I was a peer reviewer for a paper that I did not find credible. The data were archived after the paper was published and show many curious or impossible (non-integer counts for example) patterns. I believe the data to be falsified and/or fabricated. I have been publishing my finding on my blog.

One figure, an ordination, is impossible to replicate. Most of the points are correctly located, but some, mostly outliers, are omitted or moved. Different points are omitted or moved in the two versions in the manuscripts I reviewed and the published version of this figure.

This apparent tampering make the relationships in the data appear much stronger than is justified.

I want to publish my findings, including the two manuscript versions of the figure as the inconsistencies between them and the published strengthens my suspicions of malpractice.

Does my duty to expose malpractice supersede my duty to maintain peer review confidentiality?

I have taken my concerns to the Editor, who is not interested.

  • 4
    As a moderator here I agreed to keep users' personal information (email addresses, IP addresses, real names) private and use it only for purposes of moderation. When I become aware of the real-life identity of someone who is trying to use Stack Exchange to e.g. cheat on a take-home exam on which they're not allowed to seek outside assistance (this has happened), as much as I am tempted, I am not allowed to notify the professor of the course they are trying to cheat in. I think your situation is similar in some respects...
    – ff524
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 23:55
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    ... One of the main reasons of anonymity of the reviewers is that they can give their honest opinion without fear of repercussions. If the reviewer chooses that this anonymity is not important to him/her, I don't see strong reasons against making the identity public. But in the end it is of course the reviewer who has to decide on this, after careful deliberation. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 0:18
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    @Pieter the OP says he wants to publish a figure from the review version of the manuscript (that's different from the published version), because it makes the case stronger. (The question of "outing" yourself as a reviewer is already addressed in In single-blind peer-review, can you reveal your identity without the editor's consent?)
    – ff524
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 0:18
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    At this point, the combination of the question here and the blog amount to a public accusation of misconduct. I'd recommend either making such an accusation in a more clearly deliberate way (preferably without the manuscript figure, since debating the ethics of using it would be a distraction) or anonymizing/deleting this question. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 0:47
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    Why not just wait until the paper is published, and then make the accusation of fraud based on the published version? Or the paper might never be accepted for publication, in which case the problem doesn't exist.
    – user1482
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:31

1 Answer 1


That's a tricky question. I will try to give you my humble advice.

First, document every step and be sure that your statements are true. If you have some suspicion, you can also present that, but state that you only have such suspicion.

Second, write again to the editor telling him/her that in good faith you believe the study is fabricated, and it will undermine the journal credibility. If you do that after publication, the damage to the scholarly literature will be even larger.

Third, tell the editor your plan. For instance, you can tell him/her that if he does not act swiftly within 30 days, you will inform, without divulging too much details, of the situation, his/her insitution, as well as the authors' institutions and the publisher.

Fourth, if the above does not work (it should), then proceed and be ready to defend thoroughly your argument.

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