This is an update on an earlier post, A case of stolen professional identity, which is just a little too long to add directly to the original post.
Last month I received a request for review. But it wasn’t just any request: the title looked suspiciously similar to the title of a paper whose review I had been asked to confirm back in March. In the original incident (described here), the culprits were found to have created a false gmail account for me and submitted my name as a reviewer with that false email account. They were banned from that journal (let’s call it Journal1). I really didn’t think they would try again, at least not with the same fake review setup (specifically, my name and a false email account).
But they did.
Journal2 sent me a standard review request in June. It turns out that behind the scenes, a bogus email address was used, though I’m not sure it was the same one used for Journal1. The affiliation that was provided to Editor2 by the author of the submission appeared strange to him, and so Editor2 searched for me online and found my institutional address. And, as with last time, mine wasn’t the only identity used fraudulently. I noticed the similarities, and I put Editor1 in touch with Editor2, they compared notes, and discovered it was the same paper, the same authors, and the same trick being attempted again.
Turns out fake emails weren’t the only fake thing about them. Though I don’t know the details, I believe there were also fake phone numbers and perhaps fake affiliations.
The authors have been formally banned from Journal2 (as happened with Journal1), and I have to say I wanted to cheer when I saw the words “Please note that this type of behavior is not acceptable in science and will not be tolerated.” Editor2 is going to move things forward, including bringing it to the attention of the Committee on Publication Ethics. I am also looking into ways to take away the false gmail account from whoever owns it, so that hopefully at least that permutation of my name cannot be used again. However, that isn’t a practical solution in the long term, as there are many, many possible permutations.
I had hoped it wouldn’t happen again, but it has, and quickly. Seems like the single thing that would help the most, while needing the smallest change to the existing system, would be to require institutional addresses. Additionally, open peer review might help, though you’d have to do a regular search to ensure that someone didn’t publish an open peer review pretending to be you. My thanks go to both Editor1 and Editor2 for allowing me to, once again, write about these experiences. With knowledge comes great responsibility, yes, but also forewarning.
And I hope it doesn’t happen again. Again.