. Bennett told us: 

In April 2022, Hindawi’s Research Integrity team led an initial investigation into a single Special Issue (SI) after a Chief Editor raised concerns about some of the papers published in it. The team decided to investigate the content of the journal further. Through this investigation, the team highlighted a pattern of irregular and concerning reviewer activity and identified potential ‘bad actors’ that were present across many of these publications.

These concerns prompted the Publishing Insights and Research Integrity teams, enabled by recently enhanced analytic capabilities and newly developed dashboards providing views across all reviewer activity, to conduct a wider investigation to determine whether these same bad actors were involved in peer review manipulation elsewhere in the Hindawi portfolio. 

Following the discovery that these bad actors were present in other journals, the Hindawi leadership team put in place a cross-functional working team combining the manual and data-driven investigation which resulted in the identification of further published articles. 

In early August, Hindawi expanded the investigation under a combined investigation team comprising Research Integrity experts, data and analytics experts, publishing and operational teams, and legal counsel from both Wiley and Hindawi. This team evaluated in depth review activity across all potentially impacted articles and manuscripts. This resulted in a list of ‘compromised’ reviewers and editors in addition to the bad actors already discovered, identification of networks that exist between them, patterns of review activity, and insight into published articles and manuscripts at each stage in the review process that we could initially label as ‘compromised’. On September 6, the combined investigation team began assessing published articles which led to the initial recommendation to retract 511 articles that are compromised based on reviewer activity alone. We expect ongoing investigations to result in further retractions.



He did say that the publisher has banned the individuals its investigation identified, will contact research integrity officers or department heads as appropriate, and has shared its findings with industry groups: 

It is increasingly apparent to all involved in safeguarding and investigating issues of research integrity that closing rings down at one publisher can simply move the problem to others. We are committed to taking an active role in preventing that.


Read the full article here.

HT/Willis E. and Martin C

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October 2, 2022 2:05 pm

Why am I not surprised?

Bryan A
Reply to  starzmom
October 2, 2022 9:25 pm

I wonder how many other useless papers have been published that are dependent on the findings of these Retracted papers that then should also be retracted for a lack of backing?

Michael in Dublin
October 2, 2022 2:15 pm

Why is there no breakdown of the subject matter and names of those submitting these papers with fraudulent research claims? Name and shame!!!

Dave Fair
Reply to  ATheoK
October 2, 2022 9:47 pm

Notice the Retraction Watch people have no grant funding. Governments don’t want to show errors they have paid for or false studies they want to hide.

Reply to  Michael in Dublin
October 3, 2022 9:19 am

Absolutely! Even percentages of the top 5 corrupt subject matter categories of the 511 papers being withdrawn would be very enlightening.

October 2, 2022 2:19 pm

Peer Review was never anything other than a tool set up by so-called “policy makers” as a means of gatekeeping their political agenda.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
October 2, 2022 2:50 pm

No. Peer review has been around for a long time, long before journals had any agenda other than just publishing scientific papers. I participated a couple of times as a reviewer of geological papers back in the 1980s, and actually found it to be a stimulating experience to try and dig below the surface of someone else’s work.

As we all know, the field of climate science, including the peer review process, has been utterly corrupted by a politicised agenda. And climate science, as we also know, has metastasised into multiple disciplines other than climatology. Also, I suspect that peer review in pharmacology has become, like pharmacology itself, at least heavily influenced by the torrents of money coming from big pharma, if not actually corrupted.

But I fully expect that in fields of science that haven’t been invaded by the climate gang, that peer review is still reasonably alive and well.

Reply to  Smart Rock
October 2, 2022 4:37 pm

You think medical science is Corrupt?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Derg
October 2, 2022 4:56 pm

Of course it is, that is where various people talk about the replication crisis. Mostly garbage.

In climate science, since almost all papers are model based and since they all use the same models, you can replicate the results, like using a calculator, putting in 2×2 and getting 4, then declaring it science.

Reply to  Derg
October 2, 2022 6:33 pm

too often

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  Derg
October 2, 2022 11:13 pm

There have been a ton of medical research papers published where the researchers had small test and control groups, their test VS control variance was very small – then they made a “Huge success!” note and wrote a paper declaring they’d discovered something of extreme significance. Such garbage papers get published because the people in the various fields pretty much all know one another and can pretty easily know who wrote a paper submitted for “anonymous” review. So they do a little give me a good review and I’ll give you a good review – and the grant money keeps coming. It’s been especially bad in mental health, psychiatry, and psychology.

With climate research we know it’s even worse thanks to the “climategate” files where it was revealed they were just directly contacting each other when they were sent anonymous papers to review so they’d know if it was by one of their friends, or not. Then solely based on who wrote a paper they’d give it thumbs up or down.

Matthew Schilling
Reply to  Derg
October 3, 2022 6:58 am

You don’t?

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Derg
October 3, 2022 9:26 am

Did you sleep through the COVID epidemic?

Reply to  Derg
October 6, 2022 2:04 pm

Watch this video ( https:/thehighwire.com/videos/academias-war-on-dr-paul-marik/) to see how bad the situation is in medical science.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Smart Rock
October 2, 2022 8:52 pm

My experience: “ditto”

Matthew Schilling
Reply to  Smart Rock
October 3, 2022 7:04 am

Peer Review is a publishing technique. It can be a helpful method of advancing and filtering, but it can also be a strategic chokepoint for mischief. Even before peer review became rife with fraud and abuse, the argument could be made that it had served its usefulness. Why not just publish papers online – onto the worldwide web – and let interested parties review and discuss?

As it is, the purposeful, systemic abuse of peer review ought to lead to some high profile RICO lawsuits. If the flow of money related to scientific nonsense was reversed; if scientific nonsense came with a financial penalty rather than reward, there would be a lot less scientific nonsense.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
October 2, 2022 5:47 pm

There are really two kinds of “peer review.” Originally, it was intended to evaluate research by actual peers and involved sometimes lengthy back-and-forth discussions, post-publication. I have seen this wane in my lifetime. As has been reported here, there have been journals that refused to publish criticism of climatology articles.

However, the publishing business is lucrative and it is important to maintain a reputation to justify their expensive subscriptions. Thus, in an effort to maintain their valuable reputations, by weeding out articles that were equivalent to claims of having invented a ‘perpetual motion machine,’ journals insisted on pre-publication reviews that served a gate-keeper function. Unfortunately, it is usually an unpaid activity and often people with personal agendas were attracted as a way of furthering their own views, with little incentive for those who were objective to participate beyond a sense of noblesse oblige. Thus, gate-keepers are able to corrupt the science because they allow their ideology to take precedence over truth. Gone is the ideal of the “disinterested observer;” T. C. Chamberlain must be rolling over in his grave.

Neil M. Dunn
October 2, 2022 2:43 pm

If this is not a new low, it certainly shows a huge leak in the bottem of the barrel. Just think how many topics have been distorted by these “rings”–made by Sauron disciples.

October 2, 2022 2:44 pm

A): These “peer review rings” likely obstructed papers or authors they dislike. That likelihood should also be investigated.

B) From the Retractionwatch Article:
“Other publishers have announced large batches of retractions recently.

  • IOP Publishing earlier this month said it planned to retract nearly 500 articles likely from paper mills,
  • and PLOS in August announced it would retract over 100 papers from its flagship journal over manipulated peer review.”
Reply to  ATheoK
October 2, 2022 2:50 pm

Trying to get my head around the term — “paper mills”??

Richard Page
Reply to  wazz
October 2, 2022 3:10 pm

It’s an obvious one but it wouldn’t have occurred to me before I read it. I’m guessing it’s combining the peer review ring with the practice of including dozens of credited co-authors to churn out a stream of published papers merely to increase academic profiles?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Page
October 2, 2022 5:51 pm

My informal Rule of Thumb is that the value of a paper is inversely proportional to the number of authors. As an example, the Theory of General Relativity only had one author.

Reply to  Richard Page
October 2, 2022 6:43 pm

One claim is that too many papers with multiple authors are the same paper, with superficial variations and redone graphics, submitted to multiple publishers, each time with a different one of the many names listed as lead author. This gives everyone involved credit in the publish or perish regime.

Reply to  wazz
October 2, 2022 3:44 pm

I used to work for a sugar company that had 6 cane mills and a paper mill. The paper mill was the head office.

Reply to  ATheoK
October 2, 2022 4:17 pm

These “peer review rings” likely obstructed papers or authors they dislike”
No, they work to get junk papers through the Hindawi system.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 2, 2022 9:52 pm

The paleoclimatology peer review ring openly (Climategate) bragged they obstructed papers and authors they disliked. Nothing has been done about those charlatans.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 3, 2022 9:34 am

Yes this wasn’t anything nearly as bad was what climate “scientists” have done. When do they face consequences, though?

Phil Jones to Michael Mann: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer review literature is!”

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 3, 2022 10:03 pm

Reading comprehension is important, let me make it easier: ATheoK is saying that these rings could also collude to obstruct papers and authors that the members of the rings disliked. There is nothing in his statement you can negate, as there is no way you can know the full details of the scam when the journals themselves are still investigating.

Reply to  ATheoK
October 2, 2022 7:24 pm

They could also be retracting papers that don’t fit their world view (!). It really comes down to reading for yourself. Most BS papers are pretty obviously BS. One doesn’t even need to be expert in the field to see that flaws. Having been involved in several jury trials, I’m always surprised how easily juries sniff our liars. Humans are much better at detecting lies than we are at committing them. For example, a pathological liar will almost always look one in the eye when they lie. They want to know if their lie is woking. It’s usually not.

Reply to  Thomas
October 3, 2022 10:05 pm

Funny how you inadvertently used lie and woke-ing together – the subconscious mind is amazing.

Matthew Schilling
Reply to  ATheoK
October 3, 2022 7:07 am

Corrupt “peer review rings” = conspiracy to commit fraud = RICO lawsuits, with triple damages. Televised perp walks would be a nice touch, as well.

October 2, 2022 2:45 pm

It’s like a dope ring except the dope they are selling is used by dopes that set policy. So the next time someone tells you to “follow the science”, cite this investigation and tell them you rehabilitated yourself and stopped using that dope.

October 2, 2022 2:54 pm

Climate “science” ?

October 2, 2022 2:55 pm

It is unfortunate that all publishers do not make the effort to police what they publish.

Bob Tisdale

Reply to  That ENSO Guy
October 2, 2022 4:15 pm

Hindawi has been a fringe publisher (borgerline predatory, in Beall’s terms). Wiley bought it in 2021. Looks like they are trying to clean it up.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 2, 2022 4:38 pm

Does Mann use them to publish?

Reply to  Derg
October 2, 2022 4:42 pm

Of course not.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 2, 2022 6:49 pm

Would you consider Mann to be dishonest?

Reply to  Derg
October 2, 2022 7:28 pm

Mann is profoundly dishonest. (Hope he tries to sue me.)

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 2, 2022 7:27 pm

Right Nick. He’s got his own pal-review system. They’re lurking in a dark-internet chat room. Trying to figure out what speculative rubbish they can get published next.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Thomas
October 2, 2022 9:59 pm

Again, Climategate proves Mann & Co. are serial liars and scientific fraudsters. Read anything by McIntyre and McKitrick.

Old Cocky
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 2, 2022 11:15 pm

Why would a reputable publisher like Wiley take the risk of buying a dubious small publisher?

Even after cleaning up, they will have suffered a hit to their own reputation.

October 2, 2022 3:06 pm

Jane lubchenco former head of noaa was caught violating peer review ethics , banned by the national Academy of Sciences and is still a high ranking scientist in the Biden whitehouse . Rules are for the little people

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Garboard
October 2, 2022 4:52 pm

The violation of ethics is exactly what makes her attractive to politicians.

Mike Burcke
October 2, 2022 3:30 pm

“Follow the science”…yeah, right.

October 2, 2022 4:18 pm

Can someone please explain the “business model” of all this please. What is the purpose of fakery on this scale? Thanks

Richard Page
Reply to  Zagzigger
October 2, 2022 4:51 pm

Academic credentials. The more published papers with your name on, the more academic standing you have, no matter how crappy they are; quantity not quality.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Page
October 2, 2022 6:04 pm

What is known as “Publish Or Perish.” Promotions and tenure are often decided based on the number of published articles in one’s curriculum vitae addendum. The quality of the research is usually irrelevant because the bureaucrats are often unable to asses the quality, or are unwilling to take the time to do so personally.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 3, 2022 1:10 am

That’s not the experience I have: there are people who have been nominated full professors at the ETH Zürich with only a hand full of publications(<20 sometimes <10 !). It’s not about the science, but about the political views and connections the person has.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Eric Vieira
October 3, 2022 9:42 am

Political views are certainly becoming extremely important in academia.

They’re also becoming more and more important in publishing.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 3, 2022 6:15 am

“Asses”. Did you mean “assess” or were you being more … descriptive? 😎

October 2, 2022 4:44 pm

Well done.

October 2, 2022 4:44 pm

Very few scientific organisations publish their own journals any longer, most have been scarfed up by big publishers whose primary, and usually only, interest is profit.

They milk this profit mostly from tax dollars via library subscriptions and have developed ingenious ways to ‘bundle’ publications so that even the journals that represent minor fields that could never be profitable on their own help return a profit to the mega publishers. Ad revenues are probably helpful in major journals, but major medical journals like The Lancet (owned by Elsevier) also accrue large payments from pharmaceutical companies by selling hardcopy reprints to them for their salespeople to distribute.

None of these facts are conducive to rigorous peer review and editing – the journals need a constant flow of papers. Deadlines and paper quotas are enforced on editors and the time period for peer reviews has consistently shrunk. The entire push is to get more papers and get them published as quickly as possible. All those CVs and grant applications out there need those citations.

Every now and then, a big pal review or data fabrication scandal causes a flurry of ‘self regulation’ by the journal publishers but the general trend is still towards more and more publications of dubious quality.

Peer review always had problems, it isn’t just climate scientists who can be petty and territorial, but it used to be a big help to editors. Maybe it still is in those fields that have not been corrupted by the scientific industrial complex, if such exist.

It is long past time to discard the traditional peer review process and move to online pre-print servers. There are problems there too, but it is the only system that seems to hold any real promise.

Reply to  DaveW
October 2, 2022 6:57 pm

Thanks, good understandable summary.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  DaveW
October 3, 2022 1:17 am

The worst scam in this business was the extension of copyright for the digitalisation of printed or microfilmed content (which they arranged to “dissappear”), although nothing regarding the original content is new … So now, publishers have copyright for articles that were published in the 1800’s …

Pat from kerbob
October 2, 2022 4:50 pm

I’m involved in peer review with a technical/engineering society group for which I have submitted papers in areas of expertise.
In return if papers contain certain key words I receive requests to peer review.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
October 2, 2022 6:09 pm

I receive requests to submit articles to pay-to-publish medical journals based on previously published research in mineralogy. Anything to make a buck!

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 3, 2022 10:12 pm

How about how certain crystals can ward off Covid as a research topic?

Dave Fair
October 2, 2022 7:21 pm

Nothing has ever been done about the paleoclimatology review ring uncovered by Climategate. They’re still there churning out bogus temperature reconstructions, all being “ring-reviewed” by the same bad actors.

Pieter A Folkens
October 2, 2022 9:29 pm

What does this do to the “consensus” papers?

Richard Page
Reply to  Pieter A Folkens
October 3, 2022 9:21 am

This, on it’s own, nothing.
If this, however, can be seen as the tip of the iceberg, re: pal review rings across the board, then perhaps something could be done – if this approach was rolled out across all journals and applied to past publications then I should imagine huge numbers of papers would have to be retracted.

Eric Vieira
October 3, 2022 12:57 am

This maybe helps for the future. What about all the papers that were refused because the science didn’t support the desired narrative ? It’s not only about what’s in there that shouldn’t be, but also valuable science that’s missing.

October 3, 2022 2:48 am

Open review is arguably a far better method. It’s based on free market principles, as opposed to top-down elitism.

Pariah Dog
October 3, 2022 4:46 am

How about no publication without replication? Can we insist on that?

October 3, 2022 7:09 am

Reviewer rings must mean a collaboration between dishonest journal editors and dishonest reviewers. Without dishonest editors, dishonest reviewer rings simply could not exist. Editors choose reviewers.

The rings must be three-element: editor, reviewer, and submitter.

Are there behind-the-scenes agreements among dishonest researchers? ‘Mary volunteers as editor here and picks Joe to reviewer John’s manuscripts? John becomes an editor there and picks Joe to review Mary’s manuscripts?’

I seem to recall that long ago Steve McIntyre found some shenanigans in the editorial and review process of proxy spaghetti graphs published in ways to hide the late 20th century decline of Briffa’s tree ring.

Ed Zuiderwijk
October 3, 2022 10:46 am

The news here is that it is not the papers themselves which were the focus, but the pattern of the reviewers and dodgy editors. Hopefully these individuals and their affiliations will be made public.

October 3, 2022 11:47 am
Call me a skeptic
Reply to  saveenergy
October 3, 2022 12:51 pm

There once was a team called the greens

Who thought their ends spoke truth to their means

They tried with their might

To keep truth out of sight

Until it all fell apart at the seams

October 3, 2022 1:57 pm

So doesn’t the ‘generally accepted’ or standard scientific peer review process require transparency of peer reviews? I would naively assume so.

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