Daniel buenoMembers of the Chinese Academy of Sciences voiced concern after an article featured in the journal Science denounced a scheme in their country for brokering authorships and scientific papers published in indexed journals. Some scientists “are publishing better and better papers and getting into top-notch journals, but they don’t even know what their papers say,” said Cao Zexian, professor at the Academy’s Institute of Physics, in Beijing, who worries that the achievements of Chinese researchers may be viewed with suspicion following this accusation.
Posing as scientists and graduate students, Science reporters spent five months contacting 27 agencies in China that were suspected of selling authorships on papers ready for publication. Twenty-two of these were found to offer fraudulent services. On the Chinese Sciedit website, which specializes in scientific publishing, one company went so far as to advertise: “It’s unbelievable: You can publish sci papers without doing experiments.” Another agency caught red-handed was Wanfang Huizhi, which serves as an intermediary between researchers whose articles have been accepted for publication and scientists who need to publish. According to Science, interested buyers are willing to shell out up to $26,000 to have their name appear on an article – an amount that exceeds the annual salary of many assistant professors in China.
For $14,800, Wanfang Huizhi offered one of the journalists a place as joint first author on a cancer paper. The article came out some weeks later in the Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, signed by two principal authors, one of whom had no history of scientific production. Joanna Kargul, the periodical’s managing editor, told Science that typically when new authors are included on a paper, the principal author is expected to explain the change to the editor. “That didn’t happen with the cancer paper. . . .The authorship change slipped the radar of the reviewers.”
In the opinion of Hans-Joachim Schmoll, editor-in-chief of the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, which also received a suspicious article, many editors are now endeavoring to exercise greater rigor when evaluating the influx of articles from China. “We don’t know the universities, we don’t know the clinics, we don’t know the research institutions,” he said. China is an international frontrunner in the publication of scientific articles. The number of Chinese papers in the Science Citation Index skyrocketed from 41,417 in 2002 to 193,733 in 2012, outranked only by the United States. As in many other countries, in China if you manage to get published in a high-impact English-language journal, it boosts your chances for both advancement and funding.Republish