Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 1–2 | Cite as

Peer review fraud—it’s not big and it’s not clever

  • Shamima Rahman
  • Matthias R. Baumgartner
  • Eva Morava
  • Marc Patterson
  • Verena Peters
  • Johannes Zschocke

‘You are only as good as your last paper’ is a truism often quoted in academic circles, and the attendant pressures to publish prolifically and rapidly in high impact journals can be overwhelming. We are aware of an extremely concerning trend towards peer review fraud (Haug 2015; Ferguson et al 2014). In recent months several publishing houses have retracted published articles after fraudulent reviews were discovered Hindawi concludes an in-depth investigation into peer review fraud. Hindawi Publishing, July 8, 2015; McCook 2015. So far these crimes appear to have been perpetrated by a very small minority of authors who have defrauded the peer review system to obtain favourable peer reviews. More concerning are agencies who not only provide a writing service for authors but also, once the manuscripts have been submitted, create fake reviewer identities to write positive reviews for these same manuscripts.

What are the Editorial Team at JIMD doing to guard against peer review fraud? We would like to reassure our readers, authors and reviewers that we have robust procedures in place. We have a three tier review system, with an initial editorial screen followed by communicating editor assessment plus formal peer reviews, and then a final overview of the reviews by the Editorial Team. In this extensive review process, an overly positive review of a manuscript should be flagged as an ‘outlier’ warranting closer examination. We work in a small field where most experts are known to each other. Our board of communicating editors are selected carefully and all known to us as experts in their fields. These communicating editors appoint reviewers known to them who are also experts. We avoid using reviewers recommended by authors, but in those rare instances where we do use authors’ suggested reviewers, we use email addresses that have been independently entered into our editorial manager system, to avoid the inadvertent use of false email addresses. All manuscripts undergo checks to identify any financial or other conflicts of interest and to ensure compliance with ethical standards (

Although we have never retracted a JIMD paper because of fraudulent peer reviews, we will not be complacent but remain vigilant to attempts to hack our peer review process. We strongly disapprove of peer review fraud and will take severe measures if we discover it (Freckelton 2014).


Compliance with ethical standards

All authors were compliant and followed the ethical guidelines, according to the requirements of JIMD

Conflict of interest



  1. Ferguson C, Marcus A, Oransky I (2014) Publishing: the peer-review scam. Nature 515(7528):480–482. doi: 10.1038/515480a PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Freckelton I (2014) Criminalising research fraud. J Law Med 22(2):241–254PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Haug CJ (2015) Peer-review fraud—hacking the scientific publication process. N Engl J MedGoogle Scholar
  4. McCook A (2015) 64 More papers retracted for fake reviews, this time from Springer journals. Retraction Watch (

Copyright information

© SSIEM 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shamima Rahman
    • 1
  • Matthias R. Baumgartner
    • 2
  • Eva Morava
    • 3
    • 4
  • Marc Patterson
    • 5
  • Verena Peters
    • 6
  • Johannes Zschocke
    • 7
  1. 1.Mitochondrial Research Group, Genetics and Genomic Medicine, UCL Institute of Child Health, and Metabolic DepartmentGreat Ormond Street HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Division of Metabolism and Children’s Research CenterUniversity Children’s HospitalZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsTulane University Medical SchoolNew OrleansUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversity Medical School of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  5. 5.Division of Child and Adolescent Neurology, Departments of Neurology, Pediatrics and Medical GeneticsMayo Clinic Children’s CenterRochesterUSA
  6. 6.Centre for Paediatric and Adolescence MedicineUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  7. 7.Division of Human GeneticsMedical University InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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