Because of super-specialization, the authors of papers themselves are nowadays often asked to suggest referees for peer review of their own work, but this, of course, leaves an opening for the practice of fraud. In a modern variant on Gogol’s Dead Souls, some scientists have been caught sending their papers for peer review to non-existent reviewers, complete with a curriculum vitae and an e-mail address. The article quotes the author of a blog on scientific research called “Retraction Watch,” who said “This is officially becoming a trend:” an odd way to put it, since either it is a trend or it isn’t, official recognition having nothing to do with it. There are even companies in China, apparently, that will help scientists to manufacture bogus peer reviews. A new twist would be for the rivals of those scientists to pay for bad reviews. Everything is possible in this crooked world of ours.
The pressure on academics to publish, irrespective of whether they have anything to say, either for the sake promotion or even of mere continuance in post, is the soil which allows this particular weed in the garden of human dishonesty to flourish. Two large publishers of scientific journals, Sage and Springer, have retracted more than 100 papers in the last year because of bogus peer review. Neither the article nor the commentary from readers on it mentions that a bogus peer review does not necessarily mean that the science is bogus too, though it stands to reason that it is likely to be. But what stands to reason may not be the case, and as far as I know, no one has looked into this question. More.
Dalrymple is a retired British psychiatrist and author.
People demand a lot from science nowadays, but honesty doesn’t seem to make the list.
See also: If peer review is working, why all the retractions?
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