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Will a cross-publisher integrity hub aid the battle against fake research?


  • Publishers and analytics providers are collaborating with the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers in the development of an online integrity hub.
  • Online tools within the hub will scan manuscripts for image alterations and indicators of paper mill submissions.

Falsified research from paper mills – companies that generate manuscripts based on fabricated data – has led to an increased number of retractions from journals, and is a growing challenge for publishers. In a recent Nature News article, Holly Else reported that new software solutions are now being tested that may detect paper mill activity and image manipulation in submitted manuscripts.

The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), in a joint effort with publishers and scholarly analytics providers, are developing common standards for software tools, which will form part of an STM Integrity Hub. The hub will contain three online tools to detect the following publication ethics violations:

  • submissions from paper mills, based on ~70 indicators
  • duplicate submission (manuscript submission to multiple publishers)
  • image manipulation (potentially fabricated figures).

The Nature News article outlined how large publishers such as Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, and Frontiers are currently testing two of these tools, to help address these important issues.

“The problem is significant not just because of volume, but also because there are different types of paper mill, and they are all highly adaptive.”
– Sabina Alam, Director of Publishing Ethics and Integrity, Taylor & Francis, UK

It is hoped that the first two screening tools will be more widely available early in 2023. To complement the availability of this new technology, STM and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) also plan to issue guidance on handling research integrity breaches, thus further empowering publishers in their fight against fake science.


What do you think – will standardised tools help combat fake or duplicated manuscript submissions?

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