After determining they were garbage, Springer Nature has pulled 44 papers from a Middle East journal.
These articles appeared in the Arabian Journal of Geosciences in January. Many of them involve researchers based in China. Although their titles seem to be gibberish, they still made it through Springer Natures production process without any notice.
Retractions were ordered after the publisher flagged more than 400 papers for serious research integrity violations. These concerns were first raised by a PubPeer commenter as well as a group research team who had been investigating and exposed nonsense papers.
In August, the editor of a special issue where the articles were published told us that his email was hacked. This is a problem that we have seen many times before.
Here's an example of a retraction notice, this one for Monitoring early warning of loess landlide based upon distributed environment and effectiveness calculation of training, Erxia Liu of the Nanyang Institute of Technology.
Because the article's content is absurd, the Editor-in-Chief has retracted it. The Publisher's peer review policy did not allow for peer review. The author has not replied to correspondence regarding this retract.
Mengjiao LIANG, Jiujiang University, then presented Neural network-based urban rainfall trend estimation, and adolescent anxious management.
Another was The characteristics of rainfall in coastal regions and the intelligent library push system oriented towards the Internet of Things. It was purportedly written in Shandong by Hailing Chi. We loosely translate it as: The rains in Spain fall mainly on my smart refrigerator.
Perhaps our favorite is Distribution of earthquake activity within mountain area based upon embedded system and physical fit detection of basketball. This sounds like the elevator pitch for a poorly-written animated movie where The Smurfs meet volatile Shaq.
For a complete listing of all papers, click here
Chris Graf, Springer Nature's research integrity director, shared his thoughts with us:
We are committed to investigating all the unethical acts we have identified in four guest-edited magazines. Following COPE guidelines, we have conducted rapid investigations into 44 papers. These papers have been retracted. We are still investigating the papers contained in these issues, but expect to have them completed in the near future. We won't tolerate any attempt to subvert the publication process. We are currently developing AI-based tools and adding additional checks to prevent deliberate manipulation. Our Editors in Chief are being supported in managing guest-edited issues. We also increase publisher oversight to ensure our policies and best practices are followed. We are also gathering evidence about how these subversions are carried out and sharing it with COPE, other publishers, and other agencies. This will help to inform industry-wide practices, and allow for accountability.
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