Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Ukrainian Connection

We begin with the disturbing news that 'Scandia' - a small but respected Scandiwegian history journal - acquired an evil doppelgänger, without even a Van Dyke beard to distinguish it from the original. Though the pretender did have different editors, and contact details, and a vastly broadened interdisciplinary scope ('interdisciplinary' does not refer to "the interval of recovery time that separates two sessions of Loving Correction with Madame Whiplash").

Which is to say, the Journal Pirates are back! Brandishing cutlasses, pillaging and looting, or at the very least constructing spurious websites in the hope of trousering a few $K from gullibillies who don't stop to wonder why a previously free-to-publish journal has started charging its contributors.

The phenomenon is just one niche within the vibrant exuberant ecosystem of predatory publishing, begat when the Author-Pays paradigm of open-access academic publishing fell in love with the career necessity of paper productivity. It deserves to be approached from multiple directions.

In a recent ArXiv preprint publication, Anna Abalkina (2021) thought through the implications of doppelgänger stolen-identity journals having precarious income streams, on account of their marginality. Faking a history in the industry is beneficial for any academic-publishing predator -- for anyone sufficiently gullible or venal to be a potential client would still rather publish in an established journal than contribute to the inaugural issue of an speculative venture -- but it becomes more pressing for doppelgängers. But from the marginality again, and the uncertainty of any return, it follows that doppelgängers will minimise effort (even more than one expects from parasites and predators).

So one business model for journal piracy is to assume the identity of an ex-journal, taking advantage of its earlier issues. The default approach runs like this:

1. Choose a specialty scholarly website (or preferably no on-line presence at all, just printed editions), but with a web-verifiable reputation attesting to its non-fictitious nature. Journals with a non-Anglophone home country are especially desirable, as reducing the chance that its ex-proprietors will notice and complain.

2. Usurp its identity with an imposter website, often constructed on OJS,* though inviting submissions on a vastly-broadened purview of cross-disciplinary diversity: open to science, maths, agriculture, medicine, sociology, history and odes to small lumps of green putty found in one's armpit. Steal imagery from the real journal to make the replicant more convincing, as well as the back-issues and perhaps the editorial board, because who's to stop you?

3. Disseminate that invitation in a spam deluge of biblical proportions. Mentioning the publication fee in the spam is optional... you may prefer to wait until the suckers have delivered the manuscripts into your grasp and committed themselves to publication.

Phase 3 is where anyone with an '.ac' email address finds their in-trays overflowing with spam from Sylwan, Transylvanian Review, Jökull,... Which is what brought the whole grift earlier to the attentions of Jeffrey Beall, and now to D. H. Kaye. And before that, to Mehrad Jalalian, another go-to expert. Beall's site is no more, but anonymous helpful brownies maintain his minatory table of journal imposters.

We are now equipped to return to the case of Scandia. Its copycat website turns out to be the second. The first Suspender pretender (in 2016 or thereabouts) involved a threadbare unconvincing website; the thieves took no pride in their work, and did not even bother to assemble the supposed archives. Their hearts were not in it, and the spamming was too meagre to bring the imposture to wider attention, so it died from neglect rather than from hostile legal countermeasures.**

Raising the erotic tension to fever-pitch, we learn from DomainBigData that the (current) copycat website shares a Ukrainian IP server with Arctic Journal; and with ''. The excitement never stops at Riddled!

The former was cloned from a Canadian journal a few years earlier. "Scienceborders" is an ill-thought-out venture in parasitical publishing, trying to create or fill a Portal-shaped gap between "predatory journal" and "library", and promising to accept manuscripts and money and make both disappear. $540, for instance, will suffice to have a 12-page manuscript edited, translated, formatted, approved and rendered inaccessible.

Interested non-readers are offered a sample of 10 titles - purportedly a sample of a larger number of contributions that have been concealed completely - with an promise to provide access to each paper per se, in return for $100 each (or you could just go to the open-access predatory journals from which those titles were scraped).

please note that after you make the payment, the username and the password to access the article will be emailed to you within 2days (48 hours), because transactions are being monitored by our security department in case of fraud.

It is difficult to imagine any academics who are desperate enough to fall for a grift that offers precisely nothing, but that didn't stop the 'Science Borders' instigators from setting up another six websites with the same package deal of nothing: Arena of Sciences (World's Pioneer Publishing Corporation); Knowledge Insights; Leading Publishers; Pioneer Scientists; Research Pioneers; Science Route Online. They have their own samples of inaccessibly published papers. All seven claimed to be operations of the Mellatron Limited Partnership (registered 24/10/14, company registration SL018524), which may or may not be related to Melatron Georgia Ltd. Each has its own samples of inaccessibly published papers, claiming to represent a much larger archive where not even the titles are knowable. Are you shocked or surprised to find that titles were filched from elsewhere, e.g. from the pirated Sylwan?

Alert readers will have grasped the point that although some of these frauds and thefts have better-designed business models than others, the same people are running this cluster of inept portals - and also Sylwan, Jökull, Transylvanian Review, Arctic, Scandia, Informatica and umpteen others. They will also have noted an important corollary: once a paper has been pilfered for one set of Archives in the network, it is likely to be recycled in another improvised Back-Issue Archive, because the grifters can't afford to waste time. Journals in the network are also linked by frequent-flier predatory authors, publishing their polymathic productivity across multiple Interdisciplinary Journals.

Abalkina (2021) applied a snowball method to these links and mapped out a network of 57 pirated journals. So rather than over-think things, and extend Abalkina's taxonomy of scam-sites, I will simply refer you there. Also to Jalalian & Dadkhah (2015) who have already overthought things in a lengthy inquiry into the exploits of the pirates (and their identities).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I feel bad about leaving things there with no new material. So let's take another approach to the journal-piracy phenomenon, this time involving some scooby-doo sleuthing and the e-address ''.

According to Intertube records (thanks, DomainBigData!), this was used to reserve a series of domains and sites - in conjunction with a Hyderabad location and an Indian phone number, 91.7799886448. Most sites remain vacant lots, the exception being '', which houses the stub of an aspirational, otherwise-undeveloped "Journal of Current Neurobiology". It proves to be a trapdoor, dropping you (if you set foot on it) into - a slightly more functional site, where we learn that its coverage includes phrenology as an active research topic. It seems that the developers were in two minds at the time about the name of their journal-to-be, for the stub contains an invitation to submit manuscripts to ''.

There is an allusion to an ex-journal here, 'Current Neurobiology' 1.0 (or an intended confusion with it): once a proudly Indian journal, with ambitions that included high standards, international contributors and a subscription model, before it went tits-up. Then some scoundrels skinned its disinterred corpse to use as the integument for a parasitical-journal fuckpuppet, even constructing a fake archive of back-issues to increase the plausibility of this pretender (using a mixture of authors' copies pilfered from ResearchGate, and 404 gaps). "Who could do such a dastardly thing?" ***

To bring the suspense to a premature close... that number in Hyderabad is the phone of the OAfs: staff-turned-competitors from OMICS, operating as 'OAText' in an attempt to be even skeezier and greedier than their erstwhile employers. It links to 'ResearchWallet', the OAText payment money-laundry, where the name is a good insight into the proprietors' priorities. It further links to 'Journals Book',, another cut-out for not-obviously-OAText domain registration.

We have not finished with defunct journals from moribund publishers! Necromancers reanimated the corpse of 'Mental Health in Family Medicine' from WONCA / Radcliffe and forced it to do their bidding, exhuming its archives and the corpses of the previous list of editors to serve as the Editorial Board in this new shadowy existence as a prostituted pukefunnel. The original went tits-up in 2013, leaving the publisher's own website as well as a version hosted at Ingenta, neither of which survived for long. Then there was a year's hiatus before the zombie version surfaced in 2015.

This journal-shaped garbage scow served as the spigot for a junk paper from a prolific author, as featured last year on Steamtraen.

It is not entirely clear which scammer is trading on the appearance of credibility lingering from MHFM 1.0, and its established history, to charge £1600 for each paper-shaped brainfart they accept. At one point the website for MHFM 2.0 occupied the same dedicated server as '' - implying that it too was a scam from the OAfs. As for the '' domain used by MHFT (and CNB) for mass-mail spamming, that redirected to until recently.

On the other hand, the 2015-2016 recensions of the MHFM 2.0 site branded it as the property of 'iMedPub', a holding company for the OMICS empire of academic fraud. I can only suppose that the shitweasels at OMICS were the original grave-robbers, and later they sold the zombified corpse to OAText.

Certainly OMICS have experience in journal piracy. Many of its acquisitions are obvious, because of a preference for using "" for online submission and money extraction - that being OMICS' centralised site for the purpose. The shameless identity-theft of "Genetic & Molecular Research" came up a few weeks ago.

Consider "Global Media Journal (American edition)". From 2002 to 2012, this was "hosted by the Center for Global Studies at Purdue University Calumet", as "the official publication of the Global Communication Association". It subsequently lost that official status, in exchange for a €1820 publication fee, and a virtual office address in London that's also used for the fraudsters' mockademic scamferences.

"...the OMICS generic edition, based in India, is NOT a part of the GMJ Network. It stands on its own and has nothing to do with the legitimate GMJ editions..."

To be scrupulously fair, rather than outright hijacking, GMJ's transfer into the clutches of OMICS seems to have been a legitimate though foolhardy transaction when the erstwhile director shifted institutions. He believed the promises that the new ownership would honour the intentions of his original vision. And great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth from suckers who thought they had contributed papers to the real GNJ.

It would not come as a great surprise if the Indian federal gubblement poured money into supporting a new journal which eventually became another pimped-out fuckpuppet for the OMICS scampire, in a form of corporate welfare, reflecting the importance of academic fraud to the economy. Of course it isn't my problem, but I am curious about "Agricultural and Biological Research".

In 2019/2020 this previously subscription-based journal introduced €2000 publishing fees, while adopting Srinubabu Gedala's proprietary system for collecting them. Meanwhile the editors' contact details were bypassed with bogus e-addresses at (the OMICS/iMedPub site for press-release self-congratulation), and website revisions dropped the acknowledgements for the financial support from India's Department of Science and Technology that had made the journal possible. Not necessarily piracy... it may just be that the founding editors decided to cash in by selling the package to Pulsus / OMICS, once no more departmental aid was forthcoming.

The point is made but I found a few more OMICS acquisitions so I might as well include them. The European Journal for Biomedical Informatics was founded with EU support. "Over its 15 years of existence, EJBI continuously received higher recognition and international acknowledgement". Then the founders decided it was time to entrust the legacy of their creation to professional publishers, but they chose OMICS instead.

People, Gedala's minions have no interest in the noble intellectual heritage that you strive to carry on; their concern is only for your extensive back-catalog and how they can use it to fraud more convincingly.

How it started

How it's going

So far OMICS is winning in this competition for the greatest skeeziness and greed, now hijacking authors as well as journals.

I can no longer bring myself to care how the Ukrainian Journal Of Ecology (originally the Biological Bulletin of Bogdan Chmelnitskiy Melitopol State Pedagogical University) fell into OMICS' clutches, with a "changed [...] editorial policy" (exclusively English-language, publication fees, an OMICS money-extraction website supplanting its old PKP/OJS framework). The submission system is Scholarscentral and the contact phone number is one used by Longdom (another OMICS polyp), but an attribution of Alex Matsyura Publishing as the source was enough to convince Web-of-Science / Clarivate that this jizzmop belongs in the Emerging Sources Citation Index.

* OJS is an Open Publishing software package, provided by generous people at PKP for anyone who wants to manage the workflow of small-scale journal publishing. I hope that sounds as if I know what I'm talking about. As a freebie, it is a boon to small Learned Societies who want to publish their newsletter or Scholarly Journal without entering the belly of the Elsevier / Springer beast. It is also a boon to parasitical publishers whose objection to paying part of their income from frauding to someone with an honest job (if programmers come under that rubric) is a position of philosophy or ideology.

Their reluctance to pay for software is rivalled only by their reluctance to pay for software support. Hence the spectacle of the Head Shitweasel from PeerTechz prairie-dogging at OJS community sites and wasting other people's time with blegs to help him fraud better (because the complexities of the software and the requirements of Reading HTML were too much for him).

** Old Suspender:

*** A question that was on the lips of my nephew and nieces, that time they looked in their father's freezer for something to cook and found a supermarket plain-pack meat-tray left there by persons unknown, labelled "Drainpipe Rabbit" and containing a frozen rat.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The papers are coming from inside the house! #2 Jilin edition

This post was earlier cross-posted at Leonid Schneider's site, hence the unfrivolous tone. The version there is improved by Leonid's editing and frame story, and by details of Jilin faculty who frauded their way to promotion.
So it turns out that the communal laboratories and the horizontal transfer of experimental results among research groups are not confined to Central South University. Data want to be free!
#2 Xiaomeng Zhang
#2 Yarong Li
#4 Huang Wu

I should explain from the beginning. Which is to say, before getting down to the interesting details, this is my chance to indulge in all those vague generalities that no-one would bother reading if they came at the end of a post.

Fig 3A from Jin et al (2015) [19]; Fig 5D from Li et al (2017b) [40]

The systematic invention de novo of an entire research program is a familiar spectacle from US and European science: that is, the manufacture of a series of papers, progressively characterising the cancer-causative or -curing qualities of gene X or protein Y or signalling pathway Z. It is unusual, though, to encounter multiple parallel strands of fabrication within a single institution, using the same building blocks, in a pattern that transcends departments and research groups. Hence my interest in the present oeuvre of 30+ 50+ 80+ over 90 papers.

Fig 4A from Zhang et al (2018) [44]; Fig 2C from Liu et al (2019) [47]
Fig 2D from Guo et al (2018)[42]; Fig 2D from Lin et al (2017) [37]

The authors span the administrative structure of Jilin University and its diadem of associated hospitals, while also spanning the gamut of research directions (the salient word there is "research", as these authors are career academics with lovingly curated CVs, not clinicians who just need one paper). However, they all dip into a common pool of versatile Western Blot bands to cut up and rearrange in collage. Arrays of xenograft tumors are shuffled into new identity parades in papers with no authors in common. Colony-formation Petri plates are equally Protean, changing labels and acquiring (or losing) the dots of cancer cells proliferating (or not) after some treatment. It is as if someone in central administration realised that to have each section duplicating the infrastructure of forgery was an inefficient waste of resources, so they established a central Falsification Bureau, to provide any department with junk papers and bogus illustrations tailored to their supposed specialties.

Fig 2C from Liu et al (2015) [18]; Fig 6D from Wang et al (2017) [34]

The oeuvre appeared mainly in Spandidos journals... branding out into American Journal of Cancer Research and American Journal of Translational Research and International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Pathology from e-Century; and to Tumor Biology from Sage (previously a Springer asset, transferred between publishers in 2016). Smaller metastases exist in Oncology Research and OncoTarget and even Elsevier. The inevitable spreadsheet is here.

Meta-analysts as mudlarks
Now there exists a whole tier of journals favoured by papermills (or symbiotic with them). They are woven into a kind of demi-monde literature or parallel universe by a high rate of mutual citation (with papers from Journal A citing the imaginary results of papers in Journal B to make their own results seem less imaginary), but they penetrate into the real research mainstream when their titles and abstracts are laundered through garbage-in / garbage-out literature reviews and meta-analyses. That is a topic for another day, and here I only want to point out how well the present collection samples this tier. You must wait for some other time to comparisons between literature reviewing and the mudlarks of Victorian London.

It feels like half the higher-echelon professors at Jilin University have built their careers on these fairy-tales, with successions of papers itemising the interactions of ADAM10 or GRIM-19 or whatever. This is nice for their students / co-authors who thereby ascend the first steps of their own careers, but if only they had published instead about the Tooth-Fairy circ-RNA and how it targets the Easter-Bunny Pathway, there would be less collateral damage to other researchers who take this jibber-jabber seriously.

If this is a Jilin-specific centrally-sanctioned forgery factory, as the evidence implies, it may be that we need a better term than 'papermill'. 'Studio', perhaps. The Central South University collaboration with Spandidos journals is similar but less specific.

To sustain the fiction that the numbers arrayed in tables or plotted as bar-graphs are the results of actual measurements and were not just pulled from the air, papers need some combination of Western Blots; colony formation plates; scratch-heal migration assay and Transwell invasion assay microphotographs; flow-cytometry histograms or FACS scatterplots. So an early eruption of creativity in 2014 equipped this (hypothesised) studio with a storeroom full of the backdrops and stage-props and stage machinery of Theatrical Scientification, to be recycled in productions and performances through 2015 to 2018.

For some tangential reason, a passage from 'The Reproductive System' comes to mind:

This literature is full of little anapests.

A sufficiently obsessive reader might recognise the repeated images of xenograft tumors in this collection of papers, and organise them into non-overlapping suites or kunstkammern. You might compare them to shucked oysters, or mutant Gummibäre, or wads of used chewing-gum, or diseased brains (depending on your imagination and level of hunger).

Not actually a pavane
In the following montage, tumors dance an stately pavane upon a sheet of blue fabric while transporting patches of adjacent backgrounds around themselves, thanks to the wonders of Appearance-Enhancing Software. In the left-hand column are Fig 7A from Zhang et al (2014) [3] ("Tumor weight in treated and untreated mice for 21 days"); Fig 6B from Wang et al (2017) [29] ("Representative images of tumors from the TPC-1/miR-497 and TPC-1/miR-NC groups"); Fig 7A from Li et al (2016) [24] ("Photographs of tumor tissue from nude mice 35 days after inoculation"); Fig 6A from Liu et al (2015) [9] ("Graphs of the tumor tissue from the different groups"); and Fig 7A from Zhang et al (2015) [5] ("Images of tumor tissue with different groups collected after sacrifice at day 28"). The right-hand column consists of Fig 5A from Yang et al (2015) [11] ("Images of tumor tissue from different treatments collected after sacrifice at day 22"); Fig 6A from Qu et al (2015) [8] ("Images of tumor tissue with different plasmid treatments collected after sacrifice at day 21"); and Fig 7A from Tian et al (2015) [6] ("Images of tumor tissues in the different mouse groups collected after sacrifice at day 28"). Alert observers will notice the absence of any consistent lighting in these identity parades, with shadows and highlights differing from one wad to the next, indicating (as if the discontinuities of background were not enough) that their encounters occurred purely in the digital domain.

Two more montages are brought together by a ruler that was invited into both dances (or perhaps it's a Zygmotic Pipette). One consists of Fig 6B from Li et al (2018) [43] ("Tumor tissues were imaged after the mice were sacrificed"); Fig 6B from Yu et al (2016) [32]; Fig 2D inset, from Xia, Li & Lv (2016) [28] ("The mice were sacrificed at 30 days after inoculation, and the tumors were weighed"). The other contains (clockwise from top left) Fig 3B from Fei et al (2018) [45] ("Shown are images of xenograft tumors at 28 days post injection"); Fig 2D from Liu et al (2019) [46] ("Photographs of xenograft tumors"); Fig 7C from Chen et al (2017) [36] ("Photographs of xenograft tumors isolated from miR-25 mimic and miR-Ctrl injected mice"); and Fig 6B from Li et al (2017) [39] ("Photographs of xenograft tumors").

If the (different) ruler is to be trusted in the next set of confections, the tumors change in size alarmingly from one ID parade to the next. They also rotate through 90° or 180° flips. Clockwise from upper left: Fig 7A from Liu et al (2014) [4] ("Images of tumor tissue with different plasmid treatments collected after sacrifice at day 35"); Fig 7A from Zhang et al (2015) [7] ("Images of the tumor tissues from the different groups"); Fig 8B from Li et al (2016) [21] ("Graphs of the tumor tissue)"; Fig 7A from Pang et al (2016) [22]; Fig 7 from Wu et al (2015) [20]; Fig 5A from Li et al (2015) [13] ("Images of tumor tissue with different group collected after sacrifice at day 21"); and Fig 5B from Luan et al (2015) [23] ("Photographs of tumor tissue with different group at day 30").

Pubpeer contributor "Dendrodoa Grossularia" had already flagged [4] for plagiarising Transwell images from a blameless 2013 paper, which might provide a clue as to the provenance of any material in this whole genre that is not simply repeated with rearrangement and manipulation.

I could flagellate the dead horse further but you get the point: the main item of laboratory equipment for biomed faculty at Jilin University is Photoshop. And rulers Zymotic Pipettes. One particular pipette became the star of Fig 6B from Zhang et al (2020) [50] ("Representative image of isolated tumors from nude mice in the sh-NC and sh-SNHG3 groups"); Fig 7B from Fei et al (2020) [49] ("Representative images of formed tumors that were subcutaneously injected with U2OS cells stable transfected with sh-AFAP1-AS1 and sh-NC plasmid"); ...

... Fig 6B from Wen et al (2020) [50] ("Tumor images was captured at the end of the experiments"); and Fig 7B of Zhang et al (2019) [48] ("Representative images of xenograft tumours").

By the same token, Western Blots in this oeuvre are dominated by six suites, rising and falling in popularity over the period of interest. The robust black blobs of Group-1 show up in 14 papers. They require a palette of coloured boxes to unravel their permutations, and the result is a chromatic catastrophe straight from Edward Tufte's worst nightmare. These annotated versions should come with a Migraine Trigger Alert for readers who spent last night drinking too much tequila. Would it help if I turned them into strobing animated GIFs?

Fig 1B from Gao et al (2015) [10]; Fig 5C, Li et al (2014) [2]

Figs 1B, 3A from Guo et al (2015) [12]; Fig 4 from Li et al (2015) [17]

Fig 5A from [10]; Figs 3C and 7 from Liu et al (2014) [1]

Figs 4C, 5D from [3]; Figs 2C and 5 from [4]

The bands of "Group 2" are sleek and elegant, like a Brancusi bird, and cry out to be cast in bronze. Manifestations include [left] Fig 3C from Ge et al (2016) ("Western blot analysis of uPA, MMP-2 and MMP-9 protein expression following transfection with miR-497 mimic or miR-control. GAPDH was used as an internal control"); and [right] Figs 3C,E from Liu et al (2015) [15] ("The ... (C) protein expression levels of PTEN were detected in the HCC cells after transfection with miR-494 mimic or inhibitor. The PTEN protein expression level was detected in... (E) HCC cell lines by western blotting").

Fig 1C of Chang et al (2016) [25]; Fig 5D of Liu et al (2016) [26].

I won't prepare a comprehensive montage of these appearances for they feature in 30 of the papers in the corpus. Two bands are preferred loading controls, with substantive bands formed by cutting and splicing protein blobs that include the 'decoy duck' and the 'swoosh' and the 'hockey-stick'.

Group-3 has only been sighted 22 times. It includes four different loading controls, but these often co-occur in the same papers, and they share the elements of their accompanying substantive bands, so there is no need to separate them in this taxonomy that no-one asked for.

Western-Blot groups 4, 5/6 and 7 have only shown up 14, 11 and 14 times respectively, and I'm getting bored, so we can skip them and move along. Group-4 are the 'skate suite' to me, on account of the appearance of one of the blobs. Group-5/6 are an ugly mishmash, featuring in layer-cake Figures like high-rise apartment blocks. Finally, Group-7 is all about furtive snakes. There are other repeated WBs that manifest twice only... but you get the picture, so let's not dwell on them, and move on instead to some solar photography during peak sun-spot season. Or, as the case may be, colony-formation assay plates.

The Department of Unexpected Similarities is proud to bring you Fig 2 from Zhao et al (2015) [14] ("Effects of miR-491-5p overexpression on the colony formation of cervical cancer cells were determined")...

... also Fig 3E from Song et al (2015) [16] ("Determination of the capacity for colony formation of HeLa cells using a colony formation assay after transfection with miR-133a or miR-Ctrl"); and Fig 2C from [24] ("The capacity of colony formation was determined by colony formation assay in SKOV3 cells after transfection with miR-494 or miR-NC)".

Then the studio became more ambitious, resulting in Fig 2C from Xu et al (2016) [27] ("Cell colony formation was determined in MCF-7 cells transfected with miR-154 mimic or miR-Ctrl").

Also, for the sake of completeness: Figs 2C from Li et al (2016) [31]; 2C from [40]; and 2C from Pang et al (2017) [35]. But retouching colony-formation plates is addictive and you require stronger and stronger doses. Left-to-right, and top-to-bottom, Figs 2C from [29], 2C from Fei et al (2016) [30], and 2C from Li et al (2017a) [41; Figs 5C from [41] and 5C from [40]; Figs 2C from Feng et al (2018) [38], 2C from Liu et al (2017) [33], and 2C from [51].

Another form of anapests to include in Figures as a visual claim of authenticity are the Flow-Cytometry histograms: "See, we quantified some treatment's effect of disrupting the cell-division cycle in carcinoma cell-lines!" They are reproduced at roughly postage-stamp scale, and one can understand why the studio wasted no time customising new ones for each paper (although these are the easiest kind of "beautiful evidence" to fake), for their role is subliminal, with no expectation that readers will look at them. Instead we see double use.

Or triple use, and you can be forgiven for misreading "G0/G1" as "GIGO".

Or the same histograms straddling 12 papers.

I want to stress that these suites of WBs, colony-plates and tumors are not specific to single departments or research teams. When I organised the spreadsheet entries into co-author networks, one network from the Thyroid Surgery department turned out to draw upon the entire gamut of anapests to improve treatment for papillary thyroid cancer. Other clusters from the Neurosurgery Department and the Gynecology Department sampled the entire gamut to improve treatment for glioma and ovarian cancer respectively.

The typical departmental network has one or two core members: the Head of Department or a prominent professor, I surmise - with the rest of the credit for publication spread around a shifting cast. The coveted title of "PubPeer Star" is shared between Zhihong Li and Wei Zhang, with 15 PubPeerified contributions to fantasy-fiction Thoracic Surgery and Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery respectively. To be scrupulously fair, most of their CVs are clinical reports, not relevant here. My exercise in Network Analysis was slightly complicated by the discovery that some authors appear to be technical support: they are not confined to single research programs by the branches of the departmental hierarchy, and join up with otherwise-separate teams.

A second cluster of thyroid-cancer fairy-tales woven out of these visual elements proved to be the work of a network in the Department of Nuclear Medicine. One Qingjie Ma co-authored six of these fabulations, and was Corresponding Author for four of them. We read elsewhere that

Professor Ma Qingjie is the director, chief physician, professor, and doctoral supervisor of the Department of Nuclear Medicine, China-Japan Friendship Hospital of Jilin University. Engaged in clinical work for more than 30 years. He has expertise and innovation in the personalized treatment of human thyroid diseases, various types of pediatric hemangioma, and certain tumor diseases; for multimodal molecules such as PET/CT and SPECT/CT He has deep attainments in imaging research and tumor-targeted drug therapy. He was named "Bethune Famous Doctor", "Bethune Famous Teacher", "Bethune Medical Worker", "Expert with Outstanding Contributions" in Changchun City, Jilin University. In 2019, he won the Chinese Nuclear Medicine Physician Award.

To sum up, this whole body of papers offers nothing but fabulation and flim-flam, and it does the research community no credit that they've attracted an average of 28 citations each (according to the duplicate-prone, inflated estimates of Goofle Scholar). The citation count peaks at 115 for [15], so I have read and re-read that work on the theory that there must be some underlying truth, but it stubbornly persists in remaining total wibble. Some of that number will be reciprocated hat-tips and professional courtesy from other fakers in this secondary literature, but not all of it.

Papers in Spandidos journals from the Jilin Studio tapered off in 2018. I initially wondered whether the studio is inactive now, but no... this only reflects a shift in preferred target journal, to Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy from Elsevier now that it is part of the demi-monde literature. Perhaps the keepers of the Spandidos stable-gates were responding to submissions with an increasingly skeptical reception (suspicion is always corrosive in a relationship). Perhaps the administration at Jilin University were keen to have more people reading and believing the faculty's Stakhanovite production of bullshit, and Elsevier offered a higher impact factor. One can only speculate.

To be scrupulously fair, other torrents of fake papers pouring forth from Jilin University were provided by undeniable papermills and do not have this studio's hallmarks. A sixth of the prodigious output of the 'Tadpole Papermill' was commissioned by staff at Jilin's ancillary hospitals. Jilin shows up as a customer of other papermills as well. There may even be some genuine research happening there. I suspect, though, that anyone trying to conduct actual studies would be disadvantaged in the greasy-pole-climb of academic advancement by the time requirements of 'experiments' and the expenses of 'laboratory' and 'equipment'.

Meanwhile the first retractions of the CSU fake papers have already begun, spicing up the interminable lists of newer fake papers. Each retraction note credits "a concerned reader" for drawing the bullshit "to the Editors' attention", whereupon the Editors were shocked, SHOCKED to find gambling going on. Which is to say, the Spandidos management read PubPeer but don't want to acknowledge its existence. A great culling of Jilin crap cannot be far away.

Publishers in the demi-monde are willing to retract papers, as a pawn sacrifice or an ablative heat-shield, once someone else's peer-reviewing shows them up as plagiarised or fabricated. Perhaps 'delighted' is more apt than 'happy' as each retraction shows that the conduit is just like a real journal in terms of integrity standards, while diverting attention away from the question, "why did you accept such abject tosh in the first place?" Also the publisher keeps the signatories' money, so retraction costs them nothing.


[1]. "miR‑222 regulates sorafenib resistance and enhance tumorigenicity in hepatocellular carcinoma", KAI LIU , SONGYANG LIU , WEI ZHANG , BAI JI , YINGCHAO WANG , YAHUI LIU (2014). International Journal of Oncology.

[2]. "Upregulation of GRIM-19 suppresses the growth of oral squamous cell carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", MINGHE LI , ZHIHONG LI , CHONGYANG LIANG , CHENGMIN HAN , WEI HUANG , FEI SUN (2014). Oncology Reports.

[3]. "Knockout of ADAM10 enhances sorafenib antitumor activity of hepatocellular carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", Wei Zhang , Songyang Liu , Kai Liu , Bai Ji , Yingchao Wang , Yahui Liu (2014). Oncology Reports.

[4]. "Synergistic effects of co-expression plasmid‑based ADAM10-specific siRNA and GRIM-19 on hepatocellular carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", Songyang Liu , Wei Zhang , Kai Liu , Yingchao Wang , Bai Ji , Yahui Liu (2014). Oncology Reports.

[5]. "Synthetic miR-145 mimic inhibits multiple myeloma cell growth in vitro and in vivo", Qi Zhang , Weiqun Yan , Yang Bai , Hao Xu , Changhao Fu , Wenwen Zheng , Yingqiao Zhu , Jie Ma (2014). Oncology Reports.

[6]. "miR-218 suppresses tumor growth and enhances the chemosensitivity of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma to cisplatin", Hang Tian , Lei Hou , Yu-Mei Xiong , Jun-Xiang Huang , Ying-Jun She , Xiao-Bao Bi , Xing-Rong Song (2015). Oncology Reports.

[7]. "Combined treatment of XIAP-targeting shRNA and celecoxib synergistically inhibits the tumor growth of non‑small cell lung cancer cells in vitro and in vivo". HONG ZHANG , ZHIHONG LI , KAIZHONG WANG , PING REN (2015). Oncology Reports.

[8]. "Silencing XIAP suppresses osteosarcoma cell growth, and enhances the sensitivity of osteosarcoma cells to doxorubicin and cisplatin", YANG QU , PENG XIA , SHANYONG ZHANG , SU PAN , JIANWU ZHAO (2015). Oncology Reports.

[9]. "Silencing NOB1 enhances doxorubicin antitumor activity of the papillary thyroid carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", JIA LIU , BING-FEI DONG , PEI-SONG WANG , PEI-YOU REN , SHUAI XUE , Xiao-Νan ZHANG , ZHE HAN , GUANG CHEN (2015). Oncology Reports.

[10]. "A disintegrin and metallproteinase 15 knockout decreases migration of fibroblast-like synoviocytes and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis", JINLIANG GAO , WEI ZHENG , LIMING WANG , BAILIN SONG (2015). Molecular Medicine Reports.

[11]. "Synergistic growth inhibition by sorafenib and cisplatin in human osteosarcoma cells",

[12]. "Downregulation of matrix metalloproteinase 9 by small interfering RNA inhibits the tumor growth of ovarian epithelial carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", FENGJUN GUO , JINGYAN TIAN , MANHUA CUI , MEIRU FANG , LIN YANG (2015). Molecular Medicine Reports.

[13]. "MicroRNA-338-3p suppresses tumor growth of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in vitro and in vivo", XINYU LI , ZHIHONG LI , GUIYUN YANG , ZHENXIANG PAN (2015). Molecular Medicine Reports.

[14]. "MicroRNA-491-5p suppresses cervical cancer cell growth by targeting hTERT", Qiang Zhao, Ying-Xian Zhai, Huan-Qiu Liu, Ying-Ai Shi, Xin-Bai Li (2015). Oncology Reports.

[15]. "miR-494 promotes cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and increased sorafenib resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting PTEN", Kai Liu, Songyang Liu, Wei Zhang, Baoxing Jia, Ludong Tan, Zhe Jin, Yahui Liu (2015). Oncology Reports.

[16]. "miR-133a inhibits cervical cancer growth by targeting EGFR", Xuesong Song, Bo Shi, Kexin Huang, Wenjie Zhang (2015). Oncology Reports.

[17]. "Knockdown of ADAM10 inhibits migration and invasion of fibroblast-like synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis", DAN LI, ZHITAO XIAO, GANG WANG, XIANJI SONG (2015). Molecular Medicine Reports.

[18]. "MiR-132 inhibits cell proliferation, invasion and migration of hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting PIK3R3", KAI LIU, XINGLIANG LI, YUCHEN CAO, YUANYUAN GE, JIANMENG WANG, BO SHI (2015). International Journal of Oncology.

[19]. "MicroRNA-338-3p functions as tumor suppressor in breast cancer by targeting SOX4", YING JIN, MIN ZHAO, QIAN XIE, HONGYAN ZHANG, QING WANG, QINGJIE MA (2015). International Journal of Oncology.

[20]. "MicroRNA-128 suppresses cell growth and metastasis in colorectal carcinoma by targeting IRS1", Lan Wu, Bo Shi, Kexin Huang, Guoyu Fan (2015). Oncology Reports.

[21]. "miR-29a suppresses growth and metastasis in papillary thyroid carcinoma by targeting AKT3", Rui Li, Jia Liu, Qun Li, Guang Chen, Xiaofang Yu (2016). Tumor Biology.

[22]. "miR-154 targeting ZEB2 in hepatocellular carcinoma functions as a potential tumor suppressor", Xiaoli Pang, Kexin Huang, Qianqian Zhang, Yujiao Zhang, Junqi Niu (2015). Oncology Reports.

[23]. "MicroRNA-126 acts as a tumor suppressor in glioma cells by targeting insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1)", Yongxin Luan, Ling Zuo, Shuyan Zhang, Guangming Wang, Tao Peng (2015). International Journal of Oncology.

[24]. "miR-494 suppresses tumor growth of epithelial ovarian carcinoma by targeting IGF1R", Na Li, Xiaosu Zhao, Lufei Wang, Shi Zhang, Manhua Cui, Jin He (2016). Tumor Biology.

[25]. "Combined RNAi targeting human Stat3 and ADAM9 as gene therapy for non-small cell lung cancer", LIANG CHANG, FANGCHAO GONG, HONGFEI CAI, ZHIHONG LI, YOUBIN CUI (2016). Oncology Letters.

[26]. "miR-449a inhibits proliferation and invasion by regulating ADAM10 in hepatocellular carcinoma", Songyang Liu, Kai Liu, Wei Zhang, Yingchao Wang, Zhe Jin, Baoxing Jia, Yahui Liu (2016). American journal of translational research.

[27]. "MicroRNA-154 inhibits growth and invasion of breast cancer cells through targeting E2F5", Hui Xu, Dan Fei, Shan Zong, Zhimin Fan (2016). American journal of translational research.

[28]. "MicroRNA-107 inhibits tumor growth and metastasis by targeting the BDNF-mediated PI3K/AKT pathway in human non-small lung cancer", Huan Xia, Yang Li, Xiaohong Lv (2016). International Journal of Oncology.

[29]. "MicroRNA-497 inhibits thyroid cancer tumor growth and invasion by suppressing BDNF", Peisong Wang, Xianying Meng, Yan Huang, Zhi Lv, Jia Liu, Guimin Wang, Wei Meng, Shuai Xue, Qiang Zhang, Pengju Zhang, Guang Chen (2017). Oncotarget.

[30]. "MicroRNA-187 exerts tumor-suppressing functions in osteosarcoma by targeting ZEB2", Dan Fei, Kunchi Zhao, Hongping Yuan, Jie Xing, Dongxu Zhao (2016). American journal of cancer research.

[31]. "MicroRNA-613 suppresses proliferation, migration and invasion of osteosarcoma by targeting c-MET", Xinyu Li, Xufang Sun, Jing Wu, Zhihong Li (2016). American journal of cancer research.

[32]. "MicroRNA-497 suppresses cell proliferation and induces apoptosis through targeting PBX3 in human multiple myeloma", Tianhua Yu, Xuanhe Zhang, Lirong Zhang, Yali Wang, Hongjuan Pan, Zhihua Xu, Xiaochuan Pang (2016). American journal of cancer research.

[33]. "miR-365 targets ADAM10 and suppresses the cell growth and metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma", Yahui Liu, Wei Zhang, Songyang Liu, Kai Liu, Bai Ji, Yingchao Wang (2017). Oncology Reports.

[34]. "MicroRNA-365 inhibits ovarian cancer progression by targeting Wnt5a", Yanli Wang, Chunling Xu, Yun Wang, Xiaomeng Zhang (2017). American journal of cancer research.

[35]. "miR-138 inhibits gastric cancer growth by suppressing SOX4", Lei Pang, Bai Li, Baisong Zheng, Liang Niu, Liang Ge (2017). Tumor Biology.

[36]. "MicroRNA-25 suppresses proliferation, migration, and invasion of osteosarcoma by targeting SOX4", Bingpeng Chen, Jingjing Liu, Ji Qu, Yang Song, Yuxiang Li, Su Pan (2017). Tumor Biology.

[37]. "miR-217 inhibits proliferation, migration, and invasion via targeting AKT3 in thyroid cancer", Yuanqiang Lin, Kailiang Cheng, Tongtong Wang, Qian Xie, Minglong Chen, Qianqian Chen, Qiang Wen (2017). Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

[38]. "LncRNA GACAT3 promotes gastric cancer progression by negatively regulating miR-497 expression", Li Feng, Yonggang Zhu, Yunxin Zhang, Min Rao (2017). Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

[39]. "Function of miR-212 as a tumor suppressor in thyroid cancer by targeting SIRT1", Dandan Li, Lin Bai, Tongtong Wang, Qian Xie, Minglong Chen, Yantao Fu, Qiang Wen (2017). Oncology Reports.

[40]. "MicroRNA-218 inhibits proliferation and invasion in ovarian cancer by targeting Runx2", Na Li, Lufei Wang, Guangyun Tan, Zhiheng Guo, Lei Liu, Ming Yang, Jin He (2017). Oncotarget.

[41]. "Function of miR‑152 as tumor suppressor in oral squamous cell carcinoma cells by targeting c‑MET", Minghe Li, Zhihong Li, Xue Wang, Yumei Wang, Cong Zhao, Lei Wang (2017). Oncology Reports.

[42]. "miR‑152 inhibits rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblast proliferation and induces apoptosis by targeting ADAM10", Jialong Guo, Juan Du, Dan Fei, Jie Xing, Jinxiang Liu, Honghua Lu (2017). International journal of molecular medicine.

[43]. "MicroRNA-361-5p inhibits papillary thyroid carcinoma progression by targeting ROCK1", Rui Li, Bingfei Dong, Zhengmin Wang, Tao Jiang, Guang Chen (2018). Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

[44]. "Knockdown of CREB1 promotes apoptosis and decreases estradiol synthesis in mouse granulosa cells", Pengju Zhang, Jun Wang, Hongyan Lang, Weixia Wang, Xiaohui Liu, Haiyan Liu, Chengcheng Tan, Xintao Li, Yumin Zhao, Xinghong Wu (2018). Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

[45]. "Long Noncoding RNA FER1L4 Suppresses Tumorigenesis by Regulating the Expression of PTEN Targeting miR-18a-5p in Osteosarcoma", Dan Fei, Xiaona Zhang, Jinxiang Liu, Long Tan, Jie Xing, Dongxu Zhao, Yang Zhang (2018). Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry.

[46]. "LncRNA SNHG16 promotes tumor growth of pancreatic cancer by targeting miR-218-5p", Songyang Liu, Wei Zhang, Kai Liu, Yahui Liu (2018). Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

[47]. "Long noncoding RNA HOXA-AS2 promotes non-small cell lung cancer progression by regulating miR-520a-3p", Yunpeng Liu, Xingyu Lin, Shiyao Zhou, Peng Zhang, Guoguang Shao, Zhiguang Yang (2019). Bioscience Reports.

[48]. "Long non‐coding RNA deleted in lymphocytic leukaemia 1 promotes hepatocellular carcinoma progression by sponging miR‐133a to regulate IGF‐1R expression", Wei Zhang, Songyang Liu, Kai Liu, Yahui Liu (2019). Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

[49]. "Long noncoding RNA AFAP1-AS1 promotes osteosarcoma progression by regulating miR-497/IGF1R axis", Dan Fei, Xiaona Zhang, Yang Lu, Long Tan, Mingzhu Xu, Yang Zhang (2019). American journal of translational research.

[50]. "Long non‑coding RNA MCM3AP‑AS1 drives ovarian cancer progression via the microRNA‑143‑3p/TAK1 axis", Jihong Wen, Shumei Han, Man Cui, Yanli Wang (2020). Oncology Reports.

[51]. "lncRNA SNHG3 promotes breast cancer�progression by acting as a miR‑326 sponge", Haipeng Zhang, Na Wei, Wei Zhang, Lishennan Shen, Rongbo Ding, Qian Li, Simin Li, Ye Du (2020). Oncology Reports.