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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ghost-writing science factories thrive in China

Scientific publishers are aware of the fact that the production and trade of academic works is taking place in China on a massive scale. The mainstream media recently revealed how illegal paper mills operate to publish fake manuscripts, including in leading international journals.

In China, advancement in a particular profession or academic field requires a rigid rate of academic publication; but for many people this figure is almost unattainable. Thus, a gray industry of scientific ghostwriters has emerged, offering “one-stop services” whereby submission and publication are done on behalf of the client.

By entering keywords in Chinese search engines, you can easily find a large number of essay factories.

A reporter from Xinhua Viewpoint, a column of Xinhua’s official media, posing as a cardiovascular and cerebrovascular doctor, contacted various paper mills and was told that dissertations of all levels could be written and published for him if the delivery time was not too long. a short. Xinhua reports Jan. 11.

A customer service agent described the process of “producing” a periodical essay at home. The factory first sends the pre-magazine to the client for review, and then charges a fee of 1,600 yuan ($250) to write and publish an essay in the latest issue of said magazine. If both parties agree, the client pays a 600 yuan ($95) deposit for the publication of the manuscript, and then makes the final payment after receiving notification of acceptance of the essay. The company later sends an electronic version of the final edition, followed by a sample edition by mail.

The reporter paid bail and then received reports of three approaches to writing as requested. Taking one approach, the paper mill sent him an essay within two days, claiming that it had been written by their professional staff and could be edited as needed.

When asked how to publish an essay in the international journals Scientific Citation Index (SCI), an internationally recognized search engine for scientific and technical literature, one factory’s customer service agent replied that the customer should provide basic information such as name, occupation and direction of research to “match” with the corresponding journal, while another directly chose the SCI Zone 3 journal for it. SCI has four zones, and zone 1 has the highest academic value. If the client makes an advance payment of half the cost, the company will immediately hire a guest writer and send the manuscript to the client first when it is completed. He pays the rest of the amount when he is satisfied with the final revision. Article publication can also be organized.

At another paper mill, after a reporter stated an urgent need to publish in a leading international medical journal, an agent recommended a mostly completed essay in English on neck orthopedic research and provided part of it for review for 37,500 yuan. ($5,900) for both writing and submitting for publication.

“The manuscript was written by a faculty member of our professional team in response to a prior invitation from the editor of a leading journal and will be confirmed for publication no later than one month,” a customer service agent said.

Liu Qingyu (pseudonym) used to work for a ghost writing company and almost became an official writer. He told Xinhua Viewpoint that those who “produce” medical documents have certain competencies that can guarantee the quality of writing, have a systematic medical education, even are medical doctors and have worked in biotechnology companies; however, some of them do not fully realize that they are in a dissertation writing factory before joining it.

In some cases, buying and selling research results can be more profitable than the research itself.

Liu also said that the essays produced by such a factory are not really very good, the factory just works hard to capture the preferences of major journals, and then chooses research areas that are easiest to “apply the formula” to and write articles. on a massive scale.

According to the reporter’s research, as paper mills regularly submit a large number of manuscripts, their relationship with some journals becomes closer, and there are “makers” of paper who become co-reviewers for some journals. Some paper mills pay journal editors directly so that their articles can be published freely.

Shen Yang, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said in 2010 that the sale of articles and the distribution of counterfeit academic journals had spawned an illegal industry in China, which a Wuhan University research team found was worth 1 billion yuan. ($160 million) in 2009, a conservative estimate according to the state-run Yangtze River Daily.

China’s fake documents published in international journals

Independent writer Zhuge Mingyang told The Epoch Times, “There are many types of academic fraud, but dissertation factories are probably the type of academic fraud with the highest knowledge content. This kind of unethical practice has long been commonplace in China under the ruling Communist Party.”

This image, taken on March 17, 2010 in Paris, shows the home page of the American scientific journal Nature. (Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)

By March 2021, the total number of papers listed by major journals that likely came from paper mills exceeded 1,300, according to statistics from one of the world’s most respected academic journals, Nature. At least 370 papers retracted since January 2020 were related with paper. mills.

These results have undoubtedly had a huge impact on China’s academic reputation.

Jana Christopher from the Center for Biochemistry at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and others have raised concerns about “alarming” scams since early 2018. Following the study, letters from the European Federation of Biochemical Societies (FEBS Letters) were published, edited by Christopher on June 27, 2021, with eight signs of counterfeit papers.

Such manuscripts have the same textual or organizational structure as other documents. There are similarities in the composition of diagrams, annotation styles, graphics and tables of other works. They have a template heading structure; many manuscripts by different authors came from the same computer. Authors use commercial, not academic, email addresses, and author identification numbers are missing or empty. The bibliography contains articles that are not clearly related. When using reviewers recommended by the author, there is an unusually short review time and positive results.

Elizabeth Beek, a former Stanford University pundit, tweeted in February 2020 that over 400 articles from different authors and institutions appear to have come from the same “paper mill” and that these articles were written by people at reputed hospitals which are mainly in China.

Sean Lin

To follow

Sean Lin is a Chinese immigrant living in New Zealand. He has been collaborating with The Epoch Times since 2009, focusing on China-related topics.

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