Publisher pulls more than 300 Chinese-affiliated papers over peer reviews

On two occasions the publisher found Chinese research papers with a questionable peer-review process

Updated: May 15, 2022 - 10:16pm

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The scientific publisher Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) retracted 349 Chinese-affiliated research papers after questioning the peer-review process, according to research journal watchdog Retraction Watch.

China is frequently implicated in research-related scandals such as sending scientists to the United States, tapping American professors for information and hiding evidence about the COVID-19 pandemic.

ACM pinpointed the issue to a company in China that organized a conference and was in charge of peer review, Retraction Watch reported.

The company became aware of the issue when a tipster told ACM two versions of a Jakarta conference were reported on the same dates in the same venue with many overlapping authors.

One of the Chinese company's workers told ACM that "the paper was peer-reviewed and after multiple requests, [the company] sent a PDF of the alleged review, which appeared itself to have been falsified, based on the metadata in the PDF sent to ACM," Scott Delman, ACM's director of publications, told Retraction Watch.

After a multi-month investigation where none of the 26 studies' authors responded, Delman said ACM determined it "couldn’t trust the integrity of the peer review process for this event and was compelled to retract all of the papers published from the conference."

ACM was aware of the issue following the ICIMTech conference several months later, the company found similarities between those papers and the papers at the other conference. ACM went on to retract 323 more papers.

The conference companies are "supposed to adhere to our policies and standards, but we don’t run peer review for them," Delman said.

"Paper mills seem to have seen an opportunity to find a loophole," he added, referring to fake-paper factories.