Academic Publisher Overwhelmed by Fraud: 11,300 Papers Retracted, 19 Journals Shut Down


Wiley, one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific journals has been forced to close 19 journals due to academic fraud. Some journals were overrun by large-scale fraud in research. Wiley has pulled over 11,300 papers in the last two years that contained some form of fraudulent content.

Academic publishing is an important industry for at least two reasons. About 40% of the revenue generated by the publishing industry comes from the United States. Advertisers don’t fund these publications. The research team will have to pay several thousand dollars for a paper to be published in a prestigious journal. This money is usually an authorized expenditure of the grant or contract that the laboratory received.

You might ask, why would anyone pay $12,000 for their paper to be published in Nature’s 156 titles? Publishing is the only way to win grants, maintain tenure, and get out of the gypsy post-doctoral researcher status. Most of the issues associated with academic publication — including fraudulent data, irrelevant and insipid subjects, and incoherent language — are a result of the important role that academic journals play in scientific research. The business model for academic journals relies on selling space to scientists who are in need. This creates a tension that is further exacerbated by technology and large language models.

Paper mills are the sources of fake science. They are businesses or individuals who, in exchange for money, list a scientist’s name as an author on a paper that is either entirely or partially made up. The mill submits its work to journals that are not as prestigious, and instead chooses special editions or one-off publications where the bogus material is more likely to be published.

Scientists are under pressure all over the world to publish in peer reviewed journals, sometimes to receive grants and other times to be promoted. Researchers claim that this is what motivates people. Many journals charge authors a fee for publishing in their journal.

The problem papers are usually found in large batches, sometimes up to thousands or hundreds of them. According to a trade group that is monitoring the issue, submitting the same paper simultaneously to several journals increases the chances of acceptance. Publishers claim that fraudsters pose as academics in order to gain positions as guest editors of special issues or conference organizers, then control the papers published.

Nick Wise is an engineer and social media expert who regularly posts paper-mill ads on X, under the handle @author_for_sale.

Science, a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, first flagged this practice in 2013. Since then, the website Retraction watch and independent researchers have tracked paper mills by tracking their ads and websites. Researchers claim to have located them in several countries, including Russia, Iran and China. They solicit clients through social media channels like Telegram and Facebook. There, they announce the titles of the studies they plan to submit, the fee they charge, and sometimes even the journal that they want to infiltrate. Wise has seen prices ranging anywhere from $50 to $8,500.

Wiley has over 2,000 titles. While closing 19 journals may seem impressive, it is important to remember that Wiley owns more than 2,000 titles. Wiley acquired Hindawi, an Egyptian academic publisher. The titles shut down are all from this purchase. The fraud is easier to detect in lower-end journals.

The majority of articles in question won’t change the direction of science. These articles are not a fraudulence of cancer clinical studies that corrupts clinical practice. These articles are rarely read or cited. These articles are damaging because they give cheaters and liars an easy way to get promoted in scientific research.

Articles in scientific journals were originally intended to spread scientific information. However, they have devolved into a form of self-promotion. Scientists use scientific publishing to show their peers how brilliant they are. This has become a way to measure productivity. You have a better chance of promotion if you’re listed as an author in more papers. The first and last authors are important but a fifth or fourth author can be valuable.

This would not be possible without the current “publish-or-perish” system, and if there was a concrete career-ending consequence for publishing false results of research or participating in an “paper mill scam”.

Next time someone tells to “trust science”, remember that they are asking you to rely on a system that is deeply corrupted and that has a lot more people interested in advancing their career than the cause of scientific research.