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Retraction of medical papers reviewed

By Shan Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-15 07:35

An international medical journal's retraction of 107 papers by Chinese medical researchers has severely harmed the reputation and integrity of the country's scientific community and revealed a flawed oversight system, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In late April, Tumor Biology, a journal published by Germany-based Springer Nature, announced it had retracted the papers after an investigation showed the peer review process had been compromised.

Nearly all of the 524 authors connected with the papers are clinical cancer doctors at key public hospitals.

The ministry said it would launch a thorough investigation into the incident, an unidentified division director of the ministry told China Central Television on Wednesday. Results will be made public, and anyone found with misconduct will be punished, the TV report said.

Other scientific projects related to the authors are also being investigated, and may be halted.

Previous reports said third-party agencies were found helping some authors fake the peer reviews.

In China, it's not rare for researchers to give their draft papers to third-party agencies for language polishing and other related services.

To advance and secure more research funds under the current evaluation system, clinical doctors in China are under immense pressure to publish papers in reputable journals.

The ministry vowed during Wednesday's interview to clean up such activity, which was deemed a regulatory gray area.

He Defang, the ministry's law and regulation chief, said retractions are a normal way for academic journals to redress mistakes concerning questionable papers. But such a mass retraction "is abnormal and irresponsible", he said.

He said a single incident cannot tarnish the positive image of Chinese scientific researchers as a whole.

"Mainstream science workers in the country are highly devoted to advancing science and are honest," he said.

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