Today marks the launch of the first iteration of the STM Integrity hub’s papermill detection tool, one of a number of initiatives that publishers are developing to ensure the integrity of the publication record. While the tool is still in an early form, we are delighted it is being released and were pleased to be involved in its development as part of our ongoing commitment to working with a broad range of partners to safeguard the integrity of the scientific endeavour.
So, why is it needed? Over the last few years, publishers have seen a significant increase of manuscript submissions from paper mills– nefarious businesses that churn out fake research papers, subvert editorial processes and sell authorship. These submissions are damaging to science, sullying the scientific record if they are published and requiring extensive resources to weed them out, both before and after publication. Researchers and publishers all agree that these unethical practices must be stopped. The papermill detection tool is part of the work by the STM Integrity hub – which launched almost a year ago and is being developed by STM Solutions in collaboration with Springer Nature and 23 other publishers and analytics companies – that will help us to do that.
How will it work? The detection tool is a stand-alone application that allows publishers to automatically screen uploaded papers against key indicators that suggest that the manuscript has or may have originated from a paper mill. The tool will flag any concerns, and publishers can then investigate them more fully. During the process of development, we ensured that the tool followed industry best practice and is fully legally compliant, handling submission and data privacy to the highest ethical standards.
Having been on the working group for the development of the tool, one of the elements that I’m particularly pleased about is the involvement of a number of research integrity sleuths from outside the publishing community who have collaborated with us to develop the tool. They have brought fresh perspectives to STM Integrity Hub work that has been, until then, driven by publishers. Their involvement has reinforced the guiding principle of the research integrity team at Springer Nature that collaborative and inclusive work yields far better results (see our earlier blog).
What’s next? We’ll continue to test and develop the detection tool, potentially adding new signals to make it ever more accurate. We’ll also be encouraging a wider range of publishers to make use of it and, in particular, I’m hoping it will help to support the smaller publishers who may not have the resources to deal with paper mills. And we’ll be working to respond to changes of tactics by the mills as they continue in their attempts to subvert our processes. It’s worth noting, too, that this is not the only weapon in our armoury - there will be more to come….