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Easier Than Doing the Work

If you want to have your name included on a meta-analysis that's going to appear in a journal with an impact factor of about 3.4 without doing any of the work involved, it'll cost you $15,000, Scientific American reports.

Sciam's Charles Seife delves into to the world of what he calls "fill-in-the-blanks research."

He searched published scientific articles and found evidence that certain passages and phrases are being used over and over again in a variety of journals, with some phrases changed here and there. On their own, he notes, the papers don't seem so dubious. It's just when the same odd phrasings or error is repeated throughout the literature that suspicions arise — he notes seeing about a dozen versions of one paragraph with just the gene and disease names changed.

There are, Seife reports, organizations that will arrange paper authorships for people seeking a high-profile publication. Sciam had a Chinese-speaking reporter contact one such organization, MedChina, posing as a researcher. That reporter was offered an authorship for $15,000.

And journals are working to catch up — a few that Seife contacted weren't aware that there was a market for authorships.

"The whole system of peer review works on the basis of trust," Damian Pattinson, editorial director of PLOS ONE tells him. "Once that is damaged, it is very difficult for the peer review system to deal with."