The challenge of Fake authors in journals

The world of academic publications is highly competitive. Scientists are often desperate to publish their research papers owing to their career and future prospects at the stake of the number count of journal publications. Unfortunately, this gives rise to several fraudulent practices and fake authors.

Top reasons for fake author attribution.

Reputation: New or emerging or scientists from small institutions struggle to get their research papers published. This is primarily due to a bias amongst journal editors who prefer scientists having a history of successful publications or come from reputed institutes. In such a scenario, the new authors often add a fake co-author to increase their publication chances. This can be done in various ways. Some add fictional names and attribute them to the reputed institutes. Some attribute it to the actual reputed scientists without their knowledge. In most cases, fake e-mail id or contact details are shared to avoid journal communication.

Affiliation: The paper’s affiliations are more than just an institutional name or a country where the research was conducted. Affiliations are brand names and reputed institutes take great care to ensure quality control of their institute’s research activities. Research institutions take all the responsibilities for the research conducted at their facilities and have boards and committees to ensure that their research follows the rules. So, the affiliation of a paper also defines which institution oversees the research integrity of that paper. This then serves as an incentive for journals to prioritize such articles as they feel assured about its integrity and quality.

Specialization: More often than not, it is not the greed of reputation or affiliation that the fraudsters seek. Fake authors are often created to justify the research papers falsely. For instance, consider a research paper that involves cross-disciplinary studies or involves a methodology that requires a specialist’s intervention. It may also happen that these lay outside the core area of the expertise of the actual author. Naming a fake author with false credentials helps to justify the research paper’s claims, which otherwise would be challenged by a peer reviewer or the journal editor if only one author were named.

How to avoid the trap: While it may seem tempting to go for fake authorship, it does more damage than good. Journals today are more aware of this problem and are devising means to check for such frauds. Getting caught not only means redaction of published articles but also being blacklisted across journals. Therefore, it is better to focus on the basics of writing a good paper than trying for such shortcuts. Special focus on English editing, proofreading from professional agencies help to shape a better paper.


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