After seeing that horrible junk paper in Scientific Reports, and after some correspondence with people who’ve submitted to the journal and reviewed papers for it, there’s a question that I think needs to be asked. Has anyone ever had a paper rejected from this journal? They’re supposed to review for accuracy, not impact, but if that paper under discussion got through, then anything can get through. Let’s set the bar lower, then: has anyone ever even heard of any substantial revisions during its editorial process? The number of people saying that they’ve tried to review papers for SR only to find the paper published basically as it first came in makes a person wonder. At least they do seem to be sending papers out for review, although you’d certainly wonder who “reviewed” that last one.
Reader experiences with Scientific Reports are solicited in the comments, and comparisons of them with other open-access publishers such as PLOS ONE and Science Advances are welcome as well. I would like for there to be good open-access journals out there, but the Nature Publishing Group may have a real problem when it comes to this title. Put simply, if your editorial process lets papers like the one linked above through, then your editorial process is broken.
I certainly don’t want to reserve scorn just for the folks who published this one, though. At least PeerJ has put up an “expression of concern” on the paper from this group that came out with them in March. (All that the Retraction Watch folks were able to get from Scientific Reports was a statement that they didn’t comment on this sort of thing). But let’s not forget the “researchers” who wrote this stuff up. The publishers may be going only as far as saying they’re concerned, and I don’t think that Retraction Watch wants to use the word “fake” as long as the original authors are denying any misconduct. But I will.
Dr. Nima Samie of the University of Malaya: these papers, that you are a primary author on, are fakes. They are full of blatantly duplicated and manipulated images, which cannot by any stretch of the imagination show what they are purporting to show. My children started laughing when I showed them your papers’ figures – they wouldn’t be able to get away with pictures like these in front of their high school teachers. What’s more, Dr. Samie, your explanations as given here for why the cells in some of the images look like exact duplicates of each other are ridiculous. You need to realize these points, and what’s more, you need to realize that others realize them, too. You have some serious explaining to do by foisting these things off on the scientific community.
The editorial staffs of the journals who published these have plenty to explain as well. And there’s no reason to delay; let’s get right down to it. If the journals and the scientists involved are interested in clearing their good names, now’s the time. “No comment” (or just plain silence) is not an acceptable answer when things like this appear.