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11,000 "Peer Reviewed" Papers Retracted!

vocationalethics Jun 03, 2024

It's a stark reminder that blindly 'trusting the science' might not always be our best course of action moving forward.

The venerable Wiley, a 217-year-old science publisher, has reportedly "peer-reviewed" over 11,000 papers found to be fraudulent, without ever noticing. 

These papers, described as "naked gobbledygook sandwiches" by Australian blogger Jo Nova, highlight a significant issue in academic publishing.

Nova aptly notes, "It’s not just a scam, it’s an industry." She points out the staggering $30 billion market that academic journals represent.

According to Nova's blog, professional cheating services are now employing AI to craft what appear to be "original" academic papers by simply shuffling words around. 

Nova's blog reveals that these papers often undergo peer review without any stringent human oversight, allowing glaring errors.

Wiley has admitted that the fraudulent activities have compromised 19 of its journals to such an extent that they must be closed. In response, the industry is now developing AI tools to detect these fakes—a necessary but disheartening step. Nova remarks:

"The rot at Wiley began decades ago but was exposed after they spent $298 million on an Egyptian publishing house called Hindawi. We might hope no harm came from fake papers, but we know bad science already claims lives. What we need are not just 'peer-reviewed' papers, but genuine live face-to-face debates. Only when both sides must answer questions with data can we achieve real science."

In March, Wiley revealed to the NYSE a $9 million plunge in research revenue after being forced to “pause” the publication of certain “special issue” journals under its Hindawi imprint, acquired in 2021 for $298 million.

Wiley's statement noted that the Hindawi program, comprising some 250 journals, had been “suspended temporarily due to compromised articles in certain special issues.”

Many of these suspect papers claimed to be serious medical studies, including investigations into drug resistance in newborns with pneumonia and the use of MRI scans in diagnosing early liver disease. Journals affected include Disease Markers, BioMed Research International, and Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience.

The urgency of this issue is escalating. With the recent surge in artificial intelligence, the stakes are even higher. A researcher at University College London found that more than 1 percent of all scientific articles published last year, approximately 60,000 papers, were likely written by computers.

In some fields, it’s even worse. Nearly one in five computer science papers published in the past four years may not have been authored by humans.

In Australia, ABC has reported on this issue, reflecting concerns over diminishing public trust in universities, increasingly perceived as businesses rather than educational institutions. This perception is fueled by financial motivations leading universities to overlook academic fraud.

The heart of the scientific community is corroding, worsened by entities like the ABC Science Unit, which often shields dubious research rather than scrutinizing it.

This ongoing degradation calls for a shift from traditional peer review to rigorous live debates, ensuring accountability by having individuals argue their cases in real-time.

In December 2023, Nature reported that more than 10,000 papers were retracted in 2023—a new record.

You can read Nova's full blog post here.


With all this in mind, what can clinicians base their practice on? Is the only truly reliable evidence the patient's story? 

With academic integrity increasingly under scrutiny, clinicians might find themselves returning to the fundamental cornerstone of medicine: the patient's narrative. 

This personal account, might provide the most trustworthy foundation for patient care, ensuring decisions are grounded in real, lived experiences rather than potentially flawed or based on fraudulent research.

Final Thoughts:

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