Rampant use of ghostwriters undermines China's international credibility in medical science, experts say
Wang Mingting and Li Rongde
(Beijing) — Allegations that some Chinese authors copied each other's medical research papers do not surprise ghostwriter Shen Nan.
Editors of a U.S.-based anti-plagiarism blog, Plagiarism Watch, made the allegations last month.
Shen, who works under a pseudonym, claims that falsification and plagiarism in academic-paper writing in China — particularly in the field of medicine — is rampant, and that he had personally penned more than 30 papers for Chinese academics that have appeared in international journals.
"Chinese companies providing ghostwriting services are likely behind the questionable articles exposed by Plagiarism Watch because it is so common for them to use plagiarized and falsified materials to write academic papers on behalf of Chinese authors," Shen said.
Plagiarism Watch said in a Sept. 20 post that the papers in question came to light after an anonymous commentator first blew the whistle on one Chinese-authored paper published in May in the Brazilian journal Genetics and Molecular Research. After Plagiarism Watch editors screened the paper with the anti-plagiarism software iPlagiarism, they discovered that the paper shared a substantial similarity to a number of other Chinese-authored papers published in several other international journals.
The paper, Decreased miR-452 Expression in Human Colorectal Cancer and its Tumor Suppressive Function, was presented by a group of authors at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, according to Lindsey Wayne, an editor at Plagiarism Watch. Further investigations by the blog's editors found that the first Chinese-authored paper — and many subsequent papers presented by other Chinese authors and published in the same issue of the Brazilian publication — shared similar diagrams, indicating possible plagiarism.
The agency cited at least 11 questionable papers from Chinese authors from eight top Chinese hospitals, including the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, and another affiliated with the elite Shandong University in the eastern city of Jinan.
Two-thirds of the 2,500-plus papers published in the Brazilian journal included in the Science Citation Index (SCI) last year were presented by Chinese authors, despite the fact the publication had an "impact factor" as low as 0.764, PW said. This has led PW editors to believe that the journal has been involved in predatory publishing practices.
"Can we conclude, then, that this journal or publisher is predatory in targeting Chinese authors? Your answer must be 'yes,'" Wayne wrote in the blog.
The impact factor is a gauge of credibility of a publication based on calculating the frequency a work is cited in academic research over a given period of time. The higher a journal's impact factor is, the more credible and authoritative it is rated. Those with an impact factor of 3 and above are widely accepted as credible publications around the world.
Shen believes some international journals are able to take advantage of Chinese authors because of the authors' desire to gain international exposure as they try to advance their careers.
Dingxiangyuan, a Chinese online portal providing medical information, surveyed more than 1,900 doctors in 2015 and found that more than 80% of those who applied for head physician or surgeon positions were required to have published two to five papers in international journals indexed in the SCI, which is compiled by Thomson Reuters.
In some cases, medical experts were required to have published articles in medical journals with an "impact factor" of at least 3, the survey found.
The study found that 6.6% of respondents said they had hired ghostwriters to draft their papers, and 9.7% said that they managed to have their names published on papers to which they had made no contribution in order to gain a promotion.
Another 38.5% of respondents said they had not resorted to such practices in the past, but would consider doing so in the future.
One doctor who asked not to be named told Caixin: "Everyone has to work hard, and we have little time to access resources such as laboratories to do research. How can we possibly come up with papers of our own in a journal with an impact-factor rating of 1, let alone 3?"
A doctor at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Fuwai Hospital in Beijing told Caixin that a highly revered senior surgeon failed to be promoted to head surgeon simply because he hadn't had any academic papers published in international journals.
In fact, so many medical personnel have sought help from ghostwriters that it has helped spawn a multibillion-yuan industry in underground academic writing, according to Shen, who holds a doctorate in biology.
Three types of companies operate in this gray market for ghostwriting in China, he said.
Some firms operate as "paper mills" that hire ghostwriters to churn out academic papers for a fee. Plagiarized materials are widely used in these. Some, like the one Shen works for, even have in-house laboratories and R&D departments to support their writers.
Another group of companies specialize in offering translation and editing services, and will approach potential publishers on behalf of their authors.
Other firms serve as intermediaries between medical professionals and ghostwriters, or companies providing ghostwriting services, Shen said.
An employee handling customer services at Nanjing Dehengwen Biotechnology, a biotech firm that also offers ghostwriting services, told Caixin that the company charges at least 110,000 yuan ($16,200) for an academic paper it helps write and get published in an international journal with an impact-factor rating of at least 3. A paper that it ghostwrites and appears in a journal with an impact-factor rating of 2 to 3 costs 80,000 yuan.
This fee includes expenses for laboratory tests and payments to ghostwriters, as well as a written guarantee that a paper will be published within a year, Shen said. Authors also then need to pay a fee of 2,000 to 8,000 yuan to the publisher.
Colorado University associate professor Jeffrey Beall, who has been studying academic misconduct since 2009, told Caixin that many predatory journals that do not run peer reviews on papers they publish — but instead fake the process to reach out to more authors — have turned their publications into cash cows.
In a recent blog entry, professor Xu Peiyang at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Institute of Medical Information, wrote that the journal Genetics and Molecular Research had published 3,646 Chinese-authored papers, accounting for 55% of all the papers it had produced since its launch in 2002.
Most of the papers from Chinese authors were published after 2007, he added.
The publishers of the Brazilian journal said in a statement in its October edition that it had retracted seven Chinese-authored papers it published in 2015 and 2016, including two that Plagiarism Watch accused of plagiarism and falsification of peer reviews. However, the publication did not comment on whether it was involved in any predatory practices.
A spokesperson for Thomson Reuters, which owns the SCI and Impact Factor systems, told the official Xinhua News Agency that it is looking into the allegations, and journals that condoned plagiarism and falsification will be barred from the company's system.
In 2014, China ranked second in the world with 31,040 papers on clinical research published in journals cited in the SCI, and sixth in the world with 11,597 papers published on medical science, according to a 2015 report from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China based in Beijing.
However, research papers from Chinese authors have been under intense scrutiny after a series of mass retractions over accusations of plagiarism and falsification in recent years.
BioMed Central, which publishes more than 200 academic journal titles in the U.K., retracted 43 papers, including 41 Chinese-authored pieces, in March 2015 for using falsified peer reviews.
German publisher Springer announced in August 2015 it had pulled 64 academic papers, including 61 presented by authors from China, over the same allegations.
Xu from the Institute of Medical Information said that irregularities in the writing of research papers and publications implicating Chinese authors could do substantial damage to the process of academic documentation.
"Misconduct in academic paper presentation (in China) could tarnish China's reputation in the global science community and will make Chinese authors involved in decent research work less trustworthy," Xu wrote.
In an online post, Plagiarism Watch urged the Chinese government, institutions and researchers to all be "more responsible and serious, in order to prevent and remove plagiarism in scientific papers going forward."
Amid the negative publicity surrounding medical research papers from China, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said earlier this month it will reduce the importance of research papers in the appraisal process for doctors working in clinical medicine.
"Even in the basic science of medicine research, there should be an appraisal system which values quality more than quantity, such as the number of citations," the commission said in an Oct. 12 document promoting medical innovation.
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Friday, October 14, 2016
Time Magazine Reports New "Rule" on Spit and Image
It's been a while. Just couldn't resist popping in to tell you, there's one thing you don't need to worry about these days. Or is there?
Editors have always needed to be on the lookout for the corruption of the true form of “spit and image.” It comes “from the notion of God’s using spit and dust to form the clay to make Adam in his image.” Garner’s says it’s now OK now to use the incorrect form, “spitting image.”
I think that’s foolish in this digital world where everyone is an editor (and an expert) and only too eager to dis something as “incorrect” with no leeway for style choices. And when your career could be affected by the judgment a gatekeeper like an agent or publisher makes about what they consider your lack of interest in the written word.
But even those who choose to write on the side of caution, the exception for "spit and image" might be its use in dialogue when people tend to talk the way they always have--regardless of what reference books say. After all, the way characters use words tells something about their—well, character. For more on dialogue, I suggest Tom Chiarella's book published by Writer's Digest.
ABOUT THE EDITOR AND BLOGGER
Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of writing and publishing. Find her at http://howtodoitfrugally.com. Find the second edition of her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your bestseller. (HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers find lists and other helps including , Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her SharingingwithWriters blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:
PHILLY.COM | THE INQUIRER DAILY NEWS |
Beanie Sigel dropped a new diss track about Meek Mill
The beef between Philadelphia rappers Beanie Sigel and Meek Mill continued Tuesday. Sigel reiterated the claim that he was a ghostwriter on Mill’s recent diss track against The Game.
Sigel appeared on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, where he gave a tense interview with hosts Charlamagne Tha God and DJ Envy. As Ambrosia For Heads reports, at one point in the interview, Envy asked what hand Sigel had in the creation of last month’s“OOOUUU” remix diss that Mill and fellow Dreamchaser crew member Omelly dropped last month.
“We seen you at the console, and some people assume that you were helping [Mill and Omelly] write raps,” Envy said to Sigel Tuesday. “Did you ghostwrite any of the lyrics?”
Sigel, for his part, confirmed that he wrote “a few” of the track’s lines for both rappers.
Sigel previously revealed his apparent ghostwriting role in a September interview withBaltimore’s 92Q, telling the station that “I just happened to come in the studio, so I just was helping [Mill] out with some lyrics, and the situation kind of played out like it did.” Sigel later added that he didn’t “want to put that out there like that or discredit nobody.”
In Tuesday's interview, Sigel revealed more details about the recording session that lead to “OOOUUU,” noting that Mill wasn’t present, and that he jumped on the track of his own accord. Via BET:
Sigel’s ghostwriting on the track, if true, could be particularly damaging for Mill, who initially began his high-profile feud with Drake last year over claims that the Canadian rapper used ghostwriter Quentin Miller for some of his tracks. That feud lead to subsequent beefs with artists like Joe Budden, The Game, and now, Beanie Sigel.
Aside from the Breakfast Club interview, Sigel this week also released a music video for “Gang Gang,” his latest diss track against Mill. Sigel previously released two other diss tracks targeting his fellow Philly rapper: “Goodnight” and “I’m Coming.”
Sigel had been on Mill’s side in the rapper’s feud with The Game, but switched allegiances after he was allegedly attacked by a member of Mill’s entourage at the Bad Boy Reunion Tour at the Wells Fargo Center last month. Mill also mocked Sigel in a recent freestyle on Hot 97.
Mill, meanwhile, has not yet responded to Sigel’s current claims. However, on Instagram on Monday, the rapper posted a photo captioned “Never gossip in interviews…leave dat to them bitter dudes!”