Systematic manipulation of the publication process is where an individual or a group of individuals aim to guarantee publication by repeatedly used dishonest or fraudulent practices to:
prevent or inappropriately influence the independent assessment of a piece of scholarly work by an independent peer;
inappropriately attribute authorship of a piece of scholarly work;
publish fabricated or plagiarised research.
Indicators of systematic manipulation of the publication process are often recognised as suspicious patterns through:
manuscript submission, such as numerous submissions to one or more journals, unusual author email addresses, submissions by a third party;
the content and presentation of manuscripts, such as a high level of similarity between manuscripts, suspicious data and figures, substantial revisions, including authorship changes, after editor acceptance;
the peer review process, such as rapid review times, similarities in the content and format of peer review reports, suspicious email addresses.
Investigating the identified issue should involve:
finding out whether it is reviewers or authors at the root of the problem;
identifying where in the publishing systems this type of manipulation can be flagged;
sharing pattern information with other publishers and COPE.
Publishers can prevent future manipulation using technology to flag patterns of behaviour, and train journal editors in identifying types of manipulation.
Flowcharts offer a step by step process for editors or publishers to use when they are handling suspected manipulation.
Recommended actions are suggested depending on the type of problem or indication of manipulation.