A company that publishes scientific research has retracted 64 articles from 10 journals after discovering that the peer-review reports—summaries of how the papers were vetted by experts in the field prior to publication—were fabricated.
Springer, which publishes more than 2,200 English-language research journals, issued a statement on the retraction on Tuesday, noting that the problems included fake email addresses.
“After a thorough investigation we have strong reason to believe that the peer-review process on these 64 articles was compromised,” a Springer spokesperson said in a statement.
Peer review is an integral part of respected research; journals rely on that process to assess the viability of the results, to weed out unscientific claims, to flag poor study design or to reject unreliable findings. The process for getting a paper published is highly competitive, and retractions appear to be on the rise—about 1,500 papers in multiple journals have been retracted for various reasons since 2012, as the editors of Retraction Watch note.
Last November, BioMed Central, a Springer company, retracted 43 studies for similar reasons, and in the past three years alone. While that’s only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of studies published each year, scientists are worried that the incidence rate of fabrication may be higher.
Springer said as much in its statement, noting, “The peer-review process is one of the cornerstones of quality, integrity and reproducibility in research, and we take our responsibilities as its guardians seriously. We are now reviewing our editorial processes across Springer to guard against this kind of manipulation of the peer review process in future.”