EndoTODAY | EndoATLAS | Outpatient Clinic

Parasite | Esophagus | Stomach | Cancer | ESD

Duodenum | Small bowel | Colon | Special

Home | Guide | Author | Search | Blog | Links


[Fake peer review - 왜 또 한국인입니까?]

저는 평소 연구에 대한 지나친 압력과 inappropriate incentive (Randy Schekman이라는 유명 학자가 쓴 표현입니다. 노벨상을 받았던 분입니다. 연구에 회의를 느껴서 이제 별로 연구하지 않는다고 하셨던 분입니다.) 문제에 대한 관심이 있었습니다. 관련하여 또 대형 사고가 터졌습니다. 창피하게도 범인이 한국인(Hyung-in Moon)입니다. Medical plants를 연구하는 학자라고 하는데 전세계적으로 유명해졌습니다. 새로운 사기를 발명한 것으로...

유명 저널에 논문을 실어야, 그것도 많이 실어야 연구비도 딸 수 있고 취직도 됩니다. 그게 요즘 교수지망생들의 운명입니다. 교수들도 마찬가지입니다. 논문이 없으면 짤리니까... 논문에 대한 압력이 강한 만큼 온갖 사기가 난무합니다.

근간 New England Journal of Medicine에 Peer-Review Fraud - Hacking the Scientific Publication Process라는 기사가 실렸습니다. 한마디로 자기 논문을 자기가 심사하도록 시스템 조작 사기를 한다는 것입니다. 이 사기의 발명자는 한국인 Hyung-in Moon인 것으로 되어 있습니다. 왜 이런 나쁜 일에는 우리나라 사람이 앞장서야 하는 것일까요? 우리나라, 대만, 중국, 동남아가 지목되었습니다. 안타깝습니다.

과거 한 외국 논문을 그대로 copy하여 자기 논문인 양 발표한 우리나라 교수가 있었습니다. 당연히 짤릴 줄 알았는데 아무 일도 없었던 것처럼 계속 교수직을 유지하더군요. 학회에서 강력 appeal을 했던 것으로 아는데...... 우리나라 문화가 아직 이 수준입니다. 어디선가 비슷한 일이 반복되고 있을지 모릅니다.

저 또한 어떤 저널의 associate editor로 일하고 있습니다. 아마도 이와 비슷한 사기가 적지 않을 것 같습니다. 더욱 주의하겠습니다.

서비스가 있어 아래에 옮깁니다. 저작권 위반은 아닐런지 걱정이지만...

In August 2015, the publisher Springer retracted 64 articles from 10 different subscription journals “after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports,” according to a statement on their website.1 The retractions came only months after BioMed Central, an open-access publisher also owned by Springer, retracted 43 articles for the same reason.

“This is officially becoming a trend,” Alison McCook wrote on the blog Retraction Watch, referring to the increasing number of retractions due to fabricated peer reviews.2 Since it was first reported 3 years ago, when South Korean researcher Hyung-in Moon admitted to having invented e-mail addresses so that he could provide “peer reviews” of his own manuscripts, more than 250 articles have been retracted because of fake reviews - about 15% of the total number of retractions.

How is it possible to fake peer review? Moon, who studies medicinal plants, had set up a simple procedure. He gave journals recommendations for peer reviewers for his manuscripts, providing them with names and e-mail addresses. But these addresses were ones he created, so the requests to review went directly to him or his colleagues. Not surprisingly, the editor would be sent favorable reviews - sometimes within hours after the reviewing requests had been sent out. The fallout from Moon's confession: 28 articles in various journals published by Informa were retracted, and one editor resigned.

Peter Chen, who was an engineer at Taiwan's National Pingtung University of Education at the time, developed a more sophisticated scheme: he constructed a “peer review and citation ring” in which he used 130 bogus e-mail addresses and fabricated identities to generate fake reviews. An editor at one of the journals published by Sage Publications became suspicious, sparking a lengthy and comprehensive investigation, which resulted in the retraction of 60 articles in July 2014.

At the end of 2014, BioMed Central and other publishers alerted the international Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) to new forms of systematic attempts to manipulate journals' peer-review processes. According to a statement published on COPE's website in January 2015, these efforts to hijack the scholarly review system were apparently orchestrated by agencies that first helped authors write or improve their scientific articles and then sold them favorable peer reviews.4 BioMed Central conducted a comprehensive investigation of all their recently published articles and identified 43 that were published on the basis of reviews from fabricated reviewers. All these articles were retracted in March 2015.

The type of peer-review fraud committed by Moon, Chen, and third-party agencies can work when journals allow or encourage authors to suggest reviewers for their own submissions. Even though many editors dislike this practice, it is frequently used, for a number of reasons. One is that in specialized fields, authors may be best qualified to suggest suitable reviewers for the topic and manuscript in question. Another is that it makes life easier for editors: finding appropriate peer reviewers who are willing to review in a timely manner can be both difficult and time consuming. A third reason may be that journals and publishers are increasingly multinational. In the past, the editor and editorial board of a journal knew both the scientific field it covered and the people working in it, but it's almost impossible to be sufficiently well connected when both editors and submissions come from all over the world. Having authors suggest the best reviewers may therefore seem like a good idea. In the aftermath of the recent scandals involving fake peer reviewers, many journals have decided to turn off the reviewer-recommendation option on their manuscript-submission systems. But that move may not be enough, as the publisher Hindawi discovered this past spring. Although Hindawi doesn't let authors recommend reviewers for their manuscripts, it decided to examine the peer-review records for manuscripts submitted in 2013 and 2014 for possible fraud.

The peer-review procedure used in Hindawi's journals depends mainly on the expertise of its editorial board members and the guest editors of special issues, who are responsible for supervising the review of submitted manuscripts.5 Since the peer reviewers selected by the guest editors were not subject to any sort of independent verification, editors themselves could undermine the process in much the same way that authors or third-party agencies have done elsewhere: by creating fake reviewer identities and addresses from which they submitted positive reviews endorsing publication.

And that's exactly what happened - Hindawi's investigation revealed that three editors had engaged in such fraud. When all manuscripts handled by these editors were examined, a total of 32 articles were identified that had been accepted thanks to the comments of fake reviewers. It is unclear what motivated the guest editors to engage in such fraud, nor has it been determined whether the authors of the manuscripts involved participated in the deception in any way.

There are several lessons to be learned from these instances of peer-review and peer-reviewer fraud. One is that the electronic manuscript-handling systems that most journals use are as vulnerable to exploitation and hacking as other data systems. Moon and Chen, for example, both abused a feature of ScholarOne: the e-mail messages sent to scholars (at whatever address has been provided) inviting them to review a manuscript include log-in information, and whoever receives those messages can sign into the system. Most other electronic manuscript submission systems have similar loopholes that can easily be hacked.

The most important lesson is that incentives work. The enormous pressure to publish and publish fast - preferably in the very best journals - influences both authors and editors. This pressure exists almost everywhere but is particularly intense in China. It is therefore no surprise that the most inventive ways to game the peer-review system to get manuscripts published have come from China. The companies mentioned above that provide fake peer reviews all come from China and countries in Southeast Asia, and most of the authors involved in these cases come from the same areas. But it would be a mistake to look at this as a Chinese or Asian problem. The problem is the perverse incentive systems in scientific publishing. As long as authors are (mostly) rewarded for publishing many articles and editors are (mostly) rewarded for publishing them rapidly, new ways of gaming the traditional publication models will be invented more quickly than new control measures can be put in place.


이번 원고를 EndoTODAY로 보내면서 날짜를 mistyping하였습니다. 이를 지적하는 애독자 편지가 있었습니다.

[2015-11-1 5:24AM. 애독자 편지]

선생님, 보내주시는 메일은 늘 잘 보고 있습니다. 그런데 오늘 메일 날짜가 2013년으로 되어있네요^^

[2015-11-1. 이준행 답장]

새벽잠이 준 모양이시군요^^

너무 충격적인 기사를 준비하다보니... mistyping을 하였습니다. 이번 기사를 잊고 싶었기 때문인지도 몰라요. 과거로 되돌려 달라는 무의식일 수도 있습니다.

이번 NEJM에 소개된 우리나라 연구자 문형인의 초대형 연구비리는 오히려 작은 예에 불과합니다. 그 정도는 아니더라도 주변을 보면 크고 작은 연구 관련 부정과 비리가 너무 많아서... 저는 개인적으로 연구와 관련된 일은 약간 거리를 두고 있습니다. 교육과 진료와 관련된 일에 집중하는 것이 그 이유입니다.

EndoTODAY 애독자 전부에게 공개하면 곤란할 것 같아서 그냥 혼자 가지고 있는 애독자 편지가 있습니다. 선생님에게만 공개합니다 (첨부 참조). 도덕성이나 성실성은 전혀 강조하지 않고 오직 충효만 강조하는 우리문화를 비판하는 글입니다. 지나치게 목표 지향, 결과지향이라는 말이지요. 충을 위해서, 효를 위해서 무엇이든 할 수 있다는 방식으로 비뚤어지고 있다는 이야기입니다. 연구자들의 경우는 논문만 낼 수 있다면 어떤 나쁜 짓도 할 수 있다는 방향으로 비뚤어지고 있다는 것이지요. 남의 논문 가로채기는 기본이고, 원고 한번 읽어보지 않고 PI를 하는 사람도 있고, 연구비를 무슨 해외여행 출장비 정도로 생각하는 사람도 있고......

우리는 이제 목표보다는 과정을 중요시하는 발전된 모습으로 바뀌어야 한다고 생각합니다.


[참고자료]

1) EndoTODAY 연구 단상 - 연구에 대하여. 그 공정성과 불공정성에 대하여

© 일원내시경교실 이준행