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Raise the Papermill Alarm! A new tool for identifying potential fake articles


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The production of fraudulent articles by paper mills is on the increase.
  • Papermill Alarm is a new software tool that can screen submitted manuscripts for similarities to known bogus articles.

The submission of journal articles produced by illegal paper mills is a common problem in scientific publishing, and such articles can be difficult to identify. In a recent Nature News articleHolly Else highlights a new tool, ‘Papermill Alarm’, that could be adopted in the fight against bogus content.

Paper mills are paid to produce fake manuscripts that appear similar to legitimate research papers. Developed by Adam Day, Papermill Alarm is a software tool that can analyse the titles and abstracts of scientific papers to assess their similarity to previously identified fraudulent articles. Although not providing definitive proof that an article has been produced by a paper mill, the tool does flag those that may warrant further investigation.

Using Papermill Alarm, Day determined that 1% of PubMed articles contain text similar to those produced by paper mills.

Using Papermill Alarm, Day determined that 1% of PubMed articles contain text similar to those produced by paper mills, with a prior report from the UK Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) suggesting the figure may be at least 2%, and up to 46% in certain journals.

Several publishers are reportedly interested in adopting Papermill Alarm as a screening tool for submitted manuscripts. Whilst the scientific impact of fraudulent articles produced by paper mills may be limited, given their low citations counts, they nevertheless retain the potential to damage the trust in, and reputation of, scientific research. As such, there is an urgent need for joint action by scholarly research stakeholders to address the thriving paper mill industry.

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Do you believe journals are doing enough to combat the rise in bogus content?

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