Paper mills: a novel form of publishing malpractice affecting psychology




Fraud, Publication, Editing, Peer Review, Open Science, Integrity, Paper mills


We first describe the phenomenon of the academic paper mill, a kind of large-scale fraud in which authors pay to have work published in reputable journals. We give examples of some known paper mills and discuss ‘red flags’ that characterise their outputs. Most of the early examples were in biomedical and computational sciences and so paper mills are less familiar to many psychologists. In the next section, we describe a broker company/paper mill,, discovered by the first author, which was identified by the use of fake email addresses. This paper mill placed six outputs in the Journal of Community Psychology, a reputable journal from a mainstream publisher. We look in detail at these papers and describe the features that confirm that malpractice was involved in publication. In five cases there was circumstantial evidence of tampering with the peer review process coupled with lack of editorial oversight. These papers have now been retracted. In a final section, we discuss the need for editors of psychology journals to be aware of potential targeting by paper mills and recommend editorial procedures to counteract these.


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Author Biography

Dorothy Bishop, University of Oxford

Department of Experimental Psychology Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology (emeritus)


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2023-12-06 — Updated on 2023-12-06




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