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The uncertainty of peer review: An internal investigation has caused the retraction of sixty peer-reviewed scientific papers that were published by a single journal, the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC).
The network of JVC papers that emerged was incestuous, with the same small group of authors reviewing each other’s work and appearing together as co-authors. By the end of the year, the investigators had a list of 130 e-mail addresses associated with 60 papers, with one scientist as co-author on all of them: Chen-Yuan Chen of NPUE, who goes by “Peter.” When SAGE sent an e-mail to all 130 e-mail addresses requesting that the authors confirm their identity, none responded. “The authors were contacted again by SAGE in May 2014 to inform them that their papers would be retracted in the July 2014 issue,” says Sherman, but again none responded. According to SAGE’s official statement, Chen resigned from NPUE in February. Neither Chen nor officials at NPUE responded to e-mails from ScienceInsider
How was it possible for a scientist to become the sole reviewer on dozens of his own papers? The answer appears to be that Chen was allowed to nominate his own reviewers, who were not vetted by JVC,
Chen apparently created fake gmail accounts for both real and non-existing scientists and then chose these scientists both as his co-authors as well as his peer-reviewers.