Publisher BioMed Central has uncovered several instances of fake peer reviewers, reports Retraction Watch's Ivan Oransky.
A manuscript editor caught most of the cases before the articles were published, but a handful slipped through. The editor noticed spelling errors in the reviewers' names as well as non-institutional email addresses that were changed after the review was in, apparently as part of a cover-up effort.
"We cannot see a clear link between the authors and believe that a third party may be involved, and influencing the peer review process," BMC Central tells Retraction Watch. Oransky says that third party may be a marketing service that helps authors whose papers have been accepted.
To try to stop this from happening again, BMC is no longer allowing authors to recommend reviewers.
"Since this was flagged, we have searched our systems and found several potential false reviewer accounts that seem to have returned peer review reports to several of our journals," the publisher tells Retraction Watch. "At present this amounts to around 50 manuscripts, the majority of which have not been published and are held in our systems."
The manuscripts that have been published will be re-reviewed, Oransky reports, and may be subject to expressions of concern or even retraction.