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Tackling peer review fraud - are we doing enough?

Publons' Global State of Peer Review 2018 is here! Far-reaching and pulling no punches, this largescale report assesses the lay of the research landscape to improve the future of peer review.

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How much of a threat is fraudulent peer review in the scholarly research community? In our fifth Publisher insight article, read on to discover the views of Wiley, SAGE, The British Institute of Radiology, and the Association of University Presses on the current processes in place and what more can be done to retain the integrity of scholarly research.

Tami Potten, Editorial Development Manager, The British Institute of Radiology:

We employ a double-blind peer review process and rely on the expert insights of our editors to spot when a reviewer might not be offering a legitimate assessment of a paper and thankfully we don’t encounter this problem often. As the pressure to publish grows, its likely fraudulent peer review will get worse before it gets better.

Again, an industry-wide response is useful and increased awareness across the sector would help to tackle the problem.

Also vital are the educational tools and support that promote ethical publishing practices globally, for example those provided by COPE. Sanctions such as those imposed by Clarivate on journals that undertake unethical practices also help deter fraudsters.

Kristen Marchetti, Associate Director of Peer Review, SAGE:

Peer review has its imperfections. For example, there can be bias, conflicts of interest, plagiarism, or simple human error. There can also be more insidious problems, such as peer review fraud, an issue that has become increasingly prevalent – in large part because we’ve also become better at detecting it – in the scholarly communication community over the past few years.

As publishers, editors, and those in the wider research community, we have a responsibility to work towards better education, communication and expectations around the peer review process, as well as looking at ways to reform and enhance systems to ensure peer review is used to best effect.

At SAGE, we are committed to ensuring that we adhere to the highest standards of peer review and publication ethics. We have built resources to support our authors, editors and reviewers across our platforms, (e.g. our Reviewer Gateway and Reviewer’s Guide), we continue to support our journals with access to key resources which are available to COPE members, and continue to provide our journals with a diverse set of educational tools and resources to support them and their communities.

Challenges around peer review, however, are constantly changing and thus we need to remain vigilant to these issues. At SAGE we have in place a global Ethics & Quality committee to help put in place mechanisms to ensure we remain innovative in supporting peer review in terms of process, ethics, education, integrity and transparency.

Peter Berkery, Executive Director, Association of University Presses:

I’m not aware of any serious suggestion of fraudulent peer review being an issue for university presses, at least within their books programs. But, as I’ve said, if it exists elsewhere in the ecosystem it’s a challenge for all of us. Our members are pledged to strict standards of editorial rigor, and we promote that commitment to faculty, administrators, and funders. It led us to release our Best Practices for Peer Review‚ a handbook for scholarly monograph publishers (available for free download on our website), in 2016.

Elizabeth Moylan, iPublisher, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics, Wiley:

The peer review system is founded on trust – trust that everyone involved in the process acts with integrity. However, in recent times we are seeing publishers use more technology and tools to check manuscripts and verify that individuals are who they say they are.

The issues and challenges around fraud in peer review are complex, and have grown from isolated cases (first brought to COPE for discussion in c. 2011) to more sophisticated large-scale manipulations and ‘peer review rings’ which have affected a number of publishers across the industry.

The pressure on individuals to publish is perhaps fueling perverse incentives and a growth in peer review manipulation, but the solution will not come from publishers alone. There needs to be a culture of responsibility to encourage integrity in research and its publication. Collaboration and cooperation is vital from raising awareness, to working with institutions and adopting more transparency in the review process.


Publons Global State of Peer Review Report

What does the peer review landscape look like today? Is it getting better or worse? And who's actually doing all the peer review, anyway? We made it part of our Peer Review Week mission to find out.

  • Publons' Global State of peer review report combines:
  • Rich and extensive data from Clarivate Analytic's ScholarOne Manuscripts and Web of Science
  • Data-driven analysis from Publons' exclusive cross-publisher peer review platform
  • Survey responses from ~12,000 researchers around the globe
  • Statistics and insight to reveal the peer uncover the future direction of peer review.

Download the gspr now

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