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Fake reviewers

BioMed Central, a publishing platform for open-access scientific journals, based in the United Kingdom, has uncovered some 50 manuscripts in its editorial system where the review process was manipulated. According to the blog Retraction Watch, most of the papers were not published, as problems were detected during a pre-publication check. At least five were released, however. They are undergoing a new review process and may be retracted.

The fraud was possible because of a flaw in one stage of the platform’s workflow, which lets the author of a paper suggest the names of reviewers, that is, of the qualified researchers who are entrusted with giving an opinion on the manuscript, proposing changes, and recommending it for publication or not. Fictitious reviewers whose names and institutions were similar to those of real people were apparently suggested and accepted; using equally counterfeit email addresses, they then recommended that the articles be published. In a statement sent to Retraction Watch, the heads of BioMed Central said they found no links between the authors of the manipulated articles. “We are concerned that a third party is involved,” stated the communiqué.