Citation Manipulation: Fiddling for Fame and Grant Money Perhaps?

July 24, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

A fact about science and academia is that these fields are incredibly biased. Researchers, scientists, and professors are always on the hunt for funding and prestige. While these professionals state they uphold ethical practices, they are still human. In other words, they violate their ethics for a decent reward. Another prize for these individuals is being published, but even publishers are becoming impartial says Nature in, “Researchers Who Agree To Manipulate Citations Are More Likely To Get Their Papers Published.”

7 22 rigging die

A former university researcher practices his new craft: Rigging die for gangs running crap games. He said to my fictional interviewer, “The skills are directly transferable. I use die manufactured by other people. I manipulate them. My degrees in statistics allow me to calculate what weights are needed to tip the odds. This new job pays well too. I do miss the faculty meetings, but the gang leaders often make it clear that if I need anything special, those fine gentlemen will accommodate my wishes.” MidJourney seems to have an affinity for certain artistic creations like people who create loaded dice.

A recent study from Research Policy discovered that researchers are coerced by editors to include superfluous citations in their papers. Those that give into the editors have a higher chance of getting published. If the citations are relevant to the researchers’ topic, what is the big deal? The problem is that the citations might not accurately represent the research nor augment the original data. There is also the pressure to comply with industry politics:

“When scientists are coerced into padding their papers with citations, the journal editor might be looking to boost either their journal’s or their own citation counts, says study author Eric Fong, who studies research management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In other cases, peer reviewers might try to persuade authors to cite their work. Citation rings, in which multiple scholars or journals agree to cite each other excessively, can be harder to spot, because there are several stakeholders involved, instead of just two academics disproportionately citing one another.”

The study is over a decade old, but its results pertain to today’s scientific and academia environment. Academic journals want to inflate their citations to “justify” their importance to the industry and maybe even keeping the paywall incentive. Researchers are also pressured to add more authors, because it helps someone pad their resume.

These are not good practices to protect science and academia’s’ integrity, but it is better than lying about results.

Whitney Grace, July 24, 2023

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