One of the world’s largest open-access journal publishers is retracting more than 500 papers, based on the discovery of unethical actions.
London-based Hindawi, which publishes more than 200 peer-reviewed journals across multiple disciplines, stated that its research team identified in June “irregularities” in the peer review process in some of the journals.
“All Hindawi journals employ a series of substantial integrity checks before articles are accepted for publication. Following thorough investigation, we identified that these irregularities in the peer review process were the result of suspicious and unethical activities. Since identifying this unethical activity and breach of our processes, we began proactively adding further checks and improving our processes and continue to do so,” Liz Ferguson, a senior vice president for John Wiley & Sons, Hindawi’s U.S.-based parent company, said in a Sept. 28 statement.
As a result of the investigation, 511 papers will be retracted.
The papers have all been published since August 2020.
Sixteen journals published the papers that are being retracted.
Some of the authors and editors who contributed to the articles may have been “unwitting participants” in the unethical scheme, according to Ferguson. She said the scheme involved “manipulation of the peer review process and the infrastructure that supports it.”
Richard Bennett, vice president of researcher and publishing services for Hindawi, told the Retraction Watch blog that the review uncovered “coordinated peer review rings,” which featured reviewers and editors coordinating to get papers through peer review.
Neither Ferguson nor Bennett identified any of the suspects.
Bennett said the investigation started after an editor flagged some suspicious papers. He also said the individuals identified by the review as “compromised” will be banned from Hindawi journals. Other people were described as “potentially compromised.”
“These efforts, and the individuals who participate in them, impede scientific discovery and impact the validity of scholarly research and will not be tolerated,” Ferguson said.
She also said the company has been in touch with other publishers and industry bodies.
Further retractions are expected as the investigation proceeds.
Hindawi journals include Advances in Agriculture, the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, and the Journal of Nanotechnology.