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Unusual 'Retat' Image: Elisabeth Bik's Critique Sparks Debate on Peer Review Integrity

Updated: Feb 21

Still reeling from the September 2023 mass retraction of “authorship for sale” Frontiers finds itself in hot water again as the Altmetric score for one of their recent retractions approaches 6000.

Frontiers is recognized for its open-access publishing model and has implemented collaborative and transparent peer review processes. However, occasional criticisms have emerged regarding the consistency and rigor of the peer review process at Frontiers. Some researchers have voiced concerns about the quality and thoroughness of the reviews received.

Frontiers Media S.A. is owned by its founders, Kamila Markram and Henry Markram. They established Frontiers in 2007 with the aim of providing an open-access platform for scholarly publishing. The company, headquartered in Switzerland, has grown to become a prominent player in the open-access publishing industry.

Deepfaked Scientific Image

According to an internal report, Markram justified recent redundancies by emphasizing their significant investment in AI to prevent such issues and retractions.

One of the images in the retracted article was described by Elisabeth Bik as “…the insets shows a ‘retat‘, with some ‘sterrn cells‘ in a Petri dish with a serving spoon. Enjoy!” And in the images below you see the retracted images, as well as some more traditional depictions of the topics in discussion.

“Frontier’s policies for authors state that generative AI is allowed, but that it must be disclosed—which the paper’s authors did.” via VICE News

In light of this recent event, maybe Frontiers and Kamila Markram have shown us an early warning signal of substituting human staff with #AI and the impact it has on #peerreview programs.


Peer review managers play a crucial role in reviewing the feedback provided by peer reviewers, ensuring its appropriateness and adherence to the journal's guidelines before sending it to the author. They are essential in maintaining the quality and integrity of the peer review process.

Ultimately, the responsibility for peer review quality rests with the editorial team and the editorial board of a scientific journal. Editors-in-chief, associate editors, and board members, typically experienced researchers and experts in the field, select competent peer reviewers, evaluate feedback, and make final decisions on manuscript acceptance or rejection.

While the journal's publisher also shares responsibility for ensuring rigorous peer review processes, day-to-day management and decision-making related to peer review usually fall within the editorial team's domain. Maintaining high standards in peer review necessitates collaboration and commitment from all stakeholders involved in the scholarly publishing process. provides a unique blend of expertise in science, technology, business, and legal communications with a proven track record in building positive online reputations and driving impactful results. Leverage our almost decade long expertise in scholarly peer-reviewed publishing to drive innovation, collaborate with academic institutions, and stay at the forefront of technological advancements in your industry.

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