Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version


Document Type



Committee on Publication Ethics and STM, June 2022

Version 1

English version


Copyright 2022, COPE and STM. Open access material

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


Executive summary

The subject of paper mills is currently being widely discussed by many stakeholders across the research publishing landscape. This report aims to give an overview of this topic, to explain how paper mills work, why they work and what we can collectively do about it. We have also undertaken a study of data submitted from a variety of investigations by leading publishers to get a sense of the scale of the problem. This paper concludes that the submission of suspected fake research papers, also often associated with fake authorship, is growing and threatens to overwhelm the editorial processes of a significant number of journals. Interviews with a range of stakeholders including publishers, research investigators and Retraction Watch show a deep level of concern and a realization that all stakeholders need to work together across the scholarly communication process to find long term solutions. This paper therefore is a call to action to those working in this area to work together to tackle the problem along the whole publication process.


Executive summary with key recommendations

What is a paper mill?

How do they work?

What motivates authors to use them?


Where are we now?

The scale of the problem

Areas of concern and recommended actions



Additional reading