More than 400 papers were found to be from the same “paper factory” involving dozens of triple-A hospitals

Elisabeth Bik, the “academic counterfeiter”, has once again raised the alarm about academic fraud. She and her team found more than 400 papers from different institutions, highly homogenous in stripes, graphic tyms and titles, all of which appeared to be from the same “paper factory.” According to Bik, the papers are almost all from dozens of hospitals in China, including several hospitals.

A total of 412 papers were on the list by the time of publication. According to Bik, there could be thousands of such articles from the paper factory. The list of suspected fake papers is still being updated:

(Source: Forbettercsience)

The team included Elisabeth Bik (real name), Smut Clyde, Morty, TigerBB8 and others.

Members of the fake team told DeepTech that the response from foreign research circles to the issue was fierce, and that “hundreds of articles can cause a lot of pollution to scientific papers.” “Specifically, these mass-produced papers, with their erroneous results, may mislead other researchers who use them as a reference, resulting in a waste of scientific resources.

At the same time, the journal involved is not the so-called “watering magazine”, the overall quality is good, which is the reason for the fraud caused a great stir.

It is worth emphasizing that Elisabeth Bik’s fake team members have a good academic background, and some of them are currently working on the scientific front line, making it a hobby.

For her part, Elisabeth Bik is a microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant, a former assistant researcher at Stanford University who went on to work for the biotech company uBiome, leaving the company in 2018 to work full-time and without pay on academic fraud.

She is an active contributor to research websites Retraction Watch and PubPeer. Her investigation exposed serious academic misconduct in several journals, particularly in the detection of photo processing in scientific publications. Over the past five years, she has spent about 5,000 hours examining papers, and her work has led to dozens of withdrawals.

Figures . . . Elisabeth Bik (Source: The Scientist)

From data to title “Pipeline Jobs”

Back in 2018, image data integrity analyst Jana Christopher published a paper on FEBS Letters describing the “paper factory.” She found that 12 manuscripts were all protein-printed, resulting in very regular spacing and special-shaped bands, and a lack of stains and dyes. The manuscripts come from different research groups in different institutions.

A month ago, anonymous user Indigofera Tanganyikensis first pointed out background similarities between some of the papers’ protein imprint testboards on the peer-reviewed website PubPeer. They later found that not only were the backgrounds of the same paper similar, but the test boards of different papers were surprisingly similar.

Elisabeth Bik took note of this clue and followed up on the study, finding that in more than 400 papers, the intervals between protein blots were very regular, with a dumbbell or a slug-like appearance and no common smudges. All stripes are placed on a similar background, indicating that they were copied and pasted from other sources, or made by a computer.

Figures . . . The background map is highly similar (Source: PubPeer)

In addition, flow cell maps have been found to be very similar. The following “red hair balls” are facS scatter plots, each small red dot is a cell, positioned by a measurement of its surface protein. Many cells produce the same value sydd in these separate experiments.

Figures . . . 3rd and 6th FACS figures in Figure 4D (Long noncoding RNA MEG3 grosing yr damage suconing micmic) roRNA-101a)

In addition to the data graph itself, the histograms of these papers are also regular: gray-based, with black bars on the left, each with a bilateral error line. It is rare to rule out that such a layout may be a popular standard image style, but the layout of hundreds of papers from different institutions is the same.

Figures . . . Mostly in gray, with black bars on the left, each with a bilateral error line (Source: Elisabeth Bik)

Finally, Elisabeth Bik summarizes the title templates for these “paper factorys”:

Figures . . . Insert a molecular name, select a verb (generally now, third-person singular form), select one or two cell transformation processes, select a cancer or cell type, select a conjunction, select a verb (now), insert miRNA, or the name of a neural pathway (source: Elisabeth Bik)

In more than 400 papers found, templates are used for titles such as:

Bilobalide aolys tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced dalsac beta-cell MIN6 apoptosis and dysfunction through upre the sings of miR-153

mir-488 inhibits cell growth and metastasis in renal cell carcinoma by targeting hMgn5

Baicalein retards snand and collagen deposition by hing p38MAPK-JNK via microRNA-29

An expert from the Institute of Genetics and Development of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, after reviewing the evidence, told DeepTech, “The evidence is intuitive and feels reliable.” “

Name six journals, six hospitals, press: We are urgently investigating

Many of the authors in this group are affiliated hospitals or medical schools in China, involving several triple-A hospitals, and Elisabeth Bik’s blog post mentions the following six triple-A hospitals:

Jining City First People’s Hospital (Sanajia): 101 papers (almost no repeat authors. Involved in pediatrics 15, cardiology 6, endocrinology 6, nephrology 6, vascular surgery 5 and other different departments)

Jilin University Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital (Sanjia): 59 papers

Qingdao University Hospital (Sanajia): 23 papers

Linyi City Centre Hospital (Triple A): 16 Papers

Zhengzhou University First Affiliated Hospital (The Largest Sanjia in Henan): 16 Papers

Jining Medical College Hospital (Iii A): 12 Papers

The first of these similar papers was published in 2016, and most of them were from 2018-2020, she wrote in her blog post. Most of the more than 400 papers listed are published in six journals, involving several publishers, of which Cellular Physiology and Mineralry were kicked out of SCI in January 2019:

Cells Artificial Nanomedicine and Biotechnology (Taylor and Francis): 76 papers, influence factor: 4.462

Journal of Cellular’s Up: 57 papers, impact factor: 3.448

Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy (Elsevier): 45 papers, impact factor: 3.743

Physiology and Argarry: 26 papers

Idand and Molecular Pathology :26 papers, influence factor: 2.350

Journal of Cellulary (Physiologley): 21 papers, influence factor: 4.522

Figures . . . Wiley, a well-known academic journal publisher, responds to the fake fighter Morty (Source: Twitter)

The team said it had reached out to four major academic publishers, including Springer, ELSEVIER, WILEY and Taylor and Francis Group, most of whom had responded that they would form a team to investigate the incident.

Wiley’s journal of cell biochemistry is particularly subject to organized “attacks” by the paper factory. Its editorial board brings together many prominent American scientists, but also some of them with a bad reputation. For many years, the magazine was managed by Gary Stein, 77, an academic editor, until mid-January 2020, when Gary resigned and an employee from Wiley is now interim editor.

The publisher has previously said that in recent journals, about 90 percent of papers have Chinese authors, and there seems to be a pattern.

The ethics manager for the publications of Taylor and Francis expressed his gratitude, adding: “We are urgently investigating the affected article.” “

The authors prefer a more reliable “paper factory”

The batch is all from China, but the authors, institutions and even the department are different papers, a series of suspicious features point to: this paper may come from the same “paper factory.”

In many papers, the Bik team found that the images in several papers had exactly the same background, which was not possible in normal papers. The template-style title mentioned above is also a very obvious feature.

The Bik team believes that the analysis of images and data is an important way to identify the paper’s fraud loopholes, and that the apparent template-style articles are most likely to come from the same team behind them, and they even suspect that journal editors within some journals are so-called “insiders” that the paper factory can smoothly publish the problem paper.

According to the team, under normal circumstances, the author’s location is not the need to count the data, and in the process of organizing the database, the team felt that the author’s location is not the same as usual, and then added geographical location information to the database.

It turns out that there was a significant aggregation of the authors of the 400 papers.

Of the 320 suspected papers, more than half were from Shandong province, nearly a fifth from Jilin and one in ten from Henan. According to the latest statistics, only 1 is from Beijing, 9 from Guangdong, 1 from Shanghai and 117 from Shandong.

TigerBB8 revealed that the customers were gathered around Jining, Shandong Province.

In the medical community, the 2017 withdrawals were also well-documented, when the medical journal Oncology Biology dropped 107 papers published in collaboration with the German academic publisher Springer, setting a record for the number of one-time withdrawals in regular academic journals, which involved more than 500 The authors are all related to Chinese research institutions.

And in the latest batch of “problem papers”, most of them are from 2018-2020, is there an intrinsic link between the two events?

The team speculated that some doctors had become more cautious about “buying papers” after the 2017 withdrawal, in part allowing more doctor-buyers to look for more credible “paper factories” in their peripheral relationships, relying on semi-open and even word-of-mouth promotion. To a certain extent, this paper authors are too concentrated in the status quo.

Figures . . . Tiger BB8 revealed that the customers had gathered around Jining, Shandong Province (Source: Suppliedcsience)

“This time you expose us, you could lose our jobs.”

Leonid Schneider, an independent science journalist in Germany, wrote more. Some of the authors left behind strange Gmail addresses, such as, which he believes must not be a doctor in China who is listed as a paper author, but the operator of the paper factory.

He believes that China’s paper factory will even process submitted works, peer-reviewed (if any, peer-reviewed), and sign copyright consents, while pretending to be the author.

In addition, the Paper Factory creates a fake ORCID account for its customers. ORCID is a system for researchers that creates unique authentication that associates research activities and research results with accounts. Some journals use the system for author identification. A number of scholars have been found to have registered false identities after submitting manuscripts.

The paper factory also registers one-time e-mail addresses, such as in Journal of Cellular Up, where authors use different email addresses in different papers:

Dexin Yin:

yindexin221 s;


Dajun Sun:;;

TigerBB8 refers to Pengcheng SCI, a service-providing website that has its official website that helps clients publish papers in SCI and EI index journals, while touting the purpose of avoiding author risk, protecting author achievements, and ensuring the successful publication of each article. And said that so far has been successful in the publication of tens of thousands of articles.

Figures . . . Peng Cheng’s official website

The paper factory will contact students and teachers who have a need to issue papers by mail, and a person who works in a hospital has received many similar advertisements, and he provided DeepTech with the following screenshot:

There are even papers on the outbreak:

“It’s not surprising that many of the papers seem to be authors affiliated with hospitals or medical schools. Part of the requirement to become a Ph.D. in a Chinese medical school requires at least one publication,” Elisabeth Bik wrote in a blog post.

In China, if clinicians want to be promoted, they need to publish a number of research papers in international journals. An easy way is to find a paper factory and buy a full service for as long as you pay.

TigerBB8 received information from chinese paper buyers during the process of exposing the paper fraud, spitting bitter water, “During the day, I have outpatient surgery; After 10 p.m., I only have a little time, but that’s not enough because scientific research takes a lot of time. “As long as the system remains the same and the rules of the game remain the same, similar practices for falsifying data are sure to continue.” “

“This time you exposed us and could have lost our jobs. The message reads.

Figures . . . TigerBB8 has received information from buyers of Papers from China (Source: forbettercsience) in the revelation of the paper’s fraud

The alarm that Bik sounds is not only the existence of the “paper factory”, but also the peer-reviewed papers. She has received information that some specific “paper factory” may have succeeded in “infecting” certain journals that may be working with the factory to generate more fake papers and sell it to a large number of aspiring M.D. doctors eager to fulfill academic ideals.

More serious is probably still under the water, as Bik lamented in one tweet, “I’m just catching some of the silly counterfeiters.” The clever bad guys leave fewer marks. “

Questions and Answers between Fake Team Members and DeepTech

DeepTech: How much impact is this incident?

A: The response abroad has been very large this time, because these papers are not only taking up space after they are published, but these hundreds of articles will bring a lot of pollution to scientific papers.

Because the journal itself is an international journal, and the influence is greater. Then students may see these papers while planning the subject, and thus be misled by the wrong results of these papers. A student may only have three years to do a paper, and if a fake paper is unfortunately used as an argument to support his experimental design, then a student’s years of hard work may be abandoned, and even life has been delayed. Not only students, but other researchers.

The pollution of the literature is the focus of attention.

The second point is that the scientific community has long assumed that the paper is real, with little regard for the existence of a case of specific fraud. Such a large-scale fraud will make a lot of people at a loss, let a lot of people spend more time to see whether the paper is true or false, which will have a disruptive impact.

DeepTech: Why can’t you stop the publication of academic papers with a rigorous process, including reviews and peer reviews?

A: First of all, the reviewer of the peer review process generally does not doubt the authenticity of the data and pictures after receiving the paper. Reviewers will see whether the experimental design in the paper is reasonable, whether there is a place of non-strict, and so on, and this paper in these parts are not completely false, which can also be seen that the level of fraud is not bad.

Second, the review process can also be disrupted, such as the falsified peer review in the 2017 withdrawal, which is why it is suspected that there are “insider” editors within the journal.

Third, if a paper fails to contribute, the paper factory will be relentless in the paper to other journals, which may in some cases be mixed up.

We hope that the journal editorial department in the investigation, can ask the reviewer of each article involved in the case, but I think it is not possible, because each journal has its own reviewer library, if the reviewer angered, may not help you in the future.

DeepTech: So improving from peer-reviewed areas is a very expensive thing for journals?

A: This is also unrealistic to reviewers, if the reviewer every article to spend a long time to see pictures, data have no fraud, then the review time will be very long, Britain and the United States and China are different, the reviewer is completely completely not the manuscript fee, and can not take up the daily research time to do the review work, are taking up their own free time. So if you have to spend more time to see if the picture is fake, then just say no.

I think big journals should train reviewers to quickly spot suspicious signals in their papers. There are also many people agree that periodicals should set up a special examiner, dedicated to this link of work. There are already a number of periodicals that have created such a position, but there are still very few.