Royal Society of Chemistry retracts 68 papers for being "paper mill" products
Last week, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) announced the retraction of 68 articles from three of its titles – RSC Advances, RSC Medicinal Chemistry, and Food and Function – on grounds of falsified research.
An investigation was conducted throughout 2020 by RSC in association with experts, which turned up several papers that were suspected of fraudulent activity. These papers, which appeared legitimate on the surface, were written in “very similar structures or templates” despite the authors being different. A number of instances of image manipulation and duplication were also observed. According to Chemical & Engineering News, RSC became aware of this problem in 2019, which led them to carry out the investigation.
Referring to the incident, RSC said it is a result of “an organised and sophisticated operation, summed up as what is known as a “paper mill”.” Paper mills are suspected of creating research papers based on fabricated data and may include contrived images too. Usually, journal editors find it challenging to discern such papers from legitimated ones.
To identify potentially fraudulent submissions, RSC has introduced several measures. The screening process has been enhanced and software will be used to detect any instances of image manipulation. Further, RSC indicated that their editors would receive training to identify any submissions with red flags to eliminate similar problems in the future.
The learned society has assured the community that necessary steps are being taken to safeguard their editorial and peer review processes against scientific fraud. In their statement, they have indicated that they would inform the institutions and funders about researchers who are affiliated with them and may have submitted fraudulent research.
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