Misinformation and disinformation are hardly limited to election campaigns. Fake science is overwhelmingly common and can be even more dangerous than fake news. A vote for the wrong party may be consequential, but a decision to take the wrong medical treatment can be deadly.
No matter what the discipline, fake papers published in unsuspecting scholarly journals are damaging to the trust that researchers and other readers have in what they read. Fake research papers, often associated with fake authorship, threaten to overwhelm the editorial processes of scholarly journals. In clinical medicine, fake papers may also waste taxpayers’ money and potentially risk the public health.
In June, the STM Association and COPE – the Committee on Publication Ethics – reported on the problem with “paper mills,” sources of manufactured manuscripts submitted to scholarly journals for a fee on behalf of researchers with the purpose of providing an easy publication.
Click below to listen to the latest episode of the Velocity of Content podcast.
“This is a challenge for the entire scholarly community,” says Joris van Rossum, director of research integrity, STM, which is organizing a major initiative to combat the problem of paper mills.
“What we really want to do is ensure that we tackle this problem at the root,” he tells me. “The worst solution is retractions, right? That’s really what you want to prevent. It’s very cumbersome, and often it already leads to damage – people reading those papers or building on research that is simply false. Screening them at submission is very important.”