The ongoing scandal in the medical publishing world took on a new twist today with news that Chiming Wei, founder and editor of a journal on the fledgling field of nanotechnology, appears to have exaggerated his credentials -- claiming to head a program at Johns Hopkins University that doesn't exist and starting a professional society with himself as president and chairman.
Indeed, an investigation of his credentials reveals that he claimed to hold a directorship of a non-existent program, co-authored only two original papers in Nanomedicine (one of which, a co-author says, he contributed to only editorially), and was accused of mismanaging the professional society to the point that some board members resigned and began a new professional group.
"I think that this individual is a good example of a field that is poorly- or under-regulated," Summer Johnson, executive editor of The American Journal of Bioethics, told The Scientist. "Everyone trusted the fact that he appeared to have high quality credentials."
Chiming Wei, president and founder of an organization called the American Academy of Nanomedicine (AANM), has the equivalent of a PhD from a Japanese institution and is a researcher in cardiothoracic surgery, but is not currently affiliated with any university. He started the group in 2005, when he was an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. The AANM's website lists Wei as Director of the Cardiothoracic-Renal Nanomedicine Program at Johns Hopkins, but according to the university, there is no such program. The Johns Hopkins press office was "unable to find evidence that this program exists," a university spokesperson wrote in an email.
Wei was also accused by experts in the field of adding his name to their journal articles, without permission or contributing in a meaningful way to the articles, in order to bolster his credentials.
Wei denied the accusations.
The journal, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, was established by Elsevier four years ago at Wei's urging.
The Scientist reports that Elsevier, however, did not check Wei's credentials before installing him as editor of a peer reviewed journal.
An Elsevier spokesperson said the publisher never checked Wei's publication record in nanomedicine before giving him the job of editing a nanomedicine journal. "Based on the discussions we didn't feel a need to read through [Wei's] papers, as he was quite knowledgeable on the subject," the Elsevier spokesperson added.
Elsevier has been at the centre of a controversy in recent weeks after revelations that it published several journals that were little more than paid promotional items for pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.