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Frontiers joins UNITED2ACT to combat paper mills in scholarly publishing

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Frontiers joins United2Act


Frontiers joins United2Act

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The proliferation of ‘paper mills’ poses a real threat to research publishing integrity, as these practices undermine the credibility of scientific research, leading to an erosion of trust among researchers and the wider public. Frontiers joins UNITED2ACT to address the issue of paper mills and combat fraudulent practices in academic publishing. 

As fraudulent behavior becomes more sophisticated, publishers confront a rising tide of fake articles, forged authorship, fabricated images, and coordinated efforts to manipulate the peer review process. This activity is an industry-wide phenomenon that affects all publishers and has become the most common cause for article retractions. UNITED2ACT is a group of international participants working collaboratively to address the collective challenge of paper mills in scholarly publishing. Frontiers has joined the initiative as a co-signatory to the United2Act Consensus Statement, alongside the Center for Open Science, Clarivate, Elsevier, European Research Council, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley, among others.  

Frontiers already has a strong record of collaboration with the research and publishing bodies at the forefront of promoting ethics and integrity in publishing. In October 2023, Dr Marie Souliere, Frontiers’ head of editorial ethics and quality assurance was appointed Chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Paper Mill working group. Frontiers has also liaised closely with COPE and STM on our pioneering Artificial Intelligence Review Assistant (AIRA) to share insights on the ethical and effective use of AI in publishing.  

In joining the UNITED2ACT initiative, Frontiers, as one of the first open science publishers to join the initiative, aims to continue this work and to bring its experience and knowledge to the collective discussion and action plan to tackle paper mill activity.  

Frederick Fenter, Frontiers’ chief executive editor, commented on signing the UNITED2ACT statement: 

"This is a much-needed initiative, and we look forward to working with colleagues in publishing and research to find innovative and practical solutions to combat paper mills and to put an end to this fraudulent activity. Collaboration among stakeholders will be the key to effective action. 

The paper mill issue is a particularly complex one, affecting all leading publishers, and we have been, and remain, in discussion with several of these to seek an effective and lasting outcome. UNITED2ACT gives momentum to publishers’ determination to counter systematic research fraud and highlights the growing importance of research integrity expertise and sharing insights and information between research integrity teams. At Frontiers, we are ready to join forces to better uphold our policies and code of publishing ethics and to end malpractice throughout scholarly publishing more broadly."

All UNITED2ACT signatories agree on five key collaborative multi-stakeholder areas to address the problem of paper mills: 

  1. Education and awareness: To create new educational tools and resources, and to promote education and awareness activities to make researchers, journal editors, reviewers, journals, and publishers aware of the problem of paper mills. 
  2. Improvement of post-publication corrections: To investigate and agree ways to improve communication with those who report misconduct to journals, and to agree ways in which the correction of the literature can be speeded up when misconduct is discovered. 

  3. Research paper mills: To work with interested parties to facilitate and organize research to be carried out on paper mills, with particular attention to regional and subject specific aspects. 

  4. Development of trust markers: To work with the various suppliers who are developing tools which verify the identity of authors, reviewers, and editors to ensure that the solutions work for the variety of authors and author choices and are fit for purpose. 

  5. Dialogue facilitation between stakeholders: To continue to bring together the many voices in this area through joint projects and initiatives to address systematic manipulation of the publication process. 

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