Posted on : March 14th 2023
Posted by : Sithara Chandran
The STM Integrity Hub is a platform developed in collaboration between publishers and STM Solutions, the operational arm of The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM). This initiative is projected as the most complete approach to date for detecting questionable manuscripts and responding to the problem of counterfeit material entering academic communication, thanks to a combination of shared data and intelligence, and technical innovation.
The platform dramatically enhances publishers' ability to detect and resolve research integrity issues before publication, enabling the STM publishing industry to promote high-quality, trustworthy research.
The architecture of the collaborative platform ensures that publishers retain complete control over the content, thereby protecting privacy and confidentiality. Most importantly, the system's ability to work with content from a variety of publishers allows it to identify problems that extend beyond individual submissions, journals, or publishers.
There has been a significant surge in research integrity issues in recent years. Many are the consequence of profit-seeking enterprises, such as paper mills, while others are the result of unintentional submission errors, which also jeopardize the integrity of the scientific record. Paper mills are unethical businesses that are responsible for the production of fake manuscripts that are then distributed to scholarly journals. Increasingly sophisticated technologies are being employed to fabricate, plagiarize, and manipulate research data, images, and text. This places excessive pressure on publishers, editors, and reviewers and damages the credibility of academic journals.
Although automated screening and triage are not feasible solutions to these problems, cutting-edge technology solutions can help by indicating potential incidents of misconduct to aid in editorial judgment.
The primary objective of the Hub is to provide the scholarly communication community with the data, insight, and technology necessary to safeguard the integrity of research. The STM plans to achieve this in three ways. First, by creating an environment that encourages the exchange of knowledge and intelligence. Sharing the experiences that publishers have had while attempting to identify papers that have been created by paper mills is one example. Second, by establishing guidelines and policies. Cooperation between editorial and legal staff, as well as organizations like COPE, is essential for ensuring that all efforts to protect research integrity are firmly rooted in legal and regulatory frameworks. Finally, by developing a system that facilitates the safe and secure sharing of content between publishers for the purpose of detecting patterns across publications, as well as the simple incorporation of 3rd party screening technologies in their processes that focus on particular types of misconduct, such as image manipulation. In this way, the problem can be addressed from multiple angles.
Paper mills have extremely adverse consequences since their prevalence jeopardizes credibility, trust, and confidence in research. To combat the growing number of instances of unethical practices, publishing companies are investing heavily in new resources and cutting-edge technologies. Conference proceedings and special issues are thought to be particularly susceptible since peer review is often compromised in suspected paper mill cases. Publishers and editors must establish comprehensive, scalable, and long-term mechanisms that can aid in detecting misconduct and prevent such papers from making their way into the publication process.
Given the magnitude of the problem, it is evident that it will require a collaborative effort. It is impossible for a single publishing house to fight misconduct on its own. When the scope of the issue and the recurring patterns of questionable papers are identified across the sector, only then will it be possible to devise a remedy that goes beyond addressing individual instances. Finding examples of misconduct early is crucial to preserving the credibility of the published record and saving the time of editors and reviewers by eliminating dubious manuscripts at the submission stage itself.
The Integrity Hub provides publishers with a cloud-based infrastructure to screen submitted articles for research integrity issues. Within this framework, publishers can work with other stakeholders to create and manage screening technologies that will benefit the broader scholarly ecosystem. The Hub will serve as a think tank for policy and legal frameworks, a knowledge exchange where publishers can share their experiences and lessons learned, and a resource for innovative infrastructure and solutions. The Hub's objectives include fostering and maintaining collaboration between publishers and technologists, upholding research integrity, empowering all publishers, and enabling quick reactions to emerging risks.
The key to successfully tackling integrity issues will be to pool content across different journals and publishers. For instance, a system that can look across simultaneous submissions to different journals and publishers is necessary for discovering cases of simultaneous submissions where the publishers involved expect or require exclusive submissions, a problem that burdens peer reviewers and editors and is often a sign of paper mills. However, pooling content is also essential for generating complete reference and training sets. The current demonstrator phase features an adaptive and flexible infrastructure, allowing for the necessary safeguards to be taken to protect the privacy of manuscripts under review. This system enables publishers to exchange manuscripts or portions of the manuscript in a setting where specified tools can access this information, with the results of these screenings being relayed back to the impacted publisher. Detecting simultaneous submissions and resubmitting material from retracted paper mills are the two concrete implementations that have already been demonstrated.
Concerns raised regarding paper mills account for nearly half of the total number of ethical issues that publishers must address. The problem is crucial not only due to its magnitude but also because there are numerous types of highly adaptable paper mills.
The first tool available through the integrity hub examines documents for over seventy signals that would suggest the document was produced by a paper mill. Those concerned have chosen to maintain their silence over the nature of these signals in order to avoid providing potential scammers with any valuable information. The second tool is intended to notify editors when an article has been simultaneously submitted to multiple publications. This strategy is employed by paper mills to expedite the acceptance of papers. It is deemed inappropriate to submit a full manuscript to multiple publications at the same time.
Due to data processing and anti-competition regulations, secure data sharing between publications presents legal challenges. Manuscripts submitted by researchers to journals are confidential and cannot be easily shared between journals and publishers. The hub, however, is implementing a number of technical safeguards to ensure that only the most essential data is gathered from publications. The functionality of the hub allows for the correlation and comparison of information. Additionally, information will be encrypted for security.
The hub's final technical component will be an evaluation of available algorithms for detecting altered images in manuscripts.
Constant vigilance in maintaining a firm commitment to responsible and ethical research procedures is required in light of the changing research landscape and the emergence of new ethical concerns. By embracing initiatives such as The STM Integrity Hub, we can uphold the standards of scientific inquiry and maintain the public's trust in the research enterprise.
The STM Integrity Hub offers a number of powerful tools to help publishers detect potential integrity issues in their publications. However, it is important to recognize that these tools require the support of domain experts - specifically, the time and effort of skilled SMEs - to interpret the results provided by the tools in order to provide actionable insights. By utilizing the services of domain experts like Straive, publishers can further enhance the quality and accuracy of their publications. Straive's expertise in data analysis and interpretation can help to identify and eliminate false positives, ensuring that published research is of the highest standard.
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